Following a twenty minute delay to kick off due to traffic issues, the opening minute of the match could’ve left in the reds very red faced as a rare misplaced pass by Daley Blind set Cambridge United’s Tom Elliot through one on one with David De Gea. If the finish was 6 inches further to the left, it would have been totally different game.
Louis Van Gaal showed respect to Cambridge United by fielding a very strong side and the early mistake visibly rattled a few United players with several misplaced passes in the opening 10 minutes. United first shot on target was in the 18th minute when Rooney fired a low shot which was saved by Chris Dunn.
Once United started to find rhythm and comfort in their formation, which again featured 4 at the back, it was one way traffic; their play became increasingly expansive and chances were frequent. They found a lot of joy out wide where Rooney linked up brilliantly with the impressive Paddy McNair on the right and Angel Di Maria continuously found space to run at defenders and whip dangerous crosses in from the left.
The first goal, which came after 25 minutes, started from Paddy McNair at right back who threaded an inch perfect pass inside which eventually found its way out wide to Di Maria. The Argentinean, who had a patchy game for his high standards, lofted a cross to the back post, which was nodded down by Fellaini and neatly tucked away by Juan Mata high into the net from the 6 yard line. The cool finish was met with great relief from United fans following 115 goalless minutes against the League 2 side.
The second goal came 7 minutes later after a poorly cleared United corner landed at Maraouane Fellaini’s feet whose shot was again blocked and rebounded to Robin Van Persie. With a quick look up and a nicely improvised cross with the outside of the boot, Marcos Rojo dually obliged and powered a header into the bottom corner for his first Manchester United goal. Game all but over.
In the second half Cambridge United, to their credit which Van Gaal acknowledged in his post-match interview, were organised and purposeful but United were too strong and still dominant in every aspect. Goalkeeper Chris Dunn pulled off a couple of great saves to prevent Rooney and Di Maria adding to the score sheet and did enough to put off Van Persie from close range.
Some fluent football was played in attacking areas as confidence grew, and on 72 minutes two substitutions combined as Ander Herrera played a neat pass to James Wilson who, up front alone, made space for himself in a tight area and fired a low accurate shot from 20 yards into the bottom corner.
Cameron McGeehan almost grabbed a consolation goal for the Amber Army as his left footed shot from 20 yards flew past the near post – the closest they came to beating David De Gea since the first minute.
Juan Mata: Always an option for his teammates and rarely giving the opposition a sniff of the ball, Mata was productive and brought all attacking options into play.
Maraouane Fellaini: Playing a part in the first two goals, Fellaini was a handful for the Cambridge United players with his first touch, presence and aerial ability.
Paddy McNair: Looking very comfortable on the ball and always looking for a pass, the versatile Northern Irishman linked well with Rooney on the right as well as defending strongly.
The 3-0 win earned United’s place in the 5th round of the FA Cup where they face Preston North End at Deepdale following their 3-1 away win over Sheffield United.