Bruno Fernandes’ set piece practice on the eve of Manchester United’s FA Cup tie against Liverpool paid dividends as he came off the bench to settle the contest.
Sunday’s fourth-round encounter at Old Trafford, which the hosts won 3-2, was a far cry from last weekend’s tense goalless draw at Anfield between the reigning Premier League champions and current leaders.
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring for Liverpool, only for goals from Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford to turn the tie on its head.
Salah brought Juergen Klopp’s men level but Fernandes’ 78th-minute free kick sealed victory for United, 12 minutes after he came on.
“He’s got that quality in and around the box. He’s proven to give players assists or score goals,” Ole Gunnar Solksjaer said after his first win over Liverpool as United manager.
“Today was a very good free kick. He managed to practise a lot yesterday because wherever he starts, I tell him to go straight in. He can’t do extra free kicks.
“Yesterday he was told that he wasn’t playing so he stayed out practising for half an hour, 45 minutes. I don’t know how long but it worked and it paid off.”
A fifth-round home clash against West Ham is the reward for United, who made sure Liverpool’s difficult start to 2021 continued.
A victory against Aston Villa’s youngsters is the only win Klopp’s men have managed in their last seven matches in all competitions.
“It’s fantastic to win games against last year’s champions. They’re a fantastic team,” Norwegian Solskjaer added.
“We’ve had good results over the last couple of years. Played different systems but this time we play on our terms as well.
“We’ve found a way we believe in, the players believe in and we’re getting stronger and stronger.
“(The) mentality to come back (from) 1-0 down, we’ve shown that so many times this season, and I feel physically as well we’re stronger and stronger and last the games much more.”