ROONEY’S ON THE SPOT TO SAVE LVG
WAYNE Rooney’s stoppagetime penalty ended Sheffield United’s hopes of a cup shock at Old Trafford – with Nigel Adkins adamant a replay would have been deserved.
Rooney sent keeper George Long the wrong way from the spot, after Dean Hammond fouled Memphis Depay, just as the tie looked to be heading to a replay.
And Adkins admitted Hammond’s lunging tackle, which appeared to just catch the United winger, made a penalty inevitable.
“A replay would have been fantastic,” he said.“There was a steely resolve and it’s just a shame we haven't got it across the line. It’s a shame.There were three results on offer and we wanted two of them. The respect Manchester United have shown us showed they knew it would be a tough game.
“We were sitting there with that defensive shape and great credit to the players. They showed determination to frustrate a very good Manchester United side.
“An honest endeavour to win the ball has given the referee the opportunity to give the penalty and unfortunately they have scored it.”
Chances were minimal in the firsthalf, with the League One side – despite playing with two strikers – packing the defence and the hosts happy to pass the ball around.
Louis Van Gaal’s side were living on scraps though, with Rooney shooting well over from distance on 19 minutes before rounding Long just a minute later only for Jay McEveley to block his attempted pull-back.
Still the Blades patrolled their area with authority though, and when Rooney shot straight into the wall from a 25-yard free-kick on 44 minutes the home fans’ frustrations grew.
A well-worked free-kick routine threatened to ruin the visitors’ hard work on the stroke of half-time, but when Juan Mata picked out Daley Blind unmarked the Dutchman blazed well over.
With the second-half continuing in the same vein though, Louis van Gaal shuffled his attacking options with the introduction of Memphis Depay and Jesse Lingard on the hour.
And it was the introduction of Memphis which finally injected some life into the hosts’ attack – the Dutchman fizzing a long-range effort just wide on 66 minutes.
At the other end Chris Basham found space to run at the hosts’ defence for a rare chance but his low left-footed shot was easily dealt with by De Gea.
The Premier League side were on the charge again on 70 minutes though, Matteo Darmian pouncing on a loose ball and forcing a low save from Long Still the Blades stood firm though, their defensive determination typified by John Brayford’s crucial block to deny Martial’s shot on 87 minutes.
Memphis then cut inside onto his right foot with less than a minute of normal time remaining, but his skidding shot zipped just wide. It was not to last though, the vistors’ resolve finally broke in the third of six minutes added on when Hammond lunged in.
Rooney stepped up to end the Blades’ hopes of a replay and Van Gaal said:“The only thing that counts is that we’re in the next round and we did it.
“Escape from jail? I don’t think so. It is always difficult to play against such opponents How many chances have Sheffield United created. Nobody is talking about that.They defended with ten, 11 players behind the ball.
“You have to play more quickly than we did in the first half.We have to move the ball quicker. The gaps are coming and you have to see that as a player and pass at the right speed.”
STAR MAN JOHN BRAYFORD