As has been the case so often recently, Manchester United needed to go a goal behind before showing up against Preston North End in a 3-1 win in the FA Cup’s Fifth Round.
The first half was boring, with United managing 65 percent possession but no shots on target. It is becoming a familiar story for Louis van Gaal’s team, to see them hold on to the ball but do very little with it.
Preston were deserving enough of their lead, with Scott Laird getting in to a good position to put his side 1-0 up, even if his effort required a deflection from Antonio Valencia to beat David De Gea.
However, United were worthy winners thanks to their three second half goals. Ander Herrera did well to curl his shot in at the far post. For all the protests of Wayne Rooney’s offside position, even Simon Grayson conceded United’s captain wasn’t blocking the goalkeeper’s view or interfering with play.
Fellaini proved to be a success up front, yet again, after Van Gaal named him as one of his five forwards earlier this week, before Rooney confirmed United’s fixture against Arsenal in the FA Cup’s Sixth Round with a well-taken penalty.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK David De Gea, 6 — He was given a hard time from some for Laird’s goal, but the deflection beat him. Otherwise, there was little else for him to deal with.
DF Antonio Valencia, 6 — Probably could have done better with Preston’s goal by getting closer to Laird to block the shot, instead of deflecting it in. But he did well to set up Fellaini for the goal that put United ahead.
DF Marcos Rojo, 6 — It was a decent enough performance from the Argentinean. He was guilty of a few fouls and ended up in the book, but it was an easy enough evening for him.
DF Chris Smalling, 6 — Struggled to cope with Preston’s striker Kevin Davies at times but was fairly good in the air. With another chance to assert himself in Phil Jones’ absence, Smalling did little to show he has a long-term future at the club though.
DF Luke Shaw, 6 — An unremarkable performance for Shaw, as many of his appearances for Manchester United have been. There were no shocking mistakes at the back but also nothing of note going forward either.
MF Angel Di Maria, 7 — After some brilliant performances in the opening few weeks of the season, he’s struggled to replicate that sort of form since. But he made a few good runs forward and delivered some decent crosses, which his teammates should have got on to the end of.
MF Daley Blind, 7 — Having been without a tough midfielder for years, it’s good for United to have a player who is keen to win the ball and play it forward. He’s all over the pitch doing his bit for the team. Blind is proving to be a player Van Gaal can rely upon.
MF Ander Herrera, 7 — He looked lively on the ball and took his chance well to equalise for United. United fans are crying out to see him play more often and after another goal, he’s justifying that support.
MF Marouane Fellaini, 7 — Scored the most important goal of the game to put United 2-1 up. He did well to win the initial header then fired in from a tight angle.
FW Wayne Rooney, 7 — Voted Man of the Match on the BBC telecast, after enjoying a rare start up front instead of midfield, but that was probably a bit kind. His movement off the ball was good and he took his penalty incredibly well, after previously being taken off duty thanks to too many low strikes close to the goalie.
Was the play before a dive? It looked like a reckless challenge by Preston’s goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann that he had to get out of the way of.
FW Radamel Falcao, 5 — A shadow of the player United fans had been expecting when he signed on loan from AS Monaco. He looked confused when he was subbed off but most supporters were wondering why it hadn’t happened sooner.
MF Ashley Young, 7 — Made more impact in the last 30 minutes than Falcao did in the hour before he was replaced. He did well to set up Herrera for the equaliser.