Preston North End 1-3 Manchester United: Comeback secures Arsenal quarter-final clash

by Ben Topliss

Manchester United have progressed into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup after coming from behind to beat Preston North End 3-1 this evening.

Scott Laird put Preston ahead with a deflected effort just after half time but goals from Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and a penalty from Wayne Rooney spared United’s blushes and ensured their progression into the next round.

As expected, United dominated possession during the opening exchanges and saw plenty of the ball inside the Preston half. Angel di Maria tried to thread Wayne Rooney through on goal, but his pass was just slightly overhit and it ran harmlessly through to the keeper.

It was a nervy start for Preston but they settled into the game, got the ball down and knocked the ball confidently around their midfield. Kevin Davies proved to be a valuable outlet for Simon Grayson’s side as he took down a number of dangerous balls into the box.

The first real opportunity of the game fell to Di Maria but his free kick from outside of the box curled wide. United fans have been used to seeing their team struggle to create chances this season and the trend continued during a scrappy opening 25 minutes. In fact, Preston might have gone in front when Joe Garner got onto the end of Paul Gallagher’s free kick but his header looped over the bar.

Things went rather quiet after that chance as it looked like United may be in for another frustrating night. Davies picked up a yellow card when he brought down Ander Herrera before Bailey Wright produced a brilliant tackle before half time to stop Rooney before he could get a shot away at the Preston goal.

It was a dull first half in truth but the second started in spectacular style. Unfortunately for United, it was Laird who sparked wild celebrations at Deepdale when he fired past David de Gea. The ball seemed to take a knick off Antonio Valencia and it caught the Spaniard off guard.

Minutes later, United were lucky not to concede again. It was Tom Clarke this time as he got onto the end of another Gallagher free-kick but he couldn’t quite do enough to send it goal-wards. United were living dangerously and Garner was the next to come close as he headed at De Gea from eight yards.

Louis van Gaal’s side could have had no complaints if they went further behind but Herrera instead came up with a crucial equaliser. The Spaniard curled into the bottom corner but Preston were furious that the goal wasn’t disallowed as Rooney was standing right in front of keeper Thorsten Stuckmann in an offside position.

Referee Phil Dowd allowed the goal to stand and produced an equally poor decision five minutes later as he refused to send off Davies despite the striker taking out Chris Smalling while on a yellow.

United didn’t dwell on the decision and went in front when Fellaini fired in after his initial header was kept out. There were a few more chances for either side following the goal but United never looked like surrendering their lead and Rooney sealed the win from the spot late on.

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