Manchester United stroll spares van Gaal more misery
Manchester United cruised into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 3-0 win at Shrewsbury on Monday that at least temporarily eased the mounting pressure on Louis van Gaal.
Chris Smalling, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard netted the goals as United wrapped up a businesslike victory against their third tier hosts to secure a last eight date with West Ham United at Old Trafford.
Following speculation that an embarrassing defeat would be fatal to Van Gaal’s hopes of avoiding the sack, the United manager was relieved to see his side easily navigate their way through a one-sided fifth round tie.
United, humbled by Sunderland and then FC Midtjylland in their last two matches, took 37 minutes to make the breakthrough, but once Smalling opened the scoring the result never looked in doubt.
“I was very pleased. We have played 70 minutes fantastic, in a professional way, creating chances and scoring goals,” Van Gaal told BT Sport.
“Everyone shall say Manchester United have to win against Shrewsbury Town, but for the players it is fantastic because we are in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.”
As expected, United dominated possession in the early stages and they should have led from a corner with just two minutes on the clock. Daley Blind’s delivery from the left found the head of Smalling, but the stand-in United captain misdirected his header and it spun over the crossbar.
Memphis Depay then tried two efforts of his own from the left of goal around 25 yards out, but both flew into the Shrewsbury fans to earn the visiting winger ironic cheers from the home crowd.
Depay almost answered that ridicule with the opening goal on 11 minutes.
After collecting a pass from Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Depay let fly with a low shot that Jayson Leutwiler did well to scramble away as he dived acrobatically to his left.
United made a hash of their next chance to test Leutwiler after Jermaine Grandison was penalised for a foul on Depay 20 yards from goal.
The winger took the resulting free-kick himself but he struck it against the head of team-mate Anthony Martial and it looped harmlessly away.
Leutwiler then saved instinctively with his legs to deny Martial after a clever pass from Mata, with Abu Ogogo on hand to clear the rebound off his line as United players closed in. Martial created an opening with some neat footwork, with his shot blocked by a sliding Grandison.
United’s pressure finally paid off with half-time approaching courtesy of Smalling.
After Borthwick-Jackson had powered down the left, his cleared cross was headed back in by Morgan Schneiderlin and Smalling’s shot on the turn deflected in off Nathaniel Knight-Percival.
As Shrewsbury attempted to steady the ship, they conceded the second goal on the stroke of half-time.
Van Gaal hails United win
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has hailed his “committed” team for their performance as they swept aside English football club Shrewsbury Town 3-0 to set up an FA Cup quarter-final clash at home against West Ham United.
Chris Smalling, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard scored one each to steer the team to a comfortable victory. “The performance was very good. I said that already at half-time to my players. They were very committed, they performed our game plan very well and the consequences were we were ahead 2-0 at half-time - a lucky goal from Smalling but a very good free-kick from Mata,” van Gaal was quoted as saying by The Guardian on Monday.
It was just the response that van Gaal needed after his side’s hopeless performance in Denmark on Thursday when United were beaten 1-2 by Midtjylland in a Europa League Round of 32 match. Van Gaal made no attempt to play down the significance of the Midtjylland tie, fully aware that it represents United’s best opportunity to play in Europe’s premier club competition next season.