LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United’s progress to the FA Cup semi-finals is vital for the development of his side’s winning mentality.
United defeated a 10-man Norwich 2-1 after extra time at Carrow Road on Saturday and two wins at Wembley would secure their first trophy under Solskjaer.
“Last year we got to the quarter-finals and lost to Wolves. Now, at least, we are in the semi-finals at Wembley,” the United manager said in his post-match press conference. “It’s important for this team to win their first trophy or to get to their first final together. That will help the winning culture because we have to start winning things.”
The Red Devils last lifted silverware in 2017, when they won the League Cup and Europa League title. But there is a renewed sense of optimism around Old Trafford as they stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 14 matches.
Solskjaer made eight changes as only Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Bruno Fernandes survived from the midweek Premier League win against Sheffield United.
While United’s stand-ins were out of sync for much of a first half that followed the pattern of many post-lockdown matches, Solskjaer insisted that his squad’s strength in depth could help them lift their first FA Cup since 2016.
Odion Ighalo opened the scoring with his first shot in his first appearance since extending his loan from Shanghai Shenhua. The Nigerian striker has now scored in each of his four United starts, making it five goals in 11 appearances.
Norwich’s Todd Cantwell equalised but Canaries defender Timm Klose was sent off for hauling down Ighalo in the 89th minute.
United gradually wore Norwich down and defender Maguire pounced in the 118th minute, poking home from close range after Ighalo flicked on.
“Many of these players did not play the last game and now have 90 or 120 minutes in their legs,” Solskjaer said. “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. He is a proven goalscorer and played his part in both goals.”
The result was especially tough on Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul, who made eight saves, including efforts from Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford – three of United’s six substitutes.
A CAPTAIN’S GAME
Harry has been magnificent since he’s come to the club… Today, I think he won every single header and every challenge, so I’m very pleased.
OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER, Man United manager, on Harry Maguire’s performance.
He also clawed Maguire’s header off the line.
But Maguire, the subject of criticism from former United captain Roy Keane after their 1-1 draw at Tottenham, would not be denied. And Solskjaer was proud of his captain.
“Harry has been magnificent since he’s come to the club, his leadership skills are there to be seen, he helped us with the build-up,” said the Norwegian.
“Today, I think he won every single header and every challenge, so I’m very pleased with Harry.”
Norwich were playing in their first FA Cup quarter-final since 1992 and could only rue their inability to win the match in the final minutes of normal time when Emiliano Buendia shot just past the far post.
“Football can be cruel sometimes and it can be the cruellest sport in the world,” said Canaries manager Daniel Farke. “They were fantastic and we had many periods with the momentum on our side and we deserved to win it in 90 minutes.”