Proud U's hold Manchester United for 50 minutes before floodgates open
PUBLISHED: 22:15 18 December 2019
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Carabao Cup quarter-final
Manchester United 3
Colchester United 0
Colchester United kept mighty Manchester United at bay for the first 50 minutes of tonight's Carabao Cup quarter-final tie, before the floodgates opened.
The U's, backed by 5,000 travelling supporters, defended like their lives depended on it during a superb backs-to-the-wall performance in the first half, on what was the Essex club's first-ever visit to Old Trafford.
However, their dreams of causing a hat-trick of big upsets, in the Theatre of Dreams, after knocking out Premier League opponents Crystal Palace and Tottenham via penalty shoot-outs in earlier rounds, were dashed by three quickfire goals.
Marcus Rashford finally broke the deadlock in the 51st minute, chasing onto Nemanja Matic's excellent through ball on the break, before cutting inside defender Tom Eastman and smashing into the roof of the net.
Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer's men doubled their lead in the 56th minute, U's right-back Ryan Jackson diverting home Mason Greenwood's dangerous cross from inside the six-yard box, while under heavy pressure from Rashford.
And Anthony Martial added a third on 61 minutes, poking home Rashford's accurate low cross from a matter of a few feet out.
Regardless of the result, this was still a magical night for John McGreal's League Two side, and they can be rightly proud of their achievements in this competition this season.
The U's showed no early signs of nerves, and leading scorer Luke Norris showed his attacking intent by almost charging down a clearance by keeper Sergio Romero.
The hosts did earn a couple of free-kicks in dangerous positions, inside the first 10 minutes, but Rashford sliced the first one hopelessly wide.
He was more threatening from the second free-kick, stinging Dean Gerken's hands with a 25-yarder that the U's keeper should really have held onto. The ball spun loose of his grip, but he recovered in time to smother at the second attempt.
The U's were on the back foot, hardly surprising, but they were defending stoically and getting in their blocks. Luke Prosser tackled Rashford when the front-man was poised to shoot, on 12 minutes, while Chohen Bramall did well to block a snap shot by Greenwood.
Just before the 20-minute mark, Gerken had to dive forward to palm away a deflected cross by Rashford, which was goalbound, Tom Eastman hacking the loose ball to safety before any United player could pounce.
Rashford should really have done better when set clean through on 23 minutes. However, the England striker failed to get the ball under control and Gerken mopped up.
For most of the first period, it was just home keeper Romero in one half of the pitch, and the other 21 players at the other end, but the U's continued to prove very difficult to break down.
United's growing frustration was summed up by midfielder Andreas Pereira slicing a long-range shot high and wide, on 34 minutes, much to the amusement of the 5,000 U's fans watching from high up in the East Stand.
Martial, who had struggled to get into the game, burst into the box on 41 minutes, only for skipper Luke Prosser to save the day with a marvellous block-tackle.
And after soaking up the pressure, the U's had a little joy as an attacking force at the end of the first period.
Callum Harriott won his side's first corner of the game, in the 43rd minute, and from this set piece Harriott drilled a low 20-yarder only a foot wide of the near post.
Martial was not far adrift with a thumping 30-yard shot, in first-half stoppage time, with Gerken rooted to the spot, but the teams remained locked at 0-0 at half-time.
United began the second half with more urgency and Greenwood very nearly diverted home a low cross by Luke Shaw in the 49th minute.
Just seconds later and the U's broke quickly. Ryan Jackson chased onto Tom Lapslie's fine through ball and cracked in a low angled drive which keeper Romero managed to smother.
And from Romero's quickly taken throw-out, United finally broke the deadlock when Rashford smashed home into the roof of the net, from a quickfire break, in the 51st minute.
The U's had a half-chance to equalise, two minutes later, but Bramall miscued his shot wide from the edge of the box.
And the Manchester hosts duly doubled their lad in the 56th minute, via Jackson's own goal from Greenwood's cross, before Martial poked home from Rashford's cross at point blank range for the third in the 61st minute.
MANCHESTER UNITED: Romero, Young, Tuanzebe (sub Garner, 65), Maguire, Matic, Mata, Pereira, Shaw (sub Williams, 62), Greenwood, Martial, Rashford (sub Lingard, 62). Unused subs: Grant, Jones, McTominay, Chong.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Bramall, Lapslie, Pell (sub Stevenson, 66), Comley (sub Gambin, 73), Harriott (sub Poku, 77), Nouble, Norris. Unused subs: Ross, Sowunmi, Brown, Clampin.