Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images
February 19, 2017
Manchester United booked their ticket for the sixth round proper of the 2016-17 FA Cup on Sunday, beating Blackburn Rovers 2-1.
Daniel Graham gave Rovers a shock lead, but Marcus Rashford restored order before half-time. Blackburn did well to give United a challenge during the first half, but the Red Devils improved after the break, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave his side the lead after 75 minutes.
As shared by United’s official Twitter account, manager Jose Mourinho opted to rest a number of big-name players, including Paul Pogba and Ibrahimovic:
Manchester United @ManUtd
The team news is in…
Come on, #MUFC! https://t.co/fDf1UmHriX
2/19/2017, 3:14:58 PM
Despite the absence of those stars, United started the match well. Rashford and Jesse Lingard were very involved early, putting a lot of pressure on the Blackpool defence.
The ball moved quickly up and down the pitch in the early stages, but chances were few. Marvin Emnes sent a first real warning shot to the Red Devils after 16 minutes, drawing a fine save from Sergio Romero with a great strike from 25 yards out.
A minute later, the hosts took the lead. Emnes casually beat Marcos Rojo before playing in Graham, who beautifully fired the ball past Romero. Sports writer Ryan Bailey felt a tinge of nostalgia through the goal:
Ryan Bailey @RyanJayBailey
Blackburn go 1-0 up over Man Utd. It’s like 1995 all over again! #FACup
2/19/2017, 4:32:57 PM
The Red Devils increased the pace of their passing after the setback, and chances started to arrive. Ander Herrera almost picked out a team-mate with a great curling cross, but Jason Steele did well to get to the ball.
Herrera and Lingard combined to put the stopper to work again, with the former testing his reflexes with a well-struck shot. Henrikh Mkhitaryan couldn’t guide his effort on target, but the pressure clearly took its toll on the defence.
The Armenian was given far too much space to run past his markers and launched a fantastic pass into the path of Rashford, who tied things up after 27 minutes. Bleacher Report UK enjoyed the assist:
Bleacher Report UK @br_uk
That assist from Henrikh Mkhitaryan: https://t.co/73MPbFiWNe
2/19/2017, 4:44:30 PM
Mkhitaryan was just getting warmed up, and he earned a free-kick from a dangerous area with another surging run. Unfortunately for the visitors, his effort couldn’t beat the wall. Anthony Martial also had a shot blocked.
Craig Conway caused a scare on the United bench with a superb volley that only just missed the target, and the hosts finished the half on top, with Romero nearly giving away a chance with a poor intervention on a cross.
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images
The fast pace continued after the break. Conway tested Romero with a hard shot, and Rashford and Matteo Darmian nearly passed their way through the Rovers defence.
Ashley Young nearly beat Stelle with a clever cross before he was caught by the defender, leaving the full-back in obvious pain. He was able to continue, however.
Ibrahimovic and Pogba entered the pitch after 62 minutes, as Mourinho was keen to avoid a replay. More from Bleacher Report UK:
Bleacher Report UK @br_uk
It must be nice. https://t.co/3LWerslMXz
2/19/2017, 5:38:11 PM
The Swede nearly made an instant impact, as he just failed to reach a sharp cross. On the other side of the pitch, Emnes suffered a similar fate.
United pushed the pace even more, but Ibrahimovic was unable to connect with an ambitious volley, drawing laughter from the home fans. Herrera was the next man to go close, but once again, Steele was there to save the day.
A second United goal seemed inevitable, and it was in-form Ibrahimovic who delivered, converting after a superb pass from Pogba. Former England international Gary Lineker was impressed:
Gary Lineker @GaryLineker
Exquisite from Pogba. Precise from Ibrahimovic. Class tells.
2/19/2017, 5:51:57 PM
It was Blackburn’s turn to push for a goal, with Emnes and substitute Connor Mahoney leading the way. A mad scramble with five minutes left to play saw the ball go into the net, but Anthony Stokes was offside when he converted, and the goal was ruled out.
The Red Devils did well to control possession late, running out the clock to book their ticket to the next round.
United’s next outing will be the UEFA Europa League return leg against Saint-Etienne, while Rovers visit Burton in the Championship.