Lukaku shines as Man United book FA Cup Cup quarter-final place
Huddersfield 0 Man United 2
Romelu Lukaku’s two expert finishes helped ease Manchester United into the last eight of the FA Cup but it was teammate Paul Pogba who again dominated the topic of conversation swirling around Jose Mourinho’s side.
The French international pulled out of the fifth round visit to Huddersfield on the morning of the match due to illness, leaving Mourinho to respond to questions about his absence testily.
"I was told about Paul Pogba's illness this morning by the doctor. I don't care (when he will return)," said Mourinho before kick-off.
"I focus on the game and only the game since that moment, I will think about Paul after the match."
Lukaku scored early in both halves with goals of stunning simplicity and beautiful execution for which Huddersfield had no answer.
Inside three minutes, the Belgian received a pass from Nemanja Matic, laying the ball off for Juan Mata who immediately played it forward for Lukaku to chase.
The striker did precisely that, speeding into the area, wrong-footing Christopher Schindler and curling his 20th goal of the season into the far corner.
Goal number 21 was borne out of a similar move but, if anything, was even more breathtaking as Lukaku picked up the ball deep inside his own half, following a Huddersfield attack, and outpaced a number of markers before finding Alexis Sanchez just in opposition territory.
The Chilean played through a magnificent, angled pass which allowed Lukaku to continue his run without breaking stride, leaving behind the last of the Huddersfield stragglers before beating Jonas Lossl from just inside the area.
After the loss of Pogba on the morning of the match, it was just the response the United manager sorely needed as he attempts to bring silverware to Old Trafford this season.
Lukaku’s early goal in particular was to be an important one as David Wagner’s team responded impressively.
In fact, within moments, they should have been level as Phil Billing found Tom Ince behind the United back-line and the midfielder sent a low-cross shot inches beyond the far post.
Ince was again the culprit as his side missed arguably their best chance yet to level midway through the first half when he slid in to meet Florent Hadergjonaj’s excellent low cross but failed to make clean contact with the goal at his mercy.
It was against the run of play, therefore, that United thought they had scored a crucial second goal in the final minute of the first half after Ashley Young sped down the right and crossed for Mata.
He skilfully gathered the ball and rounded keeper Lossl before tapping into the open goal, only to see referee Kevin Friend seek clarification from VAR official Neil Swarbrick.
After a lengthy delay, during which Mourinho and Wagner chatted amiably in the Huddersfield technical area, the VAR ruled that Mata was “leaning offside” and ruled out the “goal.”
Huddersfield looked intent on making the most of their reprieve and, early after the restart, an Ince free-kick deflected off the wall and sat up invitingly for Rajiv van La Parra who miscued his attempted volley on the six-yard line.
The impressive Chris Smalling was also soon called into action, blocking well as Terence Kongolo’s shot threatened United’s goal, before Billing had a shot strike the United wall and an effort deflected wide from the rebound.
The second goal, understandably, damaged Huddersfield’s belief although Billing’s powerful shot forced Romero into his first action for some time after 72 minutes and Steve Mounie just missed the target with an 89th minute bicycle kick.
Independent News Service