Manchester United secured a professional 3-0 win over Cambridge United with goals from Mata, Rojo and Wilson sending them into the 5th Round of the FA Cup.
Richard Money's Cambridge United put in a performance to be proud of at Old Trafford but a 25th minute goal from Juan Mata saw his side go down one early on.
Striker Tom Elliot almost gave the Yellows the lead before the clock struck one minute but his curling shot hit the right post. Marcos Rojo doubled United's lead with his first goal in England before the break.
James Wilson came on for Robin van Persie and secured the win for United with a wonderful cross-goal shot past Chris Dunn in the 73rd minute.
United now face Preston North End in the 5th Round and will be confident after impressive performances from Paddy McNair, James Wilson and Marouane Fellaini.
United set up with a traditional 4-4-2 with the added attacking prowess of Angel Di Maria, Wayne Rooney in a diamond with Juan Mata.
Tom Elliot probed at United’s new found four-man defence and sent a golden chance flying against the post, well past David De Gea.
While the four-man defence had yet to demonstrate the quality United’s fans insist it brings in defence, it gave van Gaal’s side a solid basis on which to build possession. The multi-million pound side probed cautiously at the League Two defence, Rooney’s swept cross headed back in by Marouane Fellaini, starting upfront, towards Robin van Persie – making his first FA Cup start for Manchester United.
The pendulum-like, constant possession provided opportunity to burst forward with the intense speed of Di Maria. Rooney was key throughout the first twenty minutes in United’s composed start. Starting on the right, the England captain provided a consistent source of chances. The 29-year-old picked up on Fellaini’s cross and despite buying himself an extra half a yard from the Cambridge defence, his powerful shot was easily captured by the confident Chris Dunn.
More than seventy percent of possession rested with United in the opening twenty minutes but it failed to impress the 7,000 traveling Cambridge fans; chanting ‘what a waste of money’ at Angel Di Maria. Nice ideas failed to make decent chances from what should be United’s potent attacking force.
The sub-par United team reaped the rewards of hitting it up towards Fellaini, mimicking the stereotypical style of a League Two side, as such they faced.
Yet Paddy McNair, featuring at right-back and dominating proceedings, drove out of defence to play an incisive ball through the middle of the park and into the feet of the on running Angel Di Maira. Of course, eventually the quality of United would shine through and Di Maria’s cross evaded the huge heights of the U’s defence. Big-man Fellaini headed back inwards towards the little-man Juan Mata who finished off the chance to give United a deserved but unimpressive lead.
The composed possession continued with a one goal advantage and confidence grew in Louis van Gaal’s side. Mata scuffed a chance to double his tally and McNair’s rocket was deflected for a corner. Chris Dunn punched out well but the barrage from the increasingly fast-flowing United continued.
One goal was expected for the favourites and two goals should be a formality for third placed United. Marcos Rojo ticked the boxes as the reds coasted into a two goal lead. Fellaini was at the heart of United’s major play once more, chesting it down before his loose shot dropped at the feet of Robin van Persie. The Dutchman did excellently to provide a brilliant ball with the outside of his boot for Rojo to score his first United goal. Rojo’s snapped header past Dunn gave United cause to relax at Old Trafford.
A lull in the game, so prominent in United’s season thus far, saw Cambridge press forward and Ryan Donaldson’s shot watched wide by an ever-present David De Gea, starting ahead of Victor Valdes again.
Wayne Rooney couldn’t treat the huge Yellows away support to something spectacular as Di Maria’s looping ball set him up for a stunning volley. But the counter-attack from a rare Cambridge attack only resulted in a goalkick for Dunn.
Robin van Persie desperately searched to add his name to the score-sheet after taking his tally for the season up to 9 on Saturday against Leicester City. After being the provider for the second goal, McNair and Rooney gave him a chance but he headed wide. The Netherlands captain earned a corner from a tight angle against Chris Dunn and then came away from goal to head wise but he could not direct anything across the line.
United’s non-spectacular play continued with domination in possession but Rooney’s chest and volley could have given a spark to an otherwise standard performance. Van Persie pounced on the parry from Dunn but fired over the crossbar.
De Gea was briefly given a challenge by the Yellows but as the current form goes, he dealt with it easily.
An irritation to the battling Cambridge defence since the restart, van Persie latched onto Di Maria’s lofted ball over the Yellows’ defence but once more his shot on the turn was saved. Only just saved but the Dutchman couldn’t celebrate as he was taken off for James Wilson, who is becoming a more prominent figure in the United first team as the season progresses.
Wilson made an impact immediately, taking the ball from the corner and eventually into Di Maria’s feet whose swerving shot was tipped over well by Dunn. The Argentine departed for Ander Herrera, having played ninety minutes at the weekend.
19-year-old Wilson scored his first FA Cup goal, terrorising the Cambridge defence in his short time on the pitch. A brilliant shot across the goal making its way past Chris Dunn, a model of Cambridge’s performance to be proud of.
Louis van Gaal has finally seen his assembled talents take a comfortable win in the Cup, regardless of the opposition. United put in a professional performance with nothing standing out amongst the numerous chances throughout the ninety minutes.
It was odd to name David De Gea man of the match as United won 3-0 against Liverpool in December. It also seems odd to praise Cambridge United after a three goal defeat. Yet it is right to after a fantastic response to going two goals down in the first half.
The Yellows came out of the dressing room for the restart and have entered back now with pride. For they stopped a confident United side from exposing a lesser quality League 2 side and did it without looking like a League 2 side.
Richard Money will have gained millions for his club through a trip to Old Trafford and although his side didn’t get a goal they did get praise from everyone watching.
Manchester United have gone 11 years without winning the FA Cup and after a 3-0 win they now face Preston North End in a local clash. With an easy draw and a lack of European football to bank it could be the year that they finally get their 12th FA Cup. Only time will tell, but United are slowly improving and Cambridge deserve all the plaudits they get.