Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed that match-winner Bruno Fernandes had been practicing extra free-kicks in training ahead of his side’s FA Cup victory over Liverpool on Sunday. The Portuguese midfielder, who has established himself as one of the Premier League‘s best players since joining the Red Devils, beat visiting goalkeeper Allisson late on from a dead-ball situation to send his side into the fifth round of the competition.
United were pegged back inside the opening 20 minutes when Mo Salah chipped over Dean Henderson to open the scoring for Liverpool, before Mason Greenwood’s equaliser eight minutes later put Solskjaer’s side back on level terms.
Marcus Rashford, who starred throughout, scored United’s second moments after half-time but Salah fired home again shortly before the hour mark.
It was left down to Fernandes, who was introduced as a substitute midway through the second half, to rescue his side once again.
The 26-year-old duly obliged, finding the bottom corner with a sweetly-struck free-kick from the edge of the box with just 12 minutes remaining.
Speaking after the final whistle, Solskjaer explained that he was not surprised by the midfielder’s contribution as he had been working on taking set-pieces in training ahead of Sunday’s game.
“Great goal, a good free-kick,” the United boss told Sky Sports when quizzed on the deciding moment of the match.
“When you leave him out, like I had to do today, he stayed about 45 minutes after training yesterday shooting free-kicks. So I was quite confident he’d hit the target today.
“He’s never happy with me when I tell him to go inside if he’s playing the day after, so he got some practice.”
The man himself revealed at full-time that the decision to aim towards the far corner, as opposed to over the wall, was inspired by a suggestion from team-mate Edinson Cavani.
“I work a lot on this kind of goal, free-kicks,” said Fernandes. “I tried, this one was good, Edi Cavani, before the free-kick, told me, try to hit one at that side of the keeper. I tried and it went well.”
The Red Devils are currently six points clear of fourth-placed Liverpool at the top of the table and look a strong bet to claim their first top-flight title in eight years at the end of the campaign.
Solskjaer hailed the efforts of his players in getting the job done on Sunday evening, claiming they did more than enough against the Merseyside club to justify the scoreline.
“They were brilliant,” added Solskjaer. “When you go down, the reaction of everyone… We really played some good stuff in periods. Good goals we scored.
“You have to defend well against them, of course. I thought we managed to react well and of course towards the end there were always some moments, but we kept them away.”
United will face a home tie against West Ham United in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
The Red Devils are preparing for a tricky run of games in the Premier League, with tough tests against Arsenal, Southampton and Everton on the horizon before mid-March.
Solskjaer’s side will take on basement boys Sheffield United in their next outing on Wednesday evening.