LONDON – Manchester United were forced to battle back from a goal down to beat Preston North End 3-1 and seal a quarter-final clash with Premier League rivals Arsenal.
The dogged League One hosts frustrated the Red Devils throughout a cagey first-half in which the top flight side failed to land a shot on target.
Deepdale was in fine voice throughout the tie, the first meeting between the sides since 1972, and the famous stadium erupted when the Lillywhites took a surprise lead through Scott Lairdâ€™s deflected strike minutes into the second-half.
They were good value for their lead, with centre-back pairing Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington having the game of their lives with crucial blocks to deny the likes of Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini.
But the home supporters were silenced when Ander Herrera drew United level with a neat swivelled finish in the box, and their dreams of progressing to the last eight were smashed when Fellaini volleyed in on 72 minutes and Rooney scored from the spot to complete the comeback.
There was nothing to separate the sides at the half-time break following a tightly contested opening 45 minutes.
Di Maria went close but failed to test goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann with a swerving shot, while Preston more than once had their dogged defence to thank, with superbly timed diving challenges from John Welsh and Bailey Wright twice denying Rooney a goal-scoring chance in the box.
Joe Garner was a big threat and it was he who first went close for the hosts, though he didnâ€™t connect with his long-range effort at all well, as David de Gea easily gathered.
Fans had barely had enough time to return to their seats for the second-half before Preston then grabbed a shock lead, Laird seeing his low shot deflected off Antonio Valencia and under the diving De Gea before trickling in the back of the net.
Desperate for his side not to join the graveyard of Premier League sides knocked out by lower league position in this seasonâ€™s competition, Louis van Gaal wasted little time in making a much-needed change.
On came Ashley Young, replacing the very quiet and ineffective Radamel Falcao, who surely must be running out of chances to prove himself for the Red Devils, and the England winger was instantly involved in the equaliser.
Feeding the ball from the right to find Herrera, the Spaniard exhibited master touch to control the ball and slot a neat finish in off the post.
The hosts werenâ€™t happy about the goal as they argued Rooney, in an offside position, had obstructed Stuckmannâ€™s view, but referee Phil Dowd waved away their claims and the goal stood.
And United were soon in front with a second goal in seven minutes, Fellaini seeing his initial power header well saved by Stuckmann before firing in at an angle at the second attempt.
More controversy came Rooneyâ€™s way when he won a penalty after seeming to have been brought down in the area by Stuckmann, though replays showed the contact from the goalkeeper was minimal, if any at all.
Nevertheless, the skipper hammered in from the spot to seal their progression against the spirited Lillywhites, despite another largely unconvincing and disjointed performance from Van Gaal’s men.- talkSPORT