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Monday, January 30, 2023

Rashford penalty seals Manchester United’s FA Cup win over Everton

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Marcus Rashford will surely make all player of the year shortlists if he continues to put in performances like this. The No 10 was the creative force behind Antony’s opener and Conor Coady’s own goal before scoring an added-time penalty that came after Alejandro Garnacho was yanked down and which ensured Manchester United are into the next round of the FA Cup.

Erik ten Hag, though, may curse how reckless his side were when exerting control was the smart move. They dominated but failed to stiff-arm Everton, ceding the ball countless times and allowing them to make this tie a contest.

Frank Lampard arrived in need of a win to try to save his job but left without this and his future still hanging by a thread. Everton next host Southampton on Saturday week: eight days in which the 44-year-old could be axed at any moment. United, of course, do not care about this after chalking up a 10th win in 11 outings: fine form by any measure, though Ten Hag will demand greater poise and ruthlessness.

After three minutes they promised to be an irresistible juggernaut that would flatten their visitors but it never materialised. Casemiro tapped to Anthony Martial and the No 9 lost and re-won possession and found Rashford. He coasted along the left, gained half a yard on Ben Godfrey, and rolled the ball in for Antony to poke his right boot out to score.

Everton were confused and dazed and there was more. Martial shot wide, Antony raced down the right but his delivery disappointed, and Christian Eriksen took aim from distance.

United were rampant yet football, as the saying goes, can be a funny game and the latest evidence came in Everton’s farcical equaliser. They had already threatened at a corner when Demarai Gray crossed and the ball was cleared to Amadou Onana. He shrugged aside Casemiro and passed to Neil Maupay: the striker was virtually on the byline to the right of David De Gea’s left post but when he took aim the goalkeeper comically refused to take his left hand away from the upright to make the save, the ball nutmegged him and Conor Coady forced it home, with Diogo Dalot unable to save his keeper.

Antony celebrates after scoring the early opener for Manchester United against Everton.
Antony celebrates after scoring the early opener that put Manchester United on course for a 3-1 victory over Everton. Photograph: Dave Thompson/AP

De Gea has a sorry catalogue of howlers on the CV and this went straight in at No 1. United’s response, though, was instant. Rashford burst through and fed Martial and his effort was repelled by Jordan Pickford. Then, a second Martial attempt, from outside the area, was blocked by James Tarkowski.

The tie was the type of breathless contest that has made this competition world famous. With their equaliser Everton had given their manager the perfect boost in a first FA Cup meeting since a 2016 semi-final (which United won en route to their last triumph), and featured each manager naming strong XIs.

Martial, Rashford, Casemiro and Luke Shaw were just some of the A-list performers Ten Hag chose, while Lampard, his job on the line, plumped for his best configuration apart from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who had only recently returned after injury.

Raphaël Varane, another of Ten Hag’s main men, offered the next act, conjuring a trick to leave Idrissa Gueye stone dead before slicing in from the right and passing to Casemiro whose goalmouth chip was misdirected. So, too, was an Eriksen drive – though only marginally – the latest in what was a bombardment of Everton they survived for the match to still be level at the break.

The usually uber-silky Casemiro had been off the pace and would be until he was replacemed. The Brazilian began the second half with an errant pass that allowed Alex Iwobi to dart into United’s half. Tyrell Malacia dashed over to tackle but inadvertently injured the winger and the latter was carried off.

Another wideman – United’s Rashford – was about to fashion his second assist. This time Seamus Coleman was the defender left twisted as the No 10 jinked past the right-back and hammered in a cross Cody, stabbing out a leg, turned past Pickford unfortunately for what proved United’s winner.

Here was Rashford’s latest game-changing act in a season of them. It had a gleeful Stretford End informing Lampard “you’re getting sacked in the morning”, and provoked a question: could United take control and, as the cliche goes, put their foot on the ball?

The answer was no. The spectacle remained akin to a hockey game that had Casemiro hassling near an Everton corner flag, then Coleman tipping the ball across United’s area, Vitalii Mykolenko going close to making it 2-2. Fernandes, next, warmed Pickford’s fingers from 30 yards, Rashford drew Abdoulaye Doucouré into a yellow card, but Eriksen’s free-kick was a non-event.

De Gea went close to committing another clownish error under pressure from Calvert-Lewin, who had replaced Maupay. The striker would bundle into the net seconds later but Gray had been offside earlier in the move.

But Rashford’s spot-kick – meaning he has now registered in a fifth successive game – sealed United’s progress.

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