Cambridge United 0, Manchester United 0. The home side were rewarded with a replay at Old Trafford for a performance of impressive defensive discipline and, now and then, some genuinely dangerous attacking enterprise. By contrast Louis van Gaal’s men were desperately disappointing, their passing and movement slow and largely uninspired. Apart from a flurry of activity near the very end, they never looked like scoring, and this was another very poor showing from his team.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David de Gea, 6 — Had very little to do throughout, punching clear with authority when called upon and distributing the ball calmly away from danger when it was back-passed to him over a startlingly uneven surface. A solid outing.
DF Antonio Valencia, 4 — This was a very poor showing from the Ecuadorian, again deployed ahead of Rafael in the right-back slot. His touch was poor when breaking onto an Ander Herrera pass into the Cambridge area late in the second half, thus squandering one of his team’s best openings on the night.
That moment was the epitome of his performance. On another occasion he ran infield without any passing options and was dispossessed with embarrassing ease; on yet another, he passed poorly out of defence, exposing his team to a swift counterattack. An unfortunate night when he looked, despite his customary diligence, like the makeshift right-back that he is.
DF Phil Jones, 5 — Jones was spirited and attentive in defence, most notably with an eye-catching challenge in the first half when Sullay Kaikai had weaved past everyone else on the right flank. Yet given a system in which Van Gaal has clearly entrusted him with building the play from the back, his distribution was far from adequate for the task at hand. Too often Cambridge players sat off him, comfortable that he would not harm them with his passing, and so it proved. His corners were actually fairly decent in their delivery, yet one wonders how Angel Di Maria is supposed to return to set-piece excellence if he is not taking them in games.
DF Marcos Rojo, 7 — Another good performance from Rojo, who was probably Manchester United’s best player on the night. He seemed to relish the atmosphere, stepping confidently into challenges and passing the ball well out of defence. He was one of the few of Van Gaal’s men to emerge from this performance with any kind of credit.
DF Daley Blind, 5 — Blind was hardworking but limited in the left-back role, which really calls for speed that he does not have. On a couple of occasions he overlapped well, finding himself at the byline but lacking the acceleration to expose Cambridge on the break. This allowed them to defend narrowly and compactly against him to great effect. He was withdrawn without having done anything conspicuously poor, but without having imposed himself on proceedings. Given his pedigree, this would have to be recorded as very much an off-night.
MF Adnan Januzaj, 6 — Granted a start at the Abbey Stadium, the Belgian playmaker had a largely frustrating evening, though not for want of trying. Though he is very good at taking men on, he also has a very fine passing range; on two occasions in the first half he served terrific passes into the inside-right channel that Blind was sadly just too slow to capitalise upon. He took the dribbling initiative into his own hands in the second half, skipping past several opponents in his most memorable moment of a forgettable match. However, like the rest of his teammates it was too little, too late.
MF Michael Carrick, 5 — A performance of surprising passivity from Carrick. Whilst he has never been a physically assertive player, he has mostly been an assertive one in terms of his passing; Friday night’s match rarely saw him offering passes in behind the defence despite Falcao’s smart movement, which went unrewarded throughout. Too often he worked the ball harmlessly sideways and away from danger, to Cambridge’s relief — if not, given Manchester United’s recent outings, to their surprise.
MF Marouane Fellaini, 5 — Fellaini was presumably selected so that he would add a physical presence in midfield. The problem with that approach is that games of this nature do not need any more encouragement to turn into a scrap, and Fellaini entered the book early for a gentle foul on Kaikai. The Belgian lacked the invention to open up Cambridge with his passing, and after his early yellow he perhaps felt less inclined to put pressure on the ball. A substandard performance.
MF Angel Di Maria, 5 — Di Maria looked out of sorts from the opening whistle, with his touch uneven on several occasions. Some of this may have been due to the surface, but that did not explain his selection of passing, which was frequently poor. Too often he tried to force the issue, and looked like a man trying hard — perhaps too hard — to play himself back into form. One occasion in the first half, when he looked up from 35 yards and slashed the ball high and wide, summed up his night. He almost netted a very late strike, as he had done in the previous round against Yeovil, yet that would have been wholly unfair on the home side.
FW James Wilson, 5 — A mostly anonymous performance from the young forward; though he was deprived of service, he did not move particularly well in search of the ball. A match that he will have to mark, for this stage of his career, as a learning experience, though his midfielders should have done much better to find him.
FW Falcao, 6 — Falcao again gave the impression of a ravenous tiger forced to feed from scraps. On one occasion in the second half, given a rare through-ball from Carrick, he took the ball past his man with a superb first touch and was denied only by Chris Dunn’s early charge off his line. Whenever called upon he was alert, but he was called upon seldom.
FW Robin van Persie, 6 (for James Wilson, 67 mins) — Came on against a defence that sat deep and narrow against him, yet threatened at once with a half-volley. He was involved in some good link-up play and came close at the end. Almost a decisive cameo.
MF Ander Herrera, 7 (for Marouane Fellaini, 67 mins) — Herrera produced more creativity during his cameo than the entire midfield had before his arrival. He added speed to the tempo of passing, stepped wide and passed into dangerous areas, came looking for the ball and very nearly provided the momentum that gave the team an undeserved win. Why he began the game on the bench remains baffling.
DF Luke Shaw, n/a (for Daley Blind, 86 mins) — His arrival, bringing with it an immediate injection of pace, made one wonder why he had not started ahead of the Dutchman.