It was an all Premier League affair as Huddersfield hosted Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The Terriers had scraped through to this stage, needing a narrow win over Bolton and a replay against Birmingham City to book their place in the fifth round. United meanwhile had comfortably dispatched Derby County and Yeovil Town in the historic competition, and were the clear favourites heading into this clash.
Lukaku powers in an early opener
David Wagner has earned a lot of praise for the style of play that he has got Huddersfield playing, involving a lot of closing down and high pressure, but the quality of Manchester United smashed through the Terriers early on. Romelu Lukaku powered his way through the home side’s defence, outmuscling the centre halves, before cutting back onto his right foot and driving a low shot in at the near post past Jonas Lossl.
It was an explosive start from Jose Mourinho’s side, but they were instantly put on the back foot by Huddersfield after the goal. The home side should have had an equaliser through Tom Ince, but the winger dragged his shot wide of the post from a relatively tight angle. The chance provided a warning sign for United’s defence, and it had been an incredibly lively start from the Terriers.
The pressure sent the Red Devils back into their shells somewhat, and they slowed the tempo of the game with some consistent spells of possession in the midfield areas, not looking to be too adventurous going forward. Their compact shape forced Huddersfield to try and pick holes in their back line, which they struggled to do after their initial flurry of chances.
Mata denied a goal by contentious VAR decision
The long spells of possession allowed Manchester United to take a stranglehold on the game, and they gradually worked their way up the pitch, putting some more pressure on the Huddersfield goal. Despite this, neither Lukaku nor Alexis Sanchez could really get into the game, and cut isolated figures up top at times. United looked incredibly comfortable however, with Michael Carrick and Nemanja Matic dictating the play from their deep midfield positions.
As the clock ticked down towards half time, Huddersfield increased the urgency of their play, and began to see more of the ball in the attacking areas of the pitch. Rather than turn them into a threat however, the home side’s possession allowed United to play on the break, which suited them to the ground with the pace of Sanchez and Lukaku.
In the end it looked as if their second had as a result of this shift in attacking style, courtesy of some good work down the right flank by Ashley Young. The fullback played in Juan Mata, who took the ball round Lossl and slotted it home coolly, only to be ruled offside by VAR a minute later. It was a contentious decision, given how marginal the offside looked, but one that saw United head into the break with just a one-goal lead.
Lukaku doubles United’s lead
The second half continued in much the same fashion to the first, and the pace of the game was slow, with midfield battles being the dominant occurrences. Manchester United have been the best defensive side in the Premier League this season, and this game was a perfect example of why, with the Red Devils compact formation allowing them to neutralise every Huddersfield attack without breaking a sweat.
It became important for Jose Mourinho’s men to be able to cope with the pressure as the Terriers came out for the second period looking hungry for an equaliser, and their supreme ability at the back allowed them to take advantage going forward.
Having soaked up all of the pressure from the home side, United struck on the break, with Romelu Lukaku doubling his tally for the evening, and doubling his side’s advantage. A counter attack from a Huddersfield corner saw Sanchez play a phenomenal threaded ball through to the Belgian striker, who again outmuscled the Terriers defenders and finished brilliantly past Lossl, who was once again left rooted to the spot by the power of Lukaku’s shot.
Mourinho’s men shut up shop for the win
The second goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Huddersfield, who struggled to push for a way back into the game due to the intensity of Manchester United’s defending. More spells of possession allowed the visitors to utterly control and dictate the game, and they played on the break whenever they won the ball back from David Wagner’s men.
To their credit the Terriers did continue looking for a goal despite their clear inferiority, and Tom Ince in particular looked dangerous in possession. United did incredibly well to snuff out any chances however, and always managed to find the right block or interception to frustrate the Huddersfield attackers. In the end the game tailed off during the final minutes, but Manchester United ended it as deserved winners, progressing comfortably to the next round.
Huddersfield set up in a way that looked as if it would allow them to really challenge Manchester United, but the early goal killed the game off as it gave the visitors a lead to defend. The Terriers had some good spells of attacking pressure, but in the end they were the inferior side, and probably made it as far as their quality of play deserved.
In the end Manchester United ran out as deserved winners in a game in which they were the far superior side. Romelu Lukaku in particular was hugely impressive, despite United not firing on all cylinders in an attacking sense, but they will likely have to improve in time for the next round. From a defensive standpoint Jose Mourinho’s side were once again imperious, which is what they will have to continue for the rest of the season.
Huddersfield: Lossl, Hadergjonaj (Smith, 70’), Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo (Malone, 70’), Billing, Williams, Quaner, Ince, Van La Parra (Sabiri, 84’), Mounie
Manchester United: Romero, Young, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Carrick, Matic, Mata (Lingard, 81’), McTominay, Sanchez (Martial, 75’), Lukaku (Bailly, 90+3′)
Goals: Lukaku (0-1, 3’), Lukaku (0-2, 55’)
Referee: Kevin Friend
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Huddersfield: Lossl 5, Hadergjonaj 6 (Smith n/a), Jorgensen 6, Schindler 6, Kongolo 6 (Malone n/a), Billing 6, Williams 6, Quaner 6, Ince 6.5, Van La Parra 6 (Sabiri n/a), Mounie 6
Manchester United: Romero 7, Young 7.5, Smalling 7, Lindelof 7, Shaw 7, Carrick 7.5, Matic 7.5, Mata 8.5 (Lingard n/a), McTominay 7, Sanchez 8 (Martial n/a), Lukaku 9 (Bailly n/a)
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