Manchester United sailed into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a comfortable 4-0 victory away to Yeovil Town on Friday night, as Alexis Sanchez shone for the visitors on his Reds debut. Jose Mourinho rang the changes with his starting XI at Huish Park, with Juan Mata the only player to keep his place in the side following last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Burnley.
There was much discussion as to whether Sanchez would be handed a first United start against their League Two opponents or whether he would make a cameo appearance off the bench. Mourinho opted for the former, as the Chile international formed part of a three-man attack, starting on the left wing alongside Mata and Marcus Rashford up front.
It took a while for United to get their foot on the ball and dictate matters at Huish Park, as Yeovil made a bright start to proceedings, with goalkeeper Sergio Romero, in for number one David de Gea, denying Jordan Green with a smart save early on. In truth, the hosts rarely looked as though they would breach the Argentine’s goal and United began to assert themselves on their opponents midway through the first half. Sanchez earned a free-kick right outside the Yeovil box and despite its promising position, the Chilean’s effort sailed harmlessly into Artur Krysiak’s grateful hands. United’s new number seven had another sighter moments later, when he popped up in similar territory again, only to drag his shot wide of the far post.
Minutes before the half-time whistle, the hosts broke the deadlock and it was Sanchez who created the goal. The 29-year-old ran at the Yeovil defence before playing the ball to Rashford, who made his way into the box and profited from the Glovers’ failure to clear their lines, allowing the England international to calmly slot past Krysiak and into the back of the net for his first goal since the beginning of December. Rashford nearly doubled United’s lead shortly after the break, wriggling his way past a couple of Yeovil defenders only for his shot from inside the box to be deflected away for a corner.
The 20-year-old was lively up front all night for the visitors and nearly got an assist to his name. After a scramble in the box, Rashford laid the ball off for Luke Shaw inside Yeovil’s penalty box but the left-back’s goal-bound shot was blocked and the danger was cleared. United did not have to wait long to get their second goal and put the tie to bed as Sanchez capped off a fine individual performance with another assist. Running at a back-peddling Yeovil defence, the Chilean waited for the right moment before playing the ball into the rampaging Ander Herrera and the Spaniard required just two touches – one to control the ball and one to shoot- with his left foot before dispatching the shot low into the bottom corner past a hapless Krysiak.
The midfielder has found opportunities hard to come by this term under Mourinho but celebrated wildly in front of the jubilant away end. From that moment on, it was all about game management for the visitors. Sanchez, who had been subject to a number of meaty challenges throughout the encounter, was replaced by the in-form Lingard shortly after the second goal went in following an extremely encouraging debut.
Having collected the ball midway through the home side’s half with time almost up, Lingard skipped past a couple of half-hearted Yeovil challenges before arrowing a precise finish past a motionless Krysiak and into the net, making it six goals from his last 10 United appearances.
There was still enough time remaining for United to add a fourth and round off an impressive performance. Herrera, who put in a typically accomplished showing in the middle of the park, played the ball through to Marcos Rojo, who found himself flying down the left wing. The Argentine delivered an inch-perfect ball into the box, allowing Romelu Lukaku, who had replaced Mata midway through the second half, to sidefoot the ball into the net and grab his 18th goal of the season, his third from his last four matches.
What could have been a potentially awkward encounter at Huish Park was expertly navigated by United, capping off a perfect week for the Reds that saw them complete the signing of Sanchez as well as extend Mourinho’s contract. It is a result that should provide the perfect tonic for the Reds’ upcoming fixture: a tricky trip to Wembley Stadium to take on Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night.