Football

Man Utd give troubled season much-needed boost with FA Cup thrashing of Tranmere


Even Diogo Dalot scored. Even Phil Jones scored. Blimey, even Jesse Lingard scored.

This was that sort of glaring mis-match and anyone wanting to read a jot of significance into it would be playing a dangerous game.

This is modern-day Manchester United, after all. A team and a club waiting for the next setback to come around the corner.

But they needed this. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed this, captain Harry Maguire, whose early beauty from range prompted the tide of strikes that overwhelmed Tranmere and traumatised keeper Scott Davies, needed this.

And Ed Woodward, absent in person but remembered loudly and less than fondly in name by United supporters, needed this.

At least, the dirt and sand of Prenton Park smoothed over a few issues for a few moments.

Manchester United put six goals past Tranmere

Again, attaching any wider importance to a walkover against a side that actually performed well below their League One standard is clearly ill-advised.

But, at first glance of the surface and after a Rovers start that briefly rattled Jones and Maguire, this looked a task that could be problematic.

Instead, United completed it with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of clinical, attacking expertise.

Most of their goals were all cleanly executed, none more so than the opener.

The skipper, accused of shrinking in that defeat to Burnley at Old Trafford, set the tone, finishing a few strides forward with a ferocious hit for his United first.

Harry Maguire opened the scoring with a long-range strike

For Davies in the Tranmere goal, that was to become the grim routine.

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Dalot was next, cutting in from the right and completing a finish he had been keeping under wraps in his United career to date, and then it was Lingard’s turn, with his strike meaning he now has two this season.

One against Astana, one against Tranmere Rovers. Unfortunately, he cannot play them every week.

And on a day of rare sightings, up popped Jones with United’s fourth.

Actually, there was a familiarity about Jones’ overall performance – a mud-caked, yellow-carded, body-slamming contribution – with the unfamiliarity coming when he headed in Andreas Pereira’s corner.

United were not troubled by the poor pitch conditions at Tranmere

If Davies was disillusioned with that moment, it got worse when the fifth went in for Anthony Martial, courtesy of a chunky deflection.

With the challenge of trying to overturn a two-goal deficit in the second leg of Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City looming, Solskjaer and his side pretty much declared at that, the only scoresheet addition a Mason Greenwood penalty after Tahith Chong had been brought down by the dazed Davies.

There seemed to be some sort of debate about who would take it with Lingard, clearly on a hot streak, seeming to fancy it, along with Pereira.

Anyhow, presumably after a signal from Solskjaer, the matter was swiftly settled by Maguire and Greenwood scored.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side received some respite from their troubled season

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That was pretty much Maguire’s last meaningful act but he had done enough in just over an hour to again suggest captaincy of this club suits him.

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Maguire has had some struggles but he still looks a natural born leader.

And leaders will be needed at the Etihad on Wednesday, against Wolves next Saturday and throughout the rest of this troubled season if there is to be any respite in the pressure of Solksjaer and Woodward.

Maguire and United triumphed spectacularly on the mud but the going is likely to be heavy for some time yet.





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