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Manchester United paid the penalty, literally, for a subdued Wembley first half as an Eden Hazard spot-kick won Chelsea the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley.

A legendary fightback looked on the cards with a thrilling second-half display by Jose Mourinho’s side, yet the Reds were unable to cancel out the 22nd-minute winner from Hazard. United’s half of the stadium were enthralled and rejuvenated by a brilliant rally in the second period but it was that opening half which cost their team the trophy.

Wembley was done up to the nines with all its pre-match pomp and ceremony. Pyrotechnics, flame throwers, flags and a fly past by the Royal Air Force all added to the build-up to the big occasion. There were also two huge banners hanging down from both ends of the stadium to honour the late Ray Wilkins who played for both clubs. The much loved and respected midfielder died last month at the age of 61.

United boss Jose Mourinho had given Romelu Lukaku every chance to be fit to be named in his cup final line-up. Having injured his ankle last month against Arsenal, the striker had been back home in Belgium attempting to make a 100 per cent recovery. He is United’s top scorer in the competition this season with five goals but despite all the best efforts, the medics and Mourinho decided he couldn’t be risked from the start.

Lukaku did make the bench and had to watch his fellow countryman Eden Hazard pretty much dominate the first half of the final. The Belgian midfielder was a thorn in United’s side as he grabbed centre stage above anyone else.

A distribution error from Phil Jones enabled Chelsea to break on United in the ninth minute and Hazard almost prospered but his drive was stopped at his near post by David De Gea’s right leg. It was a warning shot for United.

There were two shouts for spot kicks from both sides but referee Michael Oliver got both calls correct after the challenges on Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alexis correct. The official was also bang on in the biggest moment of the first half.

Hazard again had the opportunity to run at United as Chelsea sprang from their own half and the midfielder got ahead in the race with Jones. United’s centre-back was struggling and had to lunge in to tackle Hazard but the attempt only upended the Belgian and Oliver had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

There was little argument among the Reds’ ranks and in the 12-yard shoot-out, even De Gea couldn’t read Hazard and he went the wrong way as he put Chelsea 1-0 ahead.

At that stage, United could not find any fire or cutting edge to disrupt Chelsea’s comfortable afternoon. Only late first-half efforts by Jones at the far post and Rashford getting snuffed out in the penalty box suggested the Reds might be capable of another fightback.

The Reds certainly had more verve and vitality after Mourinho sent his team out early for the second half. The players looked ready to mount a customary comeback and finally started asking Chelsea some difficult questions.

The fans at United’s end of the stadium were on their feet with something to roar about, most notably when United surged into the danger area in numbers and the attack ended with a crashing drive from Rashford that Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois found tough to handle.

The Reds were looking far more dangerous and the barometer was Chelsea boss Antonio Conte who got more and more animated in the technical area in an attempt to rally his side. Mourinho was far more composed with hands on hips as he realised his dressing room words had had a positive effect yet again.

United’s pressure was mounting, Chelsea’s composure was shredded, and the intensity looked to have paid off in the 63rd minute when Alexis stabbed home from close range after following up a loose ball but the Chilean was flagged offside.

Nevertheless this was the rise in the Reds’ ferocity and fire that the final needed. The Blues were now crumbling as the Reds seized the upper hand. All that was needed was an equaliser.

However, it was the Londoners who almost scored the game’s second goal. The Blues threatened to snuff out United’s gallant rally in the 70th minute when they broke away and the Reds needed another De Gea super stop to deny Marcos Alonso.

United responded immediately to that attack as the Cup final lived up to the billing. The Reds roared back and a Jesse Lingard and Rashford link-up saw Courtois deny the latter in a one-to-one situation.

The pair of Academy graduates were then substituted, with Lukaku and Anthony Martial coming on to pose Conte’s reeling side new problems. But it was Nemanja Matic against his old club who thrashed in a piledriver that again caused Courtois trouble and the Belgian keeper, who seemingly doesn’t like to hold shots, once more batted it away with two fists unconvincingly.

Relentless United were piling it on and Paul Pogba came close with eight minutes to go with a glancing header from an Antonio Valencia corner. With the urgent need for a late goal, Mourinho played his last personnel card. He sacrificed Jones in defence for Juan Mata with three minutes of normal time to go. But the Reds had run out of steam and Chelsea, who had been on the back foot since the interval, were able to survive and hold out for a slender victory.


United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones (Mata 87), Young; Matic, Pogba, Herrera, Lingard (Martial 73), Alexis, Rashford (Lukaku 73).

Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Darmian, McTominay.

Booked: Jones, Valencia.

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Rudiger, Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Bakayoko, Alonso, Hazard (Willian 90), Giroud (Morata 89).

Subs not used: Caballero, Zappacosta, T. Chalobah, Barkley, Pedro.

Booked: Courtois.


Comeback kings almost did it again

United’s ability to bounce back was demonstrated in the previous round at Wembley, in the semi-final against Spurs, when the Reds recovered from an early 1-0 deficit to win a place in the final. But although we knew Jose Mourinho would not settle for the first-half effort against Chelsea, his team just couldn’t find the breakthrough goal that surely would have flattened Antonio Conte’s physically flagging side.

The Reds will have to settle for second place
Yes, a piece of silverware would have been a superb end to the season. But United have still achieved a highest league placing and points tally since 2013 so there is much to be pleased about and much to build on in the 2018/19 campaign.

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United ended the Premier League campaign with a welcome return to winning ways as a first-half goal from Marcus Rashford proved enough to see off Watford.

The day was, of course, dominated by the farewell to Michael Carrick. Both squads lined up at the tunnel before the match to give the Reds’ retiring captain a guard of honour in his final Old Trafford match as a player. It was the 36-year-old’s 464th appearance since his 2006 move from Spurs.

There was also a big pre-match standing ovation for David De Gea as he received his Golden Glove award for the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season, having notched up 18 personal shut-outs.

The Spaniard was rested for the game against the Hornets as manager Jose Mourinho made wholesale changes ahead of next Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup final versus Chelsea.

There was also an extremely warm welcome for members of United’s European Cup-winning squad from 1968, to mark the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the 4-1 Wembley win against Benfica. Eight of them – Denis Law, Paddy Crerand, David Sadler, John Fitzpatrick, Sir Bobby Charlton, Jim Ryan, Jimmy Rimmer and Alex Stepney – were introduced to the crowd shortly before kick-off.

Due to the ‘dead rubber’ status of the match, with United already guaranteed second spot and Watford comfortably safe from relegation a while ago, it was a lethargic start in the Old Trafford sunshine with limited goalmouth action. Then, in the 33rd minute, Carrick rolled back the years and put his own personal stamp on his farewell with a glorious pass to start the move for United’s winning goal.

From his own half of the field, he guided a measured pass forward to pick out the run of Juan Mata. The Spaniard had ghosted in behind Watford’s rearguard and he brilliantly controlled Carrick’s pass as it dropped out of the sun. Marcus Rashford had made strides to join the attack and Mata unselfishly squared for the Mancunian to side-foot the ball home. It was a classy move from start to finish and a memorable, typical, Carrick involvement.

Sergio Romero had been a spectator for most of the first half but his concentration was tested just before the interval and the Argentinian certainly stood up to the task. De Gea would have been proud to have had Romero’s save from Richarlison’s point-blank header in his own portfolio. But rather than milk the applause, the goalkeeper was swiftly ready to stop a follow-up shot from Gerard Deulofeu. It was a great piece of goalkeeping that sent the Reds into the dressing room at half-time with the 1-0 lead still intact.

The second half became even more of an end-of-season stroll as the baking sun drained the players. Midway through the half, Old Trafford rose as one in support of Sir Alex Ferguson as he continues his recovery in hospital following his brain haemorrhage last weekend.

When substitute Ander Herrera stripped off his tracksuit top on the bench, the crowd seemed to sense this was the final bow for Carrick as they sang his name but Mourinho threw a curve ball as he brought off Daley Blind instead in the 77th minute.

The acclaim for Carrick finally arrived in the 84th minute as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s many superb purchases finally left the stage. He stripped off his armband, handed it to Mata, and all the United players made their way over to the departing midfielder as he walked to the touchline, arms aloft as he recognised the ovation from the stadium.

Carrick turned to all four corners of Old Trafford, touched the United crest on his shirt and then he wrapped his arms around his replacement Paul Pogba. A bear hug in the technical area from Mourinho followed before he made his way to the bench following the goodbyes. All of it was fitting recognition for a multi-medal winning United legend.

The Reds’ crowd may have wanted more goals to end the season on an even bigger high but perhaps it was right and proper that the last strike of the Premier League campaign involved a touch of Carrick elegance. THE LINE-UPS

United: Romero, Bailly, Rojo, Blind (Herrera 76), Darmian, Carrick (c) (Pogba 84), Mata, Young (Shaw 60), McTominay, Rashford, Alexis.

Subs not used: J.Pereira, Jones, Valencia, Lingard.

Booked: Rojo, Young, McTominay, Shaw.

Watford: Gomes (c), Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele (Mariappa 20), Holebas, Doucouré, Hughes, Deulofeu (Deeney 63), Pereyra, Richarlison, Gray (Chalobah 72).

Subs not used: Bachmann, Prodl, Lukebakio, Sinclair.

Booked: None.


Carrick is a class act
Around 18 months ago, Jose Mourinho reflected that he wished Michael Carrick was 10 years younger – and so say all of us. In his final Old Trafford match, the 36-year-old gave us all one last reminder of how much of a Rolls Royce he was, as Paul Scholes once described him. Even classic Rolls Royces end up having to be garaged permanently at some point but all owners will remember them fondly. Thanks for the memories Michael.

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Manchester United acquired the point needed to secure second spot in the Premier League with a 0-0 draw with West Ham United at the London Stadium.

It was a pleasant evening in the capital but there was no shaking the end-of-season feeling surrounding the game, with the Hammers safe from the drop. Indeed, the only real spark came in the closing stages when a flare-up required referee Jon Moss to reach into his pocket for the first time.

Jose Mourinho opted for a three-man central defence, with Chris Smalling flanked by Phil Jones on the left and Victor Lindelof on the right. Full-backs Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw were encouraged to get forward but the early chances fell to the hosts.

Marko Arnautovic has been in good form since the arrival of David Moyes and, after he had a shot easily saved by David De Gea, the Austrian was unable to divert the ball on target when Smalling miscued a cross by Aaron Cresswell.

Scott McTominay sparked the Reds’ best spell of the first half, after Ander Herrera robbed Manuel Lanzini in a dangerous position, when he flashed a drive just wide. Good work by Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez led to Jesse Lingard forcing a flying save out of Adrian, and the home keeper was beginning to earn his pay.

Valencia capitalised on some slack defending to tee up Alexis and, when Adrian kept the Chilean’s effort out, Shaw followed up to drill the rebound against a post. Replays showed Adrian got a slight touch to frustrate the defender who, like McTominay, is still to get off the mark for the Reds.

Shaw was clearly fancying his luck, looping another attempt into Adrian’s arms after De Gea allowed a long-ranger by Cresswell to skip wide at the other end. Arnautovic continued to look a threat and drifted past Smalling to find Joao Mario at the near post but the ball bounced off target to United’s relief.

In first-half stoppage time, Lingard unleashed a swerving drive that was pushed away by the busy Adrian, who was proving far more effective than in the recent match here against Manchester City. After the break, Alexis reached a Pogba backheel and accelerated past Adrian but his ball towards an unguarded net was headed away by Angelo Ogbonna.

Adrian made another save when Lingard’s effort from distance was too close to him and, after Jones made an important clearance when Arnautovic was being a nuisance again, Pogba had a few attempts. The Frenchman headed wide after neat wing-play by Valencia, thrashed an audacious 40-yarder off target and was unlucky with a bending drive, following tenacious play by Alexis.

As the game drew to a close, West Ham mustered sporadic breaks but Arnautovic sliced a volleyed attempt and Jones made an important header to stop the ball reaching substitute Andy Carroll. Completely out of keeping with the general mood, there was an untidy melee towards the end which resulted in Pogba and Noble being booked. The West Ham skipper was extremely fortunate not to be dismissed for raising his hands before Carroll also became involved in the fracas.

Lanzini swept a free-kick wide as injury-time began but the game ended goalless with defenders Ashley Young and Eric Bailly both entering the fray as late substitutes. United’s clean sheet was the 18th of the season in the Premier League for De Gea and it ensured he claimed the Golden Glove for the first time in his Reds career.


West Ham: Adrian; Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Zabaleta, Kouyate, Noble (c), Masuaku (Carroll 66); Joao Mario, Lanzini, Arnautovic.

Subs: Hart, Evra, Fernandez, Obiang, Cullen, Hugill.

Booked: Noble

United: De Gea; Valencia (c) (Bailly 93), Lindelof, Smalling, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, McTominay, Pogba; Lingard (Rashford 74), Alexis (Young 91).

Subs: Romero, Blind, Mata, Martial.

Booked: Pogba



United have clinched the runners-up spot in the Premier League with Tottenham four points adrift ahead of the final day. It isn’t the position anybody wanted to finish in but it marks a great deal of progress from last term.


There could be a clue as to the thinking about the shape of the side for the Emirates FA Cup final with Chelsea, like West Ham, operating a three-man defence. Jose decided to match up to that system at the London Stadium and he does have a number of centre-backs at his disposal so it could be an option on the big day.

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Manchester United suffered a first away league defeat since February on Friday night as hosts Brighton & Hove Albion secured a second successive season in the top flight.

Pascal Gross, the Seagulls’ Player of the Year, settled the contest shortly before the hour mark with a header which Marcos Rojo seemed to have brilliantly cleared, only for goal-line technology to inform referee Craig Pawson that a goal should be awarded.

The Reds’ own end-of-season award-winner, David De Gea, was arguably the best performer for Jose Mourinho’s men, making several fine saves to frustrate Brighton until Gross decisively broke the deadlock.

The first chance of the match fell United’s way when Shane Duffy brought down Marcus Rashford just outside the box. Taking the free-kick himself, Rashford produced a menacing cross which Marouane Fellaini turned into the net, but his goal was ruled out as the linesman raised his flag for offside.

Under pressure from Chris Smalling, Jose Izquierdo cut inside and laid the ball off to Gross on the edge of the box who unleashed Brighton’s first shot on goal. His effort, though, was straight at De Gea and was comfortably gathered by the Spaniard.

On 20 minutes, Glenn Murray produced the best effort of the first half, a dipping effort from 25 yards which looked destined for the top left corner, only for De Gea to produce yet another of his trademark world-class saves.

At the other end, Paul Pogba had an effort from distance of his own but the Frenchman’s curling shot rose harmlessly over the bar of the Brighton goal.

Five minutes later, Izquierdo was again proving a threat from the left side, although his strike was diverted over by the fingertips of De Gea. From the following corner, Duffy glanced Gross’s cross in the direction of Murray who was left stretching for the ball at the back post.

The hosts had frustrated United for long periods of the first half and as the referee blew for half-time there was a desire for things to improve after the interval.

Like in the first half, the Reds made the better start to the second period and, with some neat footwork in the box, Pogba unleashed a low curling effort, although Mathew Ryan got down well to his right in the Brighton goal and held on to it.

A little over ten minutes into the second half, the Seagulls swooped to score the solitary goal of the evening. Izquierdo’s dangerous ball in from the by-line was headed powerfully by Gross and although Rojo did well to connect with it, Pawson confirmed after a few seconds of play that the effort had crossed the line.

With confidence surging after going ahead, Chris Hughton’s men were on the front foot, buoyed by the fact that taking all the points would earn them another season in the top flight.

In search of an equaliser, Rashford took aim from the edge of the area but despite stinging the hands of Ryan, he couldn’t beat the Australian goalkeeper. Martial then also had a chance to level for the Reds but lifted his shot over the target.

With five minutes left, substitute Jesse Lingard played a sharp one-two inside the box, only for his chance to go begging as well.

As four minutes of added time got under way, the Seagulls were hanging on as United continued to knock on the door in search of a goal to level the match, but Ryan and his defence stood firm, meaning this fixture will return in the Premier League next season as Brighton secured their safety.

The Reds, meanwhile, still need four points to guarantee second spot behind Manchester City, at least until the weekend’s fixtures for Liverpool (away to Chelsea on Sunday) and Tottenham (away to West Brom on Saturday) take place.


Brighton: Ryan; Bruno (c), Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, Izquierdo (March 88); Gross (Kayal 84); Murray (Ulloa 93).

Subs not used: Krul, Goldson, Schelotto, Locadia.

Booked: Murray, Duffy.

United: De Gea; Darmian (Shaw 69), Smalling, Rojo (McTominay 76), Young (c); Matic, Fellaini (Lingard 69), Pogba; Mata, Rashford, Martial.

Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Lindelof, Herrera.

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                                       Paul Pogba 03

Manchester United’s never-say-die streak sealed a late win against Arsenal to wreck Arsene Wenger’s final match at Old Trafford as Gunners boss. Reds manager Jose Mourinho outsmarted his rival as substitute Marouane Fellaini headed in a late winner in front of the Stretford End.

The Belgian proved a handful for Arsenal’s defence late on and it proved a masterstroke from Mourinho. United had gone ahead early through Paul Pogba but Fellaini’s winner wiped out a potential point-winner for Henrikh Mkhitaryan who had equalised in the second half.

United’s three points confirmed Champions League football again at Old Trafford next season as it rubber-stamped a top-four finish. Old feuds were forgotten prior to kick-off with the club making a classy gesture of a special memento to Wenger, who clearly had one eye on the Europa League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid as he made eight changes to his side.

It didn’t take long for United to make Wenger’s last time as Gunners boss initially uncomfortable when taking a 16th-minute lead. Pogba started and finished the move. The France midfielder stroked a pass to Romelu Lukaku and went driving on into the area. Lukaku’s cross was met with a header from Alexis Sanchez. His hopes of a dream goal against his former employers were dashed as his effort hit Hector Bellerin and came off a post, only for Pogba to volley home.

Not surprisingly, there was none of the electrifying tension of those heady days that had characterised the Sir Alex and Wenger clashes from yesteryear. But there was still quality to be witnessed if only a small amount of penalty-box action in the first half.

If Alexis was searching for that satisfying goal against his old club it was the same scenario for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian went the opposite way up the M1 in January to the Chilean when the pair swapped clubs and he was the source of much of Arsenal’s fluent attacking moves. But it was still all pretty easy for David De Gea. His opposite number David Ospina also didn’t have a lot to do but he was saved by an upright in the 40th minute when an Ashley Young cross crashed against the woodwork.

The second 45 minutes was barely underway before Lukaku suffered an injury after a challenge by Konstantinos Mavropanos. The Belgium striker attempted to run off the knock and tested it as play went on but he had to give up and was replaced in the 50th minute by Marcus Rashford. Almost immediately, Arsenal were level and it was Mkhitaryan who had the gratification of scoring for the Gunners. United gave away possession loosely in our own half and, with the help of Granit Xhaka, Mkhitaryan seized on the error to stride forward and place a low right-foot shot past De Gea.

The last time the midfielder had scored at Old Trafford was for the Reds against Everton in September and he barely celebrated this time. There was a stream of substitutions in the 64th minute. Mourinho took off Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard for Anthony Martial and eventual matchwinner Fellaini. Wenger brought on ex-United striker Danny Welbeck and Nacho Monreal for Reiss Nelson and the injured Sead Kolasinac.

Mancunian Welbeck was first to make an impact with a full blooded long-range shot that was saved by De Gea. Chris Smalling had the chance to keep up his recent scoring form but the defender couldn’t connect properly with a side-foot chance provided by a dangerous pass from Martial.

United fans gave Mkhitaryan a warm round of applause when he was substituted to make way for Joe Willock in the 76th minute. Old Trafford thought United had delivered the final blow to Wenger in the 87th minute when sub Rashford bundled the ball into the net off a post from Fellaini’s header, and a terrific inviting cross from Martial, but the striker was ruled offside.

The disappointment was short lived as a similar move reaped its reward a minute into added time. Young sent over the cross and Fellaini was able to connect and divert a header past Ospina for the winner.


United: De Gea; Valencia (C), Smalling, Lindelof, Young; Matic, Pogba, Herrera (Martial 64); Lingard (Fellaini 64), Alexis; Lukaku (Rashford 50).

Subs not used: J. Pereira, Rojo, Mata, McTominay.

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Chambers, Mavropanos, Kolasinac (Monreal 64), Xhaka (C), Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Nelson (Welbeck 64), Mkhitaryan (Willock 76), Aubameyang

Subs not used: Cech, Holding, Osei-Tutu, Nketiah.

Booked: Xhaka


Are Wembley places still on offer?
Jose Mourinho only made one change from the side that came back at Wembley to beat Spurs 2-1 in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final. The only alteration being Victor Lindelof for Phil Jones. It suggests he may have decided on the make-up of his attack and engine room with the Matic-Pogba-Herrera trio the base of his midfield. Alexis and Lukaku have become the go-to front men.

Can United and Arsenal revive old showdowns next season? 
The Reds certainly can. An indefatigable spirit has been re-installed and United are ahead in terms of replacing a legendary boss. It remains to be seen whom Arsenal choose to take them on after this year.

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Emirates FA Cup semi-final : MANCHESTER UNITED 2 TOTTENHAM 1


The great 2018 comeback kings have only gone and done it again.

Go a goal ahead against Manchester United and you’ll pay the consequence. Tottenham Hotspur did it at their Wembley ‘home’ and the never-say-die Reds simply brushed them aside to come back and book a place in the Emirates FA Cup final on Saturday 19 May.

Jose Mourinho’s side just won’t lie down against anyone. Back in February, the Reds were behind against Chelsea and won. At Crystal Palace the team staged another fightback for three points. Then Manchester City went 2-0 up in the derby but even that wasn’t good enough to silence United’s fighting spirit.

And at Wembley, despite Spurs taking an early lead on their own temporary home ground, United refused to buckle and hit back for a famous win with goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera overturning Dele Alli’s opener.

Mourinho had named ten of the starting XI who had suffered something of a battering in the 2-0 Premier League defeat at Spurs’ temporary Wembley home in January. Some haunting memories must have cone flooding back as Mauricio Pochettino’s side went at United from the off, forcing two corners in the opening minute.

In that same period of the opening winter storm, the Reds conceded a goal to Christian Eriksen after just 11 seconds. This time, United survived long enough to create a chance that could have seen Romelu Lukaku’s name go on the scoresheet first but the Belgian’s ninth-minute header sailed over the bar and Mourinho’s aghast face in the technical area suggested he thought the striker might have done better.

The Reds were left rueing that missed opportunity to get a foothold in the game when Spurs went in front after 10 minutes. A swift move down United’s left flank caught the Reds out and Eriksen slung in an inviting low cross that Alli steamed in on at the far post to poke in the opener.

Spurs smelt blood and came close again in the 17th minute twice – first when Alli almost connected again from a Son Heung-min cross and then Eriksen went close.

Wembley may be the north London club’s current HQ but, with half the stadium on this occasion wearing red, the United support helped the side recover.

In his pre-match explanation about his choice of team, Mourinho had dismissed suggestions that Alexis’s remarkable Wembley goalscoring had had a bearing on his selection. If it didn’t then it was a good job he still chose the Chilean.

With seven goals in the national stadium for Arsenal and his country, Alexis clearly loves the place and after 24 minutes he made it eight goals here. Following on from previous FA Cup semi-final goals for the Gunners against Reading and Manchester City, Tottenham became another victim of his prowess.

Paul Pogba stole in to dispossess Mousa Dembele on the touchline and floated in a deep cross to the far post. Alexis isn’t the tallest hitman around but he got off the ground to guide a header beyond Spurs goalkeeper Michel Vorm.

It was a sweet moment for Alexis as he’d been booed at every touch by the Spurs support because of his previous connection with their local rivals Arsenal. United had wrecked Tottenham’s early fluency and Pochettino’s side began to look more ragged on their own manor.

With both sides needing the FA Cup as silverware salvation this season, a tense, negative affair had been predicted by many. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. United and Spurs traded attacking blows and the last punch of the first half came from the Londoners almost on half-time, when Eric Dier had a deflected long-range shot which rebounded off David De Gea’s post.

Many London pundits reckon Spurs lack the killer edge to add trophies to their quality and United certainly exposed that Achilles heel again as the Reds continued the ascendancy of the first 45 minutes to finally overturn Alli’s goal completely.

Alexis was involved again, possibly fortuitously as his square ball just eluded Lukaku in the 62nd minute. But the ball rolled kindly and, as Lingard stepped out of the way, Herrera stormed in to steer in United’s second.

Mourinho’s men were biting into tackles and not giving Spurs a minute’s peace as the Reds faithful turned the stadium into Old Trafford. There was a rallying roar from the Tottenham end of Wembley when the fourth official raised the electronic board to indicate five minutes of added time.

But it seemed an almost half-hearted backing as United had reduced the ‘home’ side to a nervy and punchless outfit who couldn’t produce the kind of comeback that the Reds are famous for.

Roll on, 19 May.


United: De Gea; Valencia (c) (Darmian 80), Jones, Smalling, Young; Matic, Herrera, Pogba; Lingard (Rashford 82), Alexis (Fellaini 95), Lukaku. Subs not used: J. Pereira, Lindelof, Mata, Martial.

Booked: Young, Herrera, Rashford, Valencia.

Spurs: Vorm, Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies (Moura 68), Dier, Dembele (Wanyama 78), Eriksen, Alli, Son, Kane (C)

Subs not used: Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sissoko, Lamela.

Booked: Dier, Alli, Son.


Smalling gave a reminder to England
Chris Smalling may have been in the headlines recently for his goals against City and Bournemouth but it was keeping potent hitman Harry Kane quiet that caught the eye at Wembley. England boss Gareth Southgate had left him out of his most recent Three Lions squads, putting a big question mark over Smaling’s involvement at the World Cup this summer. But with Southgate watching at Wembley it was a timely reminder by Smalling with Russia fast approaching.

Alexis is a cert for the final
Jose Mourinho doesn’t give out guarantees over places in his XI but when you have scored eight times at Wembley for two clubs and your country then as lucky omens go they do not come any better. Surely the Chilean, if he avoids injury, can look forward to another FA Cup final appearance.

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Romelu Lukaku’s 27th goal for Manchester United and a third strike in as many away games for Chris Smalling gave Jose Mourinho’s men maximum points against Bournemouth on Wednesday night.

Despite Bournemouth having won 18 points from losing positions this season, a goal in each half was enough to see off the Cherries without reply, as the Reds reinstated a four-point lead over third-placed Liverpool in the Premier League.

The visitors had a much-changed line-up from Sunday’s disappointing home defeat to West Bromwich Albion, with Smalling being the only defender to retain his starting place. In all, Mourinho made seven changes to his side, admitting that some – but not all – were made with Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup semi-final in mind.

United’s attack looked threatening from the outset. In just the third minute, a neat interchange between France team-mates Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial left Cherries centre-back Steve Cook needing to make a well-timed sliding challenge to stop Martial delivering a dangerous ball across goal.

Known for their attractive style, Bournemouth tried to take the game to United in the early stages and had a decent chance when left-back Charlie Daniels slid through a pass for Callum Wilson. Wilson picked out Jordon Ibe on the edge of the area, who could only drag his low effort wide.

Lewis Cook then played in Ryan Fraser with a neat pass, but Phil Jones was on hand to make sure any attempt by Fraser was turned behind. Jones was again present to make a clearance from the resulting corner.

A United goal looked like it was on the way and Marcus Rashford provided a warning sign when he forced Asmir Begovic into making his first save of the evening, shortly before the Reds did take the lead.

After a slick one-two passing move with Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard had broken free of any markers and was unchallenged in sending the ball into the six-yard box, where Smalling met it to convert his third goal of the calendar year.

Jose Mourinho’s side were in the ascendancy having established a lead and Martial seemed to be clear and ready to add to it, only for him to be flagged offside by the assistant.

David De Gea was called into action as the minutes ticked down towards half-time. Nathan Ake had surged forward and having been fouled, an advantage saw the ball run to Wilson although De Gea was equal to the Englishman’s effort.

It was another strong start for the Reds as the second period got under way. Martial lost Simon Francis as he checked his own run inside the penalty area and aimed a cross for Rashford waiting at the back post. However, Daniels was on hand to cut it out with a headed clearance.

Shortly before the hour mark, Joshua King charged down the left flank and played the ball across in search of Wilson, who was left demanding a penalty after a challenge by Jones as the pair stretched for the ball. His demands were not rewarded by referee Graham Scott who was quick to dismiss them.

No doubt aware of Bournemouth’s comeback ability, Mourinho decided to bring Lukaku into the fold for the final third of the match, with hope of notching another goal and killing the game off.

United had a penalty appeal at the other end when Lys Mosset was deemed to have fouled Paul Pogba, but referee Scott said it was just outside the area. Up stepped substitute Lukaku with the aim of getting that second goal for his team, but could only drive his free-kick hard into the wall.

Just minutes later, the Belgium striker did double the lead, when Pogba picked him out on the break, leaving him with the sort of one-on-one situation in which he is so deadly.

There were to be no heroics from the Cherries on this occasion, leaving United to take all three points and secure a first-ever league double over Bournemouth following the 1-0 home win back in December.


Bournemouth: Begovic; Daniels, Ake, S. Cook, Francis (c); Ibe (Mousset 56), Surman (Gosling 75), L. Cook, Fraser; King (Defoe 82); Wilson.

Substitutes: Boruc, Simpson, Arter, Pugh.

 L. Cook, S. Cook, Surman.

 De Gea (c); Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Shaw; Herrera (Matic 72), Fellaini, Pogba (Blind 80); Lingard (Lukaku 62), Rashford, Martial.

Substitutes: J.Pereira, Bailly, Young, Alexis.

Booked: Smalling 61.


Smalling scores again
The centre-back increased his goal tally for the season to four, by giving United the lead in the first half. It also means he has scored in three consecutive away games, having also scored in the thrilling 3-2 wins over Manchester City and Crystal Palace.

A tight ship
Having conceded just 26 times in 34 Premier League matches, United have a chance of ending the season with the top flight’s best defensive record. With the speed and strength shown by the back line against Bournemouth, it is easy to understand why only the champions Manchester City have let in fewer goals – and that’s only one less, having played one game less.

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