Man Utd left it late to secure progression to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win over West Ham at Old Trafford.
The night began with Manchester United parading the League Cup on the pitch. The year 2023 may well be chiselled onto the honours’ board to acknowledge a 13th FA Cup, too.
When Nayef Aguerd flicked the ball into his own net in the 77th minute, Erik ten Hag turned and smiled at Steve McClaren. It was McClaren who began preparing for extra time at Camp Nou in 1999. Like that great United side, there is a growing inevitability about this United side.
Alejandro Garnacho, a stoppage-time matchwinner at Fulham in November, scored slightly earlier on this occasion, settling for a 90th minute decider. Garnacho is becoming more than merely Ten Hag’s academy legacy. Often a game-changer off the bench, this time he was a matchwinner from the start.
Already in each month of this calendar year, United have recovered from 1-0 down to prevail at Old Trafford in three different competitions. Again, Ten Hag’s game management was decisive.
Casemiro, officially one of the world’s best, played like it, spraying probing passes and rising to nod in again from another free-kick. This time, he had strayed too far ahead and was offside, yet United were sufficiently encouraged and legitimately levelled from another dead-ball kick from Bruno Fernandes.
Fernandes, yet to miss a match through injury more than three years into his United career, played like a man possessed as United strove to avoid a late shift. On a night he handed the armband over to the starting Harry Maguire, Fernandes still led by example and his durability defies all logic.
With a trio of regulars on, normality was eventually restored. An additional 30 minutes was such anathema to United that every one of their outfield players was stationed win West Ham’s half in the 85th minute.
Garnacho could easily have made way for Rashford yet Ten Hag withdrew Antony. Substitute Fred, an invaluable squad player, crowned the victory with a third goal. On a night Ten Hag got some calls wrong, he still got more right.