It took an ugly goal, a possible dive, and more of Marouane Fellaini at striker, but Manchester United made it past third-tier Preston North End by a 3-1 score at Deepdale to book a place in the FA Cup quarterfinals.
After a scoreless first half, the underdogs took the lead through Scott Laird on a
hilariously lazy bit of defending by Antonio Valencia bright spell of attacking play, and it appeared we might see ourselves another major upset.
But it wasn’t to be as Ander Herrera leveled 18 minutes later on what could only be described as a hideous goal as Wayne Rooney, clearly in an offsides position, let it scoot by his chest and somehow evaded the linesman’s flag despite clearly being part of the play. To be fair, Rooney wasn’t in the goalkeeper’s line of sight and didn’t touch the ball, but was close enough to deserve some kind of defender attention.
Fellaini then poked home a second-chance goal in the 72nd minute when his header was saved but rebounded right back to him, and Rooney won and converted a penalty for the third despite a clear dive. Rooney streaked down the left edge of the box, and Preston goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann slid in late. His tackle, while admittedly reckless, just barely clipped Rooney’s pinky toe with the slightest of brushes, and the England striker emphatically faceplanted a half-second later. It actually even appeared like Rooney may have picked his foot up in time to avoid the contact altogether. Despite that, referee Phil Dowd bought the belly-flop awarded Rooney the penalty and yellow-carded Stuckmann.
There was no way back for the League One side, and Manchester United moves on to face Arsenal in the quarterfinals of the competition. The win means Manchester United has just one loss across its last 19 matches in all competitions, quite a feat by Louis van Gaal given the rotation he’s been forced to make in his squad.