Harry Maguire believes playing in the heat on Wednesday night may have been detrimental to his Manchester United side, but is struggling to explain the sluggish performance against Norwich in the FA Cup on Saturday.
The Red Devils needed extra-time to beat the Canaries 2-1 in the FA Cup quarter-final, with Maguire scoring a scrappy late winner. United had gone ahead through Odio Ighalo, but a Todd Cantwell strike levelled things up and the team that sits bottom in the Premier League threatened to cause a big upset.
The favourites eventually got the job done, but it was not especially impressive and Maguire was searching for excuses after the victory.
‘We had a tough game in the heat on Wednesday but we made changes so that shouldn’t be the reason,’ the centre-back said after the victory. ‘I can’t really put a finger on it at the moment, we’ll have to watch it back and see.
‘We played a little slow and went through the middle a bit too much, we should have done wide a lot more. ‘We’re in the semi-final and that’s all that matters.’
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had made numerous changes from the Premier League win over Sheffield United in midweek, with David De Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial all dropping out of the starting XI, while there were rare starts for the likes of Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard and Ighalo.
The Norwegian admits that it wasn’t pretty, but a place in the final four of the FA Cup is all that matters. ‘It is cup football for you, the game was not the greatest spectacle but I felt we kept the ball okay but did not threaten much or create chances,’ said Solskjaer.
‘Delighted to be in the last four and we got a good workout for many of the players. It’s nice for Harry Maguire to get the winner.
‘It is great to have the option to rotate. Anthony Martial came on and did brilliant but Odion Ighalo gives me a chance to rotate and he is a proven goalscorer and played his part in both goals. He is a great person to have around the dressing room too.’
The Red Devils are the first team to book a semi-final slot, with the remaining three quarter-finals being played on Sunday afternoon. Sheffield United host Arsenal, Newcastle are at home against Manchester City and Chelsea go to Leicester.
The semi-final draw will be made at half-time of Newcastle vs Man City, which kicks-off at 6.30pm. Metro