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Fernandes steps up from the bench to be Man Utd’s match winner against Liverpool

After the insipid goalless draw of a week ago, finally a thrilling contest that lived up to the pre-match hype.

For Manchester United, a season of rich promise continued with victory over their arch rivals. For Liverpool, another demoralising defeat and an early exit from the FA Cup.

And a week after being accused of going missing in the bore-draw, Bruno Fernandes came off the bench to plunder the winner for United, a sublime free-kick from the edge of the box.

The goal yielded a first win over Liverpool for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who scored the winner against them at this stage of the competition in 1999, when United went on to win the Treble.

While a repeat of that feat is not possible after United’s exit from the Champions League, United are going from strength to strength – top of the Premier League and into the last 16 of the FA Cup.

Bruno Fernandes was the match winner

There they will come up against West Ham and a former boss in David Moyes, but with United in such irresistible form, they will go into the Old Trafford clash as overwhelming favourites.

Yet it was Liverpool who struck the first blow, in the 18th minute, Roberto Firmino playing an exquisite ball through to Mo Salah, who chipped a delightful finish over Dean Henderson.

As sublime as the assist and finish were, United’s defence – in particular Victor Lindelof – were guilty of switching off and paid the price.

United, as they did during the closing moments of the Anfield stalemate, were always able to cause Liverpool problems on the counter-attack with their formidable pace in attack.

The playmaker scored with 10 minutes remaining
The playmaker scored with 10 minutes remaining

The equaliser, which came in the 25th minute, came from one such break, Paul Pogba winning possession just outside his own area, Donny van de Beek quickly spreading the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford.

Rashford took one look up before sweeping a majestic ball to Mason Greenwood, whose first touch and low finish past Alisson were exemplary, for his fourth goal of the season and first in 11 games.

United were in front three minutes after the restart, with the roles reversed from the opener, Greenwood turning provider for Rashford.

When the ball spilled to him in the middle, Greenwood picked out Rashford with a first-time ball over the top, Rhys Williams failing to deal with the delivery, allowing United’s No.10 to produce an assured finish for his 15th goal of the season.

But Liverpool were back on level terms 10 minutes later, when a sloppy pass from Edinson Cavani allowed Milner to find Firmino, who in turn squared the ball for Salah to plunder his second of the game, from nothing.

Salah came close to his hat-trick in the 67th minute, but his angled shot was blocked by Henderson. With both managers seeking the win and the avoidance of extra time, they threw on their big guns, Fernandes and Sadio Mane coming on with a quarter of normal time left.

It was Fernandes who made the difference, restoring United’s lead 12 minutes from time with a sumptuous free-kick from the edge of the area, one they would not relinquish for a second time.




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