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Manchester United eased into the last eight of the FA Cup with a 3-0 victory away to League One’s Shrewsbury Town.
Chris Smalling got the better of Nathaniel Knight-Percival to net a somewhat fortunate strike in the 37th minute for the entirely dominant visitors.
Juan Mata’s free-kick on the stroke of half-time doubled United’s advantage before Jesse Lingard applied a first-time finish to Ander Herrera’s fine cross just after the hour-mark.
The Premier League side had to play the final stages with 10 men after one the three deployed substitutes, Will Keane, was forced off with a groin problem.
The Red Devils’ progress was never likely to be threatened, however, and Louis van Gaal’s men go on to battle West Ham United at Old Trafford over a semi-final berth.
Although speculation surrounding the future of under-fire manager van Gaal will abate little in the wake of the victory, United could barely have been more comfortable at New Meadow.
The visitors attacked almost relentlessly from the opening whistle. After Smalling headed over the crossbar and Memphis Depay drew a good from Jayson Leutwiler, Abu Ogogo did very well to nod Anthony Martial's deflected strike off the hosts' goal-line.
The Shrews’ resistance was broken when Smalling, still up from a prior set-piece, latched onto Morgan Schneiderlin’s forward header and bounced an awkward effort over the desperately reaching Leutwiler.
Mata ensured that United went in at the interval with a two-goal advantage by clipping a neat free-kick over the Shrewsbury wall, after Zak Whitbread had tripped Martial, although several offside United players had blocked Leutwiler's view of the Spaniard's strike.
Despite a spirited opening to the second period from Shrewsbury, Depay and Martial missed further good opportunities before Herrera’s measured centre allowed Lingard to fire through Leutwiler’s legs at the conclusion to an excellent United break.
The chances continued to flow, with Lingard poking wide and Keane injuring himself in striking the post with a shot.
The Shrews threatened to net a consolation late on through Whitbread and Ian Black, prior to the unmarked Ogogo heading Jack Grimmer’s accurate cross wide of the target from eight yards.
The 10 men of United held on for their clean-sheet victory, although the victory is unlikely to keep the strain off the shoulders of embattled boss van Gaal for long, with defeats at Sunderland and Midtjylland fresh in the memory.
Nevertheless, United will see the FA Cup as a possible route to redemption, and Monday night’s last-16 triumph could barely have been achieved in a more commanding and calming manner.
By David Maher