Not In Our House

by Unfrozen Caveman Law Writer

There was a lot to like about Manchester United’s epic 4-3 win (after extra time) on Sunday against Liverpool in the FA Cup quarterfinals.

  • United never quit and kept playing until the final whistle, coming back from a 2-1 deficit in regular time and then a 3-2 hole in extra time. That never-say-die attitude, which seemed like a regular feature of the Ferguson era, has only been seen sporadically over the last decade. It was nice seeing it back on Sunday.
  • The players gave it their all and left everything on the pitch. Bruno Fernandes, in particular, was so exhausted, he played most of the extra frame as a center back to save his legs while Harry Maguire ventured forward.
  • Predictably, United had a spell where they lost concentration, in this case, letting Liverpool score two quick goals towards the end of the first half. While these lapses are still a concern (Roy Keane was particularly critical, but when isn’t he?), to United’s credit, they tightened things up in the back and didn’t concede again until the first half of extra time.
  • Kobbie Mainoo looked like the best player on the pitch and constantly provided calm and cool decision-making in a match where mayhem reigned supreme. A lot has been made of how Erik ten Hag’s chaotic tactics would even make The Joker blush. Mainoo’s assured possession, passing and dribbling have been an important counterweight to that. No wonder he just got a call-up to the England team.
  • Antony scored a beauty of a goal to equalize in the 87th minute, doubling his tally on the season (his lone previous goal came earlier in the FA Cup against Newport County). It’s been a tough season for Antony, and plenty of people are already writing him off as a flop. One goal doesn’t remove that label, but it does remind people that the ability is there. No wonder ten Hag has been so loyal towards him.
  • Scott McTominay continued his goal-scoring exploits while Marcus Rashford looked like a constant menace. The latter should have won the match in regular time after being through on goal only to drag his shot just wide of the far post. He then atoned by scoring the equalizer in the second half of extra time, before putting the ball on a platter for McTominay, who should have won it before…
  • … Amad Diallo wrote himself into United lore by scoring the winner. Once compared to Lionel Messi, Diallo hasn’t been able to get going since coming to Old Trafford in a deal worth up to €40 million that became effective in January 2021. Part of the problem was that the manager who wanted him, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, got sacked less than a year after Diallo arrived. Ten Hag hasn’t given him many chances — before Sunday, he had only used him in two league matches and one FA Cup match this season. Hopefully, this leads to more opportunities for him — although he’ll have to wait a bit for them. He got sent off for a second yellow card after taking off his shirt during his goal celebration a la Diego Forlan. Luckily, it didn’t cost United — otherwise that probably would have been the last we saw of him.
  • Andre Onana played well, continuing his recent run of decent form. However, his tendency to parry shots directly to opposing players continued to haunt him as he basically assisted Mo Salah (someone who never needs help to score against United) for Liverpool’s second goal. I remember thinking the biggest thing United would miss about David de Gea was his ability to parry shots into harmless areas. Onana could use some pointers in that regard.
  • United proved it could play with the big boys — something that hasn’t been completely clear during the ten Hag era. As The Athletic pointed out, Liverpool under Jürgen Klopp have typically been the ones to use chaos theory to their advantage, overwhelming teams with quick attacks and tough pressing. While United’s version is still very much a work in progress — they lose the ball too often in midfield, press inconsistently and give up too many shots (although, as The Athletic pointed out, they don’t surrender too many quality chances). Liverpool got back into the game on Sunday by exploiting the space McTominay was leaving in midfield in order to join in the attack. Klopp even praised United after the match — something he rarely does when he loses (true to form, he then snapped at a Danish reporter for asking whether his team was tired).
  • R.I.P. Liverpool’s quadruple hopes. Next time Klopp visits Wembley, it will be either as a tourist or with another club.

There’s still plenty to work on, but United finally got a big win against a high quality opponent. With Championship club Coventry City waiting in the FA Cup Semifinals, United look a good bet to get to the finals where they’ll probably play — aw crap — Manchester City. Here’s hoping Erling Haaland and Phil Foden get lost on the way to Wembley.

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