Manchester United came from behind to avoid a fifth-round FA Cup upset at the hands of League One side Preston North End and set up a home quarter-final clash against holders Arsenal.
The Reds trailed to Scott Laird’s deflected strike just after the start of the second half but bounced back with Ander Herrera levelling matters and Marouane Fellaini, pushed up front, smashing his team into the lead seven minutes later. Wayne Rooney wrapped things up by converting the late penalty he had earned, much to the delight of the travelling fans.
Louis van Gaal opted to push Rooney into attack alongside Radamel Falcao with Herrera and Fellaini introduced in midfield. There were three changes to the defence with only Marcos Rojo remaining from the starting XI against Burnley and even he switched to the centre of the back four.
A flat first half unfolded despite the lively atmosphere at Deepdale with the visitors failing to test goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann. The German stood and watched an Angel Di Maria free-kick dip wide of the target but was not called into action during a scrappy opening.
Another Di Maria set-piece eluded Falcao but Paul Gallagher’s free-kick at the other end did find a man, only for Joe Garner to head over the bar under pressure from Rojo. Former Bolton battering ram Kevin Davies collected an inevitable booking for a crude foul on Herrera and things livened up a little as the first half drew to a close.
Rooney was unable to control a long ball by Di Maria with the flag staying down and the no.10 was then tackled by Bailey Wright when Falcao attempted to tee up a rare shot inside the box. Gallagher’s tame daisy-cutter to David De Gea proved to be the last attempt of a disappointing 45 minutes.