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Friday, April 19, 2024

Manchester United 4-3 Liverpool (aet): United on to Wembley after absurd FA Cup comeback

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Manchester United are headed to Wembley for the FA Cup Semi-final after one of the craziest wins Old Trafford has ever seen. Late goals from Marcus Rashford and Amad Diallo saw the Reds snatch victory at the death of extra time against old rivals Liverpool.

The match was far from the best in terms of quality that you’ll see this season, for either team, but what it lacked there it made up for in dramatics and chaos. A truly absurd match of football.

Manchester United began on the front foot, playing directly and getting the ball to their playmakers in the center of the park. Kobbie Mainoo in particular was unplayable in the first half, creating a number of chances himself by dribbling through defenders to find space.

United’s best early move came in the 10th minute with Rashford playing Garnacho through down the left. The Argentine went for goal, saw his shot blocked high up in the air, and fell perfectly for Scott McTominay to smash into the goal. Kelleher had a couple of saves to make in the first half but could do nothing to stop Scotty from close range.

The pressure let up a bit, as is tradition, but United didn’t look out of it by any means until the closing minutes of the half. Liverpool looked poor, and perhaps tired, but United’s play will always allow chances this season and it came back to haunt them once again.

The first goal for the visitors came in the 43rd minute after acres of space opened up from a failed counter press. The first chance seemed to go but the ball fell for Alexis MacAllister, whose shot took a deflection past Onana.

if that wasn’t bad enough, minutes later Salah was gifted a chance by poor play out from the back by Bruno Fernandes and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Liverpool’s talisman buried it to put them ahead just before the break.

Everything about the match seemed dire in the second half that followed. United struggled to keep the ball and create chances, and though Liverpool failed to add to the lead they seemed comfortable enough holding off an impotent United attack. It was nothing new: fading after a good start and subs failing to make a positive impact up the pitch.

But that wasn’t to be the case this time.

Antony of all people equalized in the 87th minute, taking the ball on the turn and finishing with his right (!) foot past Kelleher. It was game on, a goal that not only pulled them level but brought the team back to life.

United pelted the Liverpool box in the dying minutes and got a perfect chance to win with the last kick of the match. Christian Eriksen looped a ball over the top for Rashford, who controlled it to perfection before finishing inches wide of the post. It was a painful end to regulation, where United would once again have to reset against an experienced Liverpool side.

The visitors took advantage of the break and chance to reset and got back in front at the end of the first period of extra time through Harvey Elliott. His shot took a big deflection from Antony, wrong-footing Onana on its way in.

United needed to respond, and given the chaos of the game it felt they could. They opted for an odd formation with Harry Maguire playing seemingly as the only defender and as a target man, while Antony and Bruno Fernandes rounded out the back line.

Whatever it was it worked, and once again the intensity picked up. A high counter press gave McTominay a chance to send Rashford through, and this time United’s no. 10 buried it to make it 3-3 in what was quickly becoming an instant classic FA Cup tie.

Rashford nearly returned the favor for Scott, playing a perfect ball in front of goal just begging to be scored, but the Scot couldn’t steer it on target.

The match seemed destined for penalties, but the chaos demanded more. And more was given.

A chance on the break in stoppage time of extra time saw Garnacho and Amad side by side overwhelm a flailing Connor Bradley. It seemed the chance had gone after a soft pass from Garnacho, but Amad’s touch wide gave him just enough space to fire a shot past Kelleher and win one of the most absurd FA Cup matches ever played.

Amad was sent off with a second yellow for removing his shirt during the celebrations, but there was not enough energy or time for Liverpool to make a meaningful attempt at pulling another rabbit out of a truly emptied magic hat.

The famous Man United are going to Wembley.

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