Goals from Ander Herrera and substitute Angel Di Maria gave Manchester United a hard-fought victory over Yeovil Town in the third round of the FA Cup.
The Spanish midfielder’s brilliant volley in the 64th minute put the Reds ahead on a day when they rarely hit their best form, while Di Maria’s sublime chip over the Yeovil goalkeeper Jed Steer in the last minute of normal time sealed the win.
Herrera had one of the few other clear-cut chances with a shot wide before the break, while James Wilson, one of six changes to the side from the draw at Stoke City on New Year’s Day, had a shot saved in the first half.
United went ahead shortly after Kieffer Moore had missed a great opening to put Yeovil ahead from close range, and Di Maria, a second-half replacement for Radamel Falcao, made a vital goalline clearance within minutes of Herrera’s goal as United held off Yeovil’s concerted attempts at drawing level.
The hosts started strongly, bolstered by their vociferous support, but the Reds soaked up a spell of early pressure from the League One outfit until Wayne Rooney curled United’s first chance of note wide following a neat touch from Wilson.
Rooney’s chance seemed to provoke their opponents into action, Yeovil pressurising the Reds and winning a succession of corners until a lengthy delay following a clash of heads between Paddy McNair and Moore. Both players returned to action after being patched up with extensive bandages, but the match then became disjointed until Wilson, seizing upon a clever pass from Herrera, drove his shot straight at Yeovil’s Steer.
The hosts’ goalkeeper was rarely threatened for the rest of the first half as United struggled to impose themselves on Gary Johnson’s highly committed side. Passes went astray at the crucial moment and shots were charged down until Herrera found enough space with a smart turn before shooting wide. Darren Fletcher stopped a Yeovil attack with a perfectly timed tackle to stop Moore, while Radamel Falcao had claims for a foul by last defender Stephen Arthurworrey ignored by referee Craig Pawson.
Louis van Gaal changed the approach, due to injuries, replacing Luke Shaw and Rafael with Jonny Evans and Juan Mata at half-time to switch to 4-4-2 with Blackett and McNair at left and right-back respectively.
But while the change seemed to stir United when the game resumed, the hosts missed a golden opportunity to go ahead when Moore mis-hit a chance at close range. Evans could not cut out a Sam Foley cross, the ball skimming off the centre-back’s head to Moore but the Yeovil striker, free inside the area, stabbed at the ball and David De Gea saved easily.
Di Maria’s introduction just before the hour mark gave United some much-needed pace as well as width, and, within minutes, they were ahead. Fletcher’s pass was deflected towards Herrera, who was alert enough to latch onto the ball to lash an unstoppable volley past Steer into the top corner of the net.
But despite seeing a Rooney free-kick drift over shortly after, Yeovil did their best to hit back and it was Di Maria who ensured that United stayed ahead. Joe Edwards powered a diving header on target at a corner, but the Argentine stayed at his post on the line to nod the effort away.
De Gea had little to worry about despite the home side’s best efforts, and when Rooney eased the pressure with a fine pass out of defence that allowed Di Maria to close in on Steer before dinking the ball over the keeper, United’s place in the fourth round was assured.
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