Man U dispatch Shrewsbury 3-0 in FA Cup
SHREWSBURY: Manchester United beat Shrewsbury by an unexpectedly easy 3-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday and gave under-fire manager Louis van Gaal at least three days' breathing space.
On Thursday, United has a must-win Europa League match against unheralded Danish side FC Midtjylland.
In the FA Cup, United will host West Ham in the quarterfinals in three weeks.
At the New Meadow, in front of almost 10,000 fans, the 11-time FA Cup winners never looked in danger against third-tier Shrewsbury — the lowest-ranked team left in the cup — with 75 percent possession and 26 to 3 shots.
Chris Smalling, Juan Mata, and Jesse Lingard scored.
"Everybody shall say it is against Shrewsbury Town and Manchester United has to win but we have seen very difficult results in the FA Cup, not always the top team is winning," Van Gaal said. "So we have done it fantastically, I have congratulated my players, I was very pleased, but now we have to beat Midtjylland. ... We are still in three competitions."
Widespread media speculation said Van Gaal was fighting for his job after losing to Midtjylland 2-1 in the Europa League last-32 first leg last week, which followed losing to relegation-threatened Sunderland 2-1 in the English Premier League.
In a crucial week for the Dutch coach, United also hosts Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday. Of United's ward of injuries, David De Gea might be back for Midtjylland or Arsenal, Van Gaal said.
United captain Smalling opened the scoring with a shot into the ground which was deflected and looped past Shrewsbury goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler.
Mata effectively ended the game in first-half stoppage time after the hosts conceded a dangerous free kick right at the edge of the area after Zak Whitbread was adjudged to have fouled Anthony Martial. Mata's left-foot strike curled the ball in over the wall, with the keeper not moving.
Lingard added a third on the hour in a simple but effective move after Mata, a key presence throughout the match, drew the ball back for Ander Herrera, who sent in a teasing cross. Lingard stretched to half-volley the ball into the net from close range.
This was the first competitive match between the teams: United beat Shrewsbury 8-1 in a friendly in 2000.
Van Gaal will take some encouragement from the attitude of United's away fans. Heavily critical of their team after the defeat to Midtjylland, the supporters were loud and happy throughout the match, replacing last week's rage-filled expletives with chants of "We're going to Wembley."