Bastian Schweinsteiger ended his long exile from the Manchester United starting line-up with a first Old Trafford goal in Sunday’s 4-0 FA Cup drubbing of Wigan Athletic.
Schweinsteiger was last selected from the start when the holders beat Sheffield United in the third round of last season’s competition, before fitness problems and being frozen out by Louis van Gaal’s successor Jose Mourinho intervened.
A thawing in relations meant the end of a 386-day wait in this year’s fourth round, with United clinical enough against Championship opposition to steer well clear of the weekend’s numerous upset stories.
Marouane Fellaini calmed nerves by heading a 44th-minute opener – Schweinsteiger’s delightful cross looking like being his most significant contribution before he completed the scoring during the closing stages.
Another man whose status under Mourinho has come under question over recent weeks – Anthony Martial – marked his own return to the side by setting up Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for second-half goals.
Whether Martial met Mourinho’s criteria of performing “magnificently” in order to retain a spot for the midweek visit of Hull City is another matter but such standards were not required of any player as the holders progressed to the last 16.
It was a lethargic start from the hosts but they might have opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Juan Mata smashed over from 14 yards.
A more gilt-edged chance fell Mkhitaryan’s way after the half hour when Martial and Timothy Fosu-Mensah combined down the right, but the former Borussia Dortmund star made woeful contact with the goal at his mercy at the back post.
The Latics were also wasteful five minutes before the break, with Michael Jacobs slicing against his standing leg inside the area on the back of some impressive hold-up play from Sam Morsy.
It was a miss they would regret in the dying moments of a scrappy first half.
Wayne Rooney swept a pass out to Schweinsteiger on the right and the former Germany captain crossed to the far post for Fellaini to power in a simple finish.
Sergio Romero preserved United’s lead with a sharp save partly of his own making in the 54th minute, shovelling a cross from the right as far as David Perkins but reacting, while out of position, to save the midfielder’s shot with his legs.
United duly heeded the warning and it was 2-0 three minutes later, with Martial this time the supplier of an excellent cross for Smalling to do the damage.
Wigan pressed forward but were ruthlessly picked apart on the break with 15 minutes remaining.
Rooney’s lay-off allowed Mkhitaryan to send Martial tearing down the left channel and his return ball was dispatched without error on this occasion.
Mourinho handed debuts to defender Axel Tuanzebe and goalkeeper Joel Pereira with the tie in the bag but there was still time for his once forgotten senior man to shine.
Schweinsteiger’s moment arrive with nine minutes remaining, as Ander Herrera nodded down a right-wing corner and the experienced midfielder was nimble enough to flick in an overhead finish – drawing a wry smile from Mourinho.
KEY OPTA STATS
– Man Utd have scored 4+ goals in a game six times under Jose Mourinho (36 games), two more than they did in 103 games under Louis van Gaal.
– Man Utd have scored four goals in consecutive rounds of the FA Cup for the first time since 2009 (4-1 v Derby, 4-0 v Fulham).
– Indeed, it’s the first time the Red Devils have scored four or more in successive rounds at Old Trafford since 2003 (4-1 v Portsmouth, 6-0 v West Ham).
– Anthony Martial has been involved in nine goals in his last eight FA Cup games (3 goals, 6 assists).
– Marouane Fellaini has scored six goals in 33 games in cup competitions for Man Utd, compared to seven in 78 league games.
– Bastian Schweinsteiger both scored (1) and assisted (1) as many goals today as he had in his previous 33 games for Man Utd.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!