Love Sport Radio's Manchester United Correspondent Wayne Barton reflects on a comfortable FA Cup win
Manchester United avoided a potential banana skin by comfortably putting Tranmere Rovers to the sword in the FA Cup - and made a little bit of history in the process.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made changes to his team and fielded a 3-5-2 shape but it was a game clearly taken seriously. Recent results have been just as poor as the performances; Tranmere were shorter odds to get a win with some bookmakers than United had been on their last trip to Merseyside last weekend.
Solskjaer needed a win, then, in the sort of game where big teams rarely can win either way. Thankfully for the beleaguered boss his side put in a performance that could do some good for short term confidence.
Tranmere actually started positively and forced errors from Phil Jones and Luke Shaw to get into good positions.
By the tenth minute, however, they were chasing shadows, and by the sixteenth, they were out of the game. First Harry Maguire advanced with the ball unchallenged and unleashed a shot; it has not been a pattern that has been particularly successful or advisable when he has tried it so far this season, but this time it was spectacularly so; his twenty-yard effort took a nick but flew into the top corner.
Two minutes later Diogo Dalot turned his marker inside out to fire home and the relief was palpable; just as it was for Jesse Lingard soon after, who exploited a clear weak zone to the keeper’s left by curling home.
With a healthy lead United coasted to half-time but turned up the pressure just before the break to notch two more; Phil Jones headed in an Andreas Pereira corner for one of those ‘most unlikely’ combination moments, and Martial emulated Maguire and Lingard by shooting from range into the corner.
Solskjaer made two changes at the break, bringing on Fred and Tatith Chong, and the latter won a penalty ten minutes into the second half which Mason Greenwood tucked away. Six goals, six different scorers - the first time that’s ever happened in United’s history.
Lingard hit a post and Chong almost added his name to those history books when his effort smashed against the bar.
Six was enough, and United took some mercy on their opponents; despite the comprehensive nature of the win, little was really learned, and there was little in the way of suggesting the same old problems might not appear in midweek or next week. This was par for the course, an expected progression, and, as noted, a welcome confidence boost for some of these players to get on the scoresheet.
These are the tough realities facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at present, right at the time where dissent on the terraces is reaching another vocal peak. That dissent is unlikely to be swayed by results like this - it is a consequence of much deeper issues. It is not vitriol aimed at the manager but he will inevitably be implicated in it judging by the nature of his reaction to it.
On the pitch, a bigger test awaits in midweek, as unlikely as a turnaround seems in that one.
Bizarrely, Tranmere stopper Scott Davies - a Manchester City fan - took to shouting ‘City’ at the United fans behind his goal for the last thirty minutes. Not one to keep his head down, then.
It has been fifteen years since United won by two clear goals at the Etihad, and the time before, it was 25 years ago and City played at Maine Road. Well, if United are in the mood for making more history, it would be a welcome time.