Juan Mata, Marcos Rojo and James Wilson’s goals gave Manchester United a comfortable 3-0 home win over fourth-tier minnows Cambridge United in their FA Cup fourth-round replay on Tuesday.
United, fielding a side that cost £231 million ($350.4 million, 305.2 million euros) to assemble, survived an early scare against a Cambridge line-up that had not cost a single pound when Tom Elliott shot against the post in the first minute.
But first-half goals from Mata and Rojo put Louis van Gaal’s side in control before Wilson added a third to rubber-stamp a win that sets up a fifth-round trip to Preston North End, who beat Sheffield United 3-1.
“We have done what we had to,” United manager Van Gaal told the BBC.
“For the club, the fans and the coach and my staff, we want to win a title this year. The biggest chance is the FA Cup, but we still have to win four games to do that.”
Elliott found himself clean through on goal with just 45 seconds on the clock after an error by Daley Blind, who played the ball directly through to the former Leeds United trainee.
Elliott showed poise to steady himself and advance, but could only steer the ball against the right-hand post as diving United goalkeeper David de Gea looked on aghast.
It was hard not to imagine that would be Cambridge’s best chance and although the hosts had started slowly, they took a 25th-minute lead through Mata.
Angel di Maria’s left-wing cross was headed down at the back post by Marouane Fellaini and Mata was on hand to flick the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
Seven minutes later, Rojo made it 2-0 after Fellaini’s shot was blocked and the rebound spun kindly for Robin van Persie.
The Dutch international chipped in a cross for Rojo, who made no mistake with a strong header from six yards out to claim his first goal for the club since joining from Sporting Lisbon last year.
– Sunderland survive Fulham scare –
Either side of that second goal, Paddy McNair’s ferocious drive had been deflected wide and a 20-yard strike from Di Maria had sailed just over.
But their League Two opponents refused to be over-awed by the occasion and their 6,500 supporters, many of whom had been stranded in a motorway traffic jam, forcing the kick-off to be delayed by 20 minutes, remained in defiant voice.
The replay generated an estimated £1 million for Cambridge, which chairman Dave Doggett mischievously suggested would be invested in new lavatories at their Abbey Stadium home, scene of the 0-0 draw in the teams’ first encounter.
But they had Old Trafford experience in their ranks in the shape of former United winger Luke Chadwick and showed their desire to make a game of it when Ryan Donaldson shot wide before the interval.
The second half quickly settled into a pattern of relentless United attacks as the Premier League’s third-place side coasted towards the fifth round.
Van Persie spurned four decent chances, while Cambridge goalkeeper Chris Dunn saved from Wayne Rooney and Di Maria, before substitute Wilson found the bottom-right corner in the 73rd minute to seal victory.
“I was really pleased with them second half,” said Cambridge manager Richard Money.
“I said at half-time: ‘What’s the worst that can happen? You get battered? But so what? So go and show what you can do.'”
Sheffield United, who recently lost to Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup semi-finals, took a 38th-minute lead at home to Preston through Jamie Murphy’s low shot.
But Preston scored three times in 10 second-half minutes, with Paul Gallagher claiming a brace and Paul Huntington also finding the net, to earn themselves a glamour tie with Van Gaal’s side.
In the night’s other game, Sunderland came from behind to win 3-1 at second-tier Fulham, setting up a fifth-round trip to third-division Bradford City, conquerors of Chelsea in round four. – Agence France-Presse