Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the late winner as Manchester United came from a goal down to beat Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Sunday.
Manchester United faced a seemingly safe trip to Ewood Park on Sunday evening to face Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round encounter. And on the line, was a place in the quarterfinals of England’s premier cup competition.
However, Jose Mourinho’s men were made to work hard to get one step closer to defending their title as they had to come back from a goal down to the Championship side to get victory. Blackburn, who are struggling for survival, sent the visiting fans into jitters as Danny Graham gave them the lead early on.
Manchester United, though, equalised soon after at the end of a swift counter attack as Marcus Rashford rounded off Blackburn goalkeeper Jason Steele to level things up. Manchester United struggled in search of their next goal but got it nearly fifty minutes later as Zlatan Ibrahimovic latched on to Paul Pogba’s pass to net the winner fifteen minutes from time.
The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the talking points to emerge out of a hard fought win for Manchester United on Sunday.
An Underwhelming Outing For Manchester United
The fixtures are starting to pile up as Manchester United continue to fight on all fronts. Should they beat Saint-Etienne in the Europa League Round of 32, they will have two legs of the second knockout stage to look forward to.
Manchester United are now unbeaten in their last 10 FA Cup games:
Goals scored: 24
Goals conceded: 6 pic.twitter.com/3ys6NdMsPp
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 19, 2017
Jose Mourinho needs his players to be at their best in these games if Manchester United are to stand any chance of winning a rare cup treble this season. And the Portuguese can ill afford a performance similar to Sunday’s as, with all due respect to them, most sides will not be at the level of Blackburn.
The was because on Sunday, Mourinho’s men were slow and sloppy on the ball, struggled to rotate the ball at a desirable rate with chances coming few and far between. In fact, Blackburn looked the better of the two sides for large parts of the match, and there were concerns that the match could go into a replay.
However, Manchester United managed to get the win after being made to work hard by Owen Coyle’s resolute side. Mourinho would now be hoping that his side can raise its level as the season enters its most crucial phase.
It’s Zlatan Time Again
As iterated earlier, the fixture list is getting congested and a replay of the FA Cup fifth round clash against Blackburn was the last thing that Mourinho, or any Manchester United fan would have wanted after Sunday’s match.
18 Goals in his last 20 Games.
Dare to Zlatan. pic.twitter.com/HD2eXT3vAc
— Soccer St. (@SoccerSt_) February 20, 2017
With not a lot of time left to go in the game, Mourinho was forced to bring on his superstars Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for their FA Cup bow and get that all important winning goal to seal the tie in ninety minutes.
And it was the duo that combined so well to get Manchester United’s second goal that ultimately turned out to be the winner. It was Pogba who picked Ibrahimovic out with a superb aerial pass from his own half and the Swede made no mistake in slotting a neat, cool finish into the back of the net.
That was Ibrahimovic’s 24th goal for Manchester United this season, 15 more than the next best for Manchester United. And the Red Devils will need their number 9 fit and firing for the remainder of the campaign if they are to reach their objectives for the season.
There weren’t many positives from what was a poor performance by Manchester United on Sunday. The defenders were regularly troubled while the midfielders were sloppy and uninspiring. But there was one player who looked the likeliest to produce a moment of magic out of nowhere – Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Rashford’s Goal ⚽️
What a pass from Mkhitaryan 🔴pic.twitter.com/5swWweRd6v
— @ManUtd_HQ (@ManUtd_HQ) February 19, 2017
The Armenian ran the show for the Mourinho’s side against a Blackburn side that stood toe to toe with their more illustrious visitors. But, Mkhitaryan controlled the Manchester United attack with aplomb, and was the only player rotating the ball quickly and incisively.
In all, Mkhitaryan completed 63 passes while dictating Manchester United’s forward play through the hole. One of these passes was a moment of absolute magic as he cut through the Blackburn defence from within his own half to set Marcus Rashford up for the equaliser.
That was just one of the many magical moments he has created since establishing himself as a key figure for Jose Mourinho and the move into the hole has only done wonders to his performances as he has been able to orchestrate the proceedings in the final third better. Another player whose form is crucial for Manchester United.
Emnes Leaves The Manchester United Defence Worrying
Owen Coyle deployed a traditional 4-4-2 formation for the visit of Manchester United, with Danny Graham and Marvin Emnes starting up front. While it was Graham who grabbed the headlines with his goal early on in the first half, his strike partner was the one who paved the way for the bulk of the chances created by Blackburn.
— Inside SCFC (@InsideSCFC) February 19, 2017
The Swansea loanee was a constant threat for Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling, who struggled with the duty of marking two strikers instead of one. Standing toe to toe with the two defenders physically, he also affected Michael Carrick’s playmaking game for large parts of the match.
And it was Emnes who was so fundamental to Blackburn’s shock opener, as he ran off Rojo to play the ball through to Graham who calmly converted the pass to score. With Blackburn struggling for survival, Coyle may have found the solution to retaining their status in Championship for next season.
Up Next: Chelsea
If victory was hard to come by against Blackburn on Sunday, Manchester United’s next opponents are as tough as they come. The draw for the quarterfinals of the FA Cup followed soon after the match ended and it revealed a clear marquee meeting for the Last 8 stage.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) February 19, 2017
Manchester United next face a daunting task of visiting Stamford Bridge in the next round to face Chelsea. And with Antonio Conte’s side leading the Premier League table so emphatically, it goes without saying that the draw couldn’t have been any more difficult for Mourinho and his side.
The same fixture in the Premier League back in October resulted in an embarrassing 4-0 loss for Manchester United with Chelsea simply walking over the Red Devils. And Chelsea’s home record in the league speaks for itself, with their only loss coming when Antonio Conte was still figuring his best eleven out.
Manchester United, though, have come a long way since that loss. Unbeaten in the league, with only one loss coming against Hull City in the EFL Cup when they had already qualified for the final is testament to that. This makes this meeting, scheduled for next month, quite an enticing one and one that is hard to call. Your guess is as good as ours.