Ryan Giggs’ second minute penalty was enough to see off arch-rivals Liverpool to send Manchester United through to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, where they will face a trip to St. Mary’s to play Southampton for the second time in three years.
Goals from Danny Welbeck, Nani and Darron Gibson saw United cruise to a 3-0 victory against the Saints in the Third Round two years ago, and they’ll be looking for a similar performance in three weeks time after a hard fought victory against Liverpool.
United were awarded a penalty after only 31 seconds of play when Daniel Agger was adjudged to have fouled top-scorer Dimitar Berbatov. Replays, however, showed that there was only slight contact and that it was a somewhat harsh decision against the Danish defender. After an extended pause Giggs dispatched the spot-kick expertly to ‘keeper Pepe Reina’s left.
It proved to be the winner in a comfortable win for a United outfit that looked untroubled and rarely got out of second gear. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was sent off just after the half hour after a reckless, two-footed lunge on Michael Carrick that appeared to kill the game as a contest. Some fine saves from Reina kept Liverpool in the game, but the Merseysiders offered little going forward.
Dimitar Berbatov was named man-of-the-match after a tireless performance up front, but Michael Carrick, Rafael, Jonny Evans and goal-scorer Giggs were all in with a shout. Evans’ performance especially will please Sir Alex Ferguson after some poor performances culminated in his five-week absence from the first-team earlier in the season. The Northern Irishman looked calm and collected in his return to the starting XI and together with Rio Ferdinand kept Fernando Torres very quiet.
Rafael’s display further cemented his position as United’s first-choice right-back with a solid display against their fiercest rivals, and with Gary Neville widely expected to retire at the end of the season it looks like United have already got a readymade replacement.
While once again it wasn’t the attacking football taught by Matt Busby that United fans have become accustomed to over the years, it was an assertive performance against a Liverpool team looking to impress their new manager, Kenny Dalglish and the Red Devils could easily have succumbed to ‘new manager syndrome.’
United have been linked with Bayer Leverkusen’s 25 year-old goalkeeper Rene Adler as a potential replacement for Edwin van der Sar when the Dutchman decides to call time on his career. While no word has come out of Old Trafford, the German has expressed his desire to join United to emulate his idol Peter Schmeichel. “Everyone