Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith's Stadium
A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.
Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.
Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.
There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.
Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.
Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…
Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho
The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.
While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.
That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.
Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.
The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.
Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.
VAR under the microscope yet again
The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.
It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.
Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.
Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.
After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.
Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.
In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.
Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.
These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.
Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit
With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.
But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.
The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.
Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.
Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.
Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.
Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.