Manchester United put a torrid week behind them by thrashing third-tier Tranmere 6-0 as holders Manchester City also cruised into the FA Cup fifth round with a 4-0 win over Fulham on Sunday. United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was badly in need of a convincing performance after 2-0 defeats to Liverpool and Burnley in the Premier League over the past seven days.
Many tipped the Red Devils to get bogged down on a sandy surface at Prenton Park, but a flying start thanks to a host of unlikely goalscorers ensured there was no chance of an upset. Captain Harry Maguire led by example by striding forward to smash home his first goal for the club since an £80 million ($105 million) move from Leicester. Diogo Dalot then also grabbed his first United goal before Jesse Lingard curled home for just a second time in a year for club and country inside 16 minutes.
Phil Jones then nodded home his first United effort since 2014 and Anthony Martial’s deflected strike made it five before the break. Solskjaer could then afford the luxury of resting Martial, Maguire and Nemanja Matic for most of the second half ahead of Wednesday’s attempt to overturn a 3-1 first leg deficit against City in the League Cup semi-finals.
Tahith Chong was one of those introduced and he was brought down by Tranmere goalkeeper Scott Davies, allowing Mason Greenwood to score United’s sixth from the penalty spot. Fulham’s Swiss-born Dutch defender Terence Kongolo (L) vies with Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Manchester City and Fulham at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 26, 2020.
Empty stands annoy Guardiola City manager Pep Guardiola hopes more fans show up at the Etihad Stadium for the derby in midweek after questioning why there were 15,000 empty seats for his side’s stroll past Fulham. Nearly 40,000 were in attendance to see Tim Ream’s sixth-minute red card give the Championship side a mountain to climb after he hauled down Gabriel Jesus inside the box.
Ilkay Gundogan converted the resulting penalty before Bernardo Silva’s smart turn and shot quickly doubled City’s advantage. The visitors then held out for nearly an hour but two headers in three minutes from Jesus gave the scoreline a more accurate reflection of the English champions’ dominance. “Hopefully more people can come than today, hopefully (they) can support us more,” said Guardiola. “I don’t know the reason why, but it was not full.” Guardiola’s men have now won 17 domestic cup ties in a row.
The Catalan is relying on more cup success for silverware this season after conceding the Premier League title is beyond his side with Liverpool 16 points clear at the top of the table. “Liverpool are just fantastic, phenomenal, overwhelming. So we have to accept it and learn from that,” Guardiola said on the eve of the game. Jurgen Klopp showed Liverpool’s focus is very much on the title as he made 11 changes to the side that won at Wolves on Thursday for the trip to League One Shrewsbury Town later on Sunday.