Sunday, 18 March 2018

Match report: United 2-0 Brighton&Hove Albion

Headed goals from the in-form Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic sent United past the challenge of spirited Brighton and into a recqord equalling 29th FA Cup semi final, to be played at Wembley at the end of April.

The Reds had reached the last eight for the fourth consecutive season, and continued their Cup run of clean sheets with a deserved, if unspectacular win, over Brighton - whose main priority remains Premier League survival. An FA Cup win would be United's 13th in total and remains the Reds only realistic chance of silverware.

The Reds had suffered Champions League agony and, in the wake of that shock midweek defeat to Sevilla, manager Jose Mourinho had come under fire but defended his record in an extraordinary 12-minute monologue on Friday, in which he criticised United's 'football heritage'.
Lukaku nodded home the first - his 25th goal of the season - after a cross by Matic, who sealed victory himself late on with another header, this time from Ashley Young's free-kick.

Juan Mata had a shot deflected wide and Chris Smalling almost made the breakthrough from the resultant corner when he stabbed his shot against a post in a goalmouth scramble.
Sergio Romero saved well from Lewis Dunk in Brighton's first attack but United went ahead eight minutes before the break. Matic picked out Lukaku with a swinging cross to the far post which the Belgian met with a well-placed header to beat Krul for his sixth goal in seven games.

Chris Hughton's Seagulls had been neat and tidy and set up with the plan to contain United and hit on the counter. Lukaku left that blueprint in tatters but the visitors showed more threat after the interval, and went close twice early on through Pascal Gross and Jurgen Locadia. Romero was forced into action again as he kept out the latter from distance, before the Dutch striker headed wide when well-placed on the hour mark.

United, perhaps in part due to the wintry conditions that affected the tie, struggled to test Krul, although Anthony Martial went close when he flashed an effort wide on the angle.

Nerves were beginning to creep in with clear cut chances at a premium, but - as the temperatures dropped even lower - Matic relieved the stress with a match-sealing second seven minutes from time.

The Serbian was United's most impressive performer and capped his superb individual showing with a goal just as important as his last - that strike of the season contender at Selhurst Park two weeks ago.

Half-time substitute Young, who had replaced Luke Shaw, whipped in a free-kick to the far post and Matic did what Lukaku had done and met the delivery with a powerful header beyond Krul to put the result beyond doubt.

Que sera sera!

Overall team performance: 6.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic

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