Man U boss Ten Hag hails Fernandes, Varane’s resilience, Pochettino praises Chelsea

29 February 2024 - 10:15
By Reuters
Casemiro celebrates scoring Manchester United's first goal with Amad Diallo in their FA Cup fifth round match against Nottingham Forest at The City Ground in Nottingham on Wednesday night.
Image: Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff Casemiro celebrates scoring Manchester United's first goal with Amad Diallo in their FA Cup fifth round match against Nottingham Forest at The City Ground in Nottingham on Wednesday night.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag criticised Nottingham Forest for targeting Bruno Fernandes in a 1-0 FA Cup victory, while praising the midfielder and defender Raphael Varane for battling through injury to play in the fifth-round tie.

Varane and Fernandes, who were initially doubtful amid injury concerns, played the full 90 minutes in United's win at Forest on Wednesday.

Fernandes, who was on the end of several strong tackles from Forest players and was grabbed by the neck by defender Felipe, set up Casemiro for the 89th-minute winner at the City Ground.

Asked about the Portugal international's fitness, Ten Hag told reporters: “You saw that Forest were targeting him. There were many fouls on him and you see when he is getting the ball, they are really tight on him.

“I was very happy Rapha fought to play this game and also Bruno. He had a very bad injury as well. He fought to be part of this game.”

The manager said Fernandes was unfairly criticised on social media for appearing to feign injury in the defeat to Fulham, saying the midfielder was seriously injured.

“He has a serious injury, he continued to play on Saturday and now also he fought to be part of this game. He has a very high pain threshold...,” the Dutchman added.

“When you see that maybe they criticise him on social media, it's pathetic. It can't be.”

scored the 89th minute to send Manchester United into a record 48th FA Cup quarterfinal with a 1-0 victory over Premier League rivals Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old Brazilian midfielder Casemiro headed in a low bouncing free-kick from Fernandes from close range to keep alive United's last hope of lifting a trophy in a difficult season for the 12-times FA Cup winners.

Ten Hag and his team held their breath through a lengthy VAR check for potential offside before the goal was confirmed to the delight of the United fans at the City Ground.

United face Premier League leaders Liverpool in the last eight next month.

Jayden Danns struck twice and fellow teenager Lewis Koumas also scored as a young Liverpool booked an FA Cup quarterfinal against Man United with a 3-0 victory over Championship Southampton.

The 18-year-old son of former Premier League and Wales international Jason Koumas received a superb pass from Bobby Clark on the edge of the penalty area before shooting into the bottom corner via a deflection off Jack Stephens.

The 18-year-old Danns netted his first goal for Liverpool's senior team in the 73rd minute when he dinked the ball over keeper Joe Lumley, and scored again 15 minutes later when he pounced on a loose ball after Lumley batted away Conor Bradley's shot.

The eight-time FA Cup winners, who beat Chelsea 1-0 to win the League Cup final on Sunday at Wembley, will travel to arch-rivals United over the weekend of March 16.

Chelsea coach Mauricio Pochettino said his team showed bravery to beat Leeds United 3-2 in their fifth round clash on Wednesday after being criticised for the way they lost the League Cup final to Liverpool.

Conor Gallagher's winner in the 90th minute sent the Blues into the last eight, easing some of the pressure on Pochettino who has struggled to turn his expensive squad into a cohesive team since arriving at Stamford Bridge last summer.

“This type of performance shows that we are brave and we can win games... We know who we are,” the Argentinian said after conceding his side's showing against second-tier Leeds — who took an early lead — “was not a great performance”.

Pochettino dismissed criticism by former Manchester United player Gary Neville, now a television pundit, who slammed Chelsea as “billion-pound bottle jobs” after their 1-0 loss to Liverpool at Wembley Stadium.

“If people want to run and run and run with this comment, for us it is not important,” he said. “It's an opinion and that's it and we move on.”

The London side are struggling in mid-table in the Premier League and the FA Cup represents their last realistic chance of silverware.

It was the first time Leeds and Chelsea had met in the FA Cup since the now notorious 1970 final replay, a violent, attritional battle that ended in victory for Chelsea and led to half a century of intense rivalry between the two sets of fans.

There was a strong police presence outside Stamford Bridge.

The Blues got off to a bad start in the eighth minute when Leeds took the lead after a defensive mix-up playing out from a goal kick allowed Mateo Joseph to score his first senior goal for the visitors.

Chelsea replied with two goals from flowing moves in the 15th and 37th minutes and fine finishes from Senegal's Nicolas Jackson and Ukrainian Mykhailo Mudryk.

Leeds upped the intensity in the second half as Chelsea appeared to tire after playing 120 minutes on Sunday.

The visitors were rewarded in the 59th minute with a free header from the unmarked Joseph.

Pochettino left key players out of his starting 11 but brought on stalwarts Gallagher and Ben Chilwell as well as top scorer Cole Palmer, a trio who had worked hard at Wembley, in the second half.

With another punishing round of extra time looming, Gallagher latched on to a pass from Argentine midfielder Enzo Fernandez, turned and shot home to take Chelsea into the last eight where they will meet Championship side Leicester City.