FA Cup English

Casemiro temporarily saves Man United’s FA Cup dreams and Ten Hag’s job

A certain Mark Robins has the dubious distinction of being etched in Man United history as the player who pulled Sir Alex Ferguson’s neck off the chopping block with an FA Cup winner at Nottingham Forest nearly 35 years ago.

And in another 35 years’ time maybe Erik ten Hag can only hope that Casemiro would have gained fame in like manner in saving the Dutchman’s butt.

The last minutes glancing header of the Brazilian at the near post in the 89th minute Wednesday earned Man United desperately-needed 1-0 win over Forest in the FA Cup fifth round, definitely taking the intense heat off his under-fire manager, Ten Hag, at least temporarily.

United had gone on to win the FA Cup to kickstart an unprecedented era of success under Ferguson at Old Trafford after Robins’ goal at the City Ground in January 1990. Fast-forward the scenario three and a half decades or so later, there’s similarly lots of work to do if Ten Hag’s story is to follow a parallel path – particularly with bitter rivals Liverpool waiting in the quarterfinals. Thankfully for the Dutchman, at the very least, it’s a much-needed win at the start of what could have loosened the noose around the Dutchman’s neck for the moment.

Coming up next is a visit to the Etihad for another much-awaited derby clash with bitter rivals Manchester City on Sunday, a derby fixture that would again train the harsh spotlights on Ten Hag. At least for now Ten Hag can breathe a bit easier again, thanks to Wednesday’s victory.

“It’s big!” said a clearly over-exuberant Ten Hag, as is his characteristic behavior after any win, regardless of the margin of victory.

“We want to win every competition, so every game is big. The fans, they deserve a team who are fighting and that show domination and passion and desire and resilience, and they showed it today.

“There are many good teams in the Premier League, and Liverpool and [Manchester] City are top, but it’s a great challenge and we’re really looking forward to [playing Liverpool in the next round] because we like the challenge.”

The defeat to Fulham  on Saturday clearly exposed numerous flaws sympotomatic of everything that has been glaringly out of alignment at United this season, and United were most fortunate to have found a way to win even though many of the same flaws were on show against Forest.

“We created good chances, but we allowed them some counters and then after that we took control and we were more calm and composed,” Ten Hag said.

“I’m very pleased with the second half and very pleased with the spirit and passion and desire they showed, which is always the standard.”