Herrera, Di Maria give United FA Cup win
Manchester United started their FA Cup campaign with a hard-fought 2-0 victory away to third-tier Yeovil Town at Huish Park in the third round on Sunday.
United have not won this competition since 2004, but sealed their place in Monday’s fourth-round draw thanks to Ander Herrera’s superb 64th-minute strike and substitute Angel di Maria’s cool finish against a side 65 places below them in the English league ladder.
United manager Louis van Gaal made six changes to the team that had drawn 1-1 with Stoke City in their previous match, but forwards Wayne Rooney and Falcao remained in their line-up.
With United sitting nine points behind both Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League, this competition is their most realistic chance of winning silverware this season and Van Gaal showed he was taking it seriously with the strength of his team.
Adnan Januzaj had been expected to start, but had to make do with a place on the bench alongside Juan Mata and Di Maria, who returned from the hamstring and pelvic problems that have kept him out for a fortnight.
Yeovil’s population of around 40,000 would fill just over half of the visitors’ Old Trafford stadium and the rural location meant that legendary former United manager Alex Ferguson arrived via a helicopter that landed within 200 metres of the ground shortly before kick-off.
He would have been concerned by what he saw in the first half as Yeovil’s excellent work-rate allowed United’s players little time on the ball and the visitors’ passes continually went astray.
Yeovil manager Gary Johnson had clearly instructed his team to put as much pressure on United goalkeeper David de Gea as possible, but the Spaniard dealt well with a number of crosses lofted towards him.
His compatriot Herrera’s dipping drive was the first effort on goal on six minutes and Seth Twumasi was forced to clear another of his efforts two minutes later.
Van Gaal’s side struggled for fluency from then on and, after Rooney had curled an effort just over the bar, the United captain was required to clear from the towering Stephen Arthurworrey’s header at a corner.
United forward James Wilson might have done better with an effort from the edge of the area that he sent straight at goalkeeper Jed Steer before Arthurworrey denied Falcao with a brilliant tackle as the Colombian forward surged towards goal.
The visitors’ frustration was clear to see as they finally got their passing game going just before half-time, only for the hosts to frustrate them, with Herrera slicing wide with his weaker left foot.
Acknowledging United’s first-half struggles, Van Gaal made two changes at the break, with Mata and Jonny Evans replacing wing-backs Luke Shaw and Rafael da Silva as United moved from a three-man defence to a back four.
However, with 55 minutes gone the chance Yeovil had prayed for came their way, but Kieffer Moore could only prod Kevin Dawson’s cross straight at De Gea from 10 yards out.
With an hour gone, Van Gaal made his final change as he replaced Falcao with Di Maria and four minutes later, he had the goal he desired.
Herrera received a deflected pass from Darren Fletcher before turning and firing a superb, looping effort into the top-right corner from just outside the area.
Herrera’s third goal of the season did not deflate Yeovil and Di Maria had to clear off the line from Joe Edwards’s header eight minutes later.
But United killed the game off with seconds remaining of the 90 minutes as Di Maria latched onto Rooney’s pass and lofted over the advancing Steer.