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A penalty at the death from Wayne Rooney earned Manchester United a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United and a berth in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Having frustrated the Premier League side for 92 minutes at Old Trafford, the Blades’ hearts were broken by Rooney’s late strike, following Dean Hammond’s almost inexplicable foul on Memphis Depay.
The nature of the victory is unlikely to lift much pressure from the shoulders of Louis van Gaal. Indeed, the under-fire boss is likely to come under even greater scrutiny, with United having committed few players forward in pursuit of goals against League One opposition.
However, van Gaal and his players can at least turn their attentions away from what would have been an extremely testing and potentially highly damaging replay at Bramall Lane.
The hosts dominated territory and possession in the first half on Saturday evening but struggled to fashion opportunities, although goalkeeper George Long did well to frustrate Rooney on a couple of occasions, while Bastian Schweinsteiger failed to properly control a fine Daley Blind ball over the top.
The Blades managed some isolated assaults in the second period, with Billy Sharp, Paul Coutts and Chris Basham threatening, but the general pattern of the game remained largely unchanged; the Premier League outfit continued to control matters without causing the visitors too much trouble.
The hosts, however, became increasingly dangerous as the third-tier players began to noticeably tire from their impressive chasing, harrying and covering.
Anthony Martial looked set to score when Ander Pereira’s free-kick was headed straight to him by defender David Edgar, but John Brayford flung himself dedicatedly to block away the Frenchman’s strike from 10 yards.
The away side were on the verge of hanging on and earning a replay until Hammond slid widely in the direction of substitute Depay, catching the Dutchman’s shin with his upturned foot, with Rooney left to send Long the wrong way from the spot.
The hosts, happy to simply sneak through, understandably closed down the game in the little time remaining to secure progress to the competition’s next round.