‘This game is a prime example of why VAR shouldn’t be used in competitive games’ – The Sun, probably
Manchester United will be favourites in this Fifth Round FA Cup clash against Huddersfield. This is the third time so far this season the two teams have met with each winning one.
Jose Mourinho puts out a strong squad with a few minor changes. Sergio Romero returns in goal alongside a back four of Young, Smalling, Lindelöf and Shaw. McTominay, Carrick (C) and Matic make up a midfield partnership we have not seen so far this season. Mata, Lukaku, and Sánchez lead the line.
The opening exchanges are frantic and scrappy with both teams sticking to their opposite numbers like a rash, neither wanting to be out of control. Huddersfield has the first chance of the game but it was never going to trouble Romero and it gently rolls past the post.
Huddersfield get dispossessed in the midfield and Lukaku links up with Mata for a neat one-two to put the Belgian on the edge of the box with just a defender and the keeper to beat. He uses his strength well to shrug off the defender before sending Mounie the wrong way.
That goal means that Lukaku has ten goals in his last ten FA Cup games. This is exactly the start United were looking for and they will try to slow the game down and show that defensive solidity out of possession that we know so well.
Credit to David Wagner’s side, they are really pushing to get back into the game immediately. Although they haven’t created any concrete chances so far they showing that they won’t be beaten that easily.
His side wins a corner from a cross blocked by Ashley Young and van La Parra steps up to take it. Instead of placing the ball on the line though he places it a decent eight inches away. The referee doesn’t notice but thankfully the cameraman does, zooming in super close to make absolutely sure we noticed, thanks mate.
After the first quarter of an hour Huddersfield has had 74 per cent possession but in this scary new counter-attacking world that means nothing, I’ve been more dangerous in attack watching this game from the comfort of my own bed.
A painfully good chance for Huddersfield goes begging. A beautiful cross by Hadergjonaj is driven low across goal and Ince can only just feel it glance off his boot. A few more inches in front and he would have buried that. They won’t get as many clear-cut chances like that so they really need to take them otherwise they will lose this game.
Whilst the game has been end-to-end with constant turnovers of possession neither side has done anything with it since Lukaku’s goal in the third minute. There have been physical challenges, sprints to get the ball for a quick throw-in but nothing has tested either keeper since and the fans are beginning to notice.
A couple of minutes before the end of the half, Young makes a driving run down the right-hand side, going past several players. He threads the ball through to Mata who bends his run perfectly, goes around the keeper and kisses the ball with his boot to make it two nil. United have had two shots on target and they have scored two goals, clinical.
As the celebration go on, however, Kevin Friend puts his finger to his ear. Either he’s trying to start a game of ‘Get Down Mr. President’ or he’s getting information from the video referee. The replay is shown and he’s clearly onside so it is probably just a formality to test the technology.
Time passes though and everyone is standing with their hands in their pockets wondering what’s going on. Slowly the coldness of the Saturday afternoon is setting in without a game to focus on. The sound of shaking legs rings around the John Smith’s Stadium.
Finally, the referee announces it was not a goal. To help prove the decision we are shown what can only be described as a screenshot of the game where someone used Microsoft Paint to draw a line. Better even, it looks like they got a random fan from the crowd to get on a unicycle and pedal it from touchline to touchline with a yellow paintbrush and paint. Best even, it looks like the line a drunk driver would walk when the police pull them over for reckless driving. If incompetence was a line, it would be that.
With that farcical display, we head into halftime. The game had a lot of energy but in the end, it was all wasted, like going to the gym but rendering the exercise useless by eating a takeaway for dinner. Anyway, the game gets underway with no changes.
The home fans start chanting with great enthusiasm as they try and help their team get back into the game. Unfortunately, they are drowned out by the sound of the journalists in the press box furiously typing out articles about whether VAR is ready for use in the Premier League yet.
Manchester United have gone ten minutes without going into the opposition half but Huddersfield gets undone by the very same move as the first half. This time Lukaku does the one-two with Sánchez instead of Mata. He has plenty to do still to grab his second goal but he finishes confidently. Despite all of Huddersfield’s possession, I don’t think they can feel hard done by.
What I find fascinating about the John Smith’s Stadium is how much the fans buy into these cardboard clappers. The constant beat underpins the action. Want more intense performances? Bang quicker, and vice versa. However, when the team gets on the edge of the box they stop clapping and I think the players get confused by that, they rely on the claps to know how to play. If the fans clapped as fast as they could I think their team would be four or five goals ahead right now.
Back to the ‘action’ and Huddersfield keep pushing but meet fierce resistance, an unstoppable force meets an immovable object and all that. The one defining stat of this game will be the number of blocks. There have been more blocks so far this game than in the mansion I built on Minecraft when I was 15.
The first substitution for United comes as Anthony Martial comes on for Sánchez. Sánchez has played well in possession this game but the Chilean would much prefer to be driving his supercar down the autobahns of Europe than park the bus in a rainy Yorkshire car park.
Juan Mata than makes way for Jesse Lingard. Regardless of how many goals there is in the last ten minutes of the game, it will be Mata’s face plastered on the back page of the tabloids due to the earlier VAR fiasco. Like Sánchez, his role has been to hold up the ball for as long as possible and maybe a handful of times to attack and so can’t really be judged for his performance.
Huddersfield, although utterly unable to break Manchester United down, have worked tirelessly to get back into the game. They deserve credit for their incredible work rate and United too for their rigid defending.
With three minutes extra time the only action I’m expecting to see is the third substitution from Mourinho. Lo and behold Bailly comes back for Lukaku to make his first appearance after his ankle surgery to play a few moments before the final whistle.
United are deserved winners in this Fifth Round clash, they will face Brighton in the Quarter Finals.