Manchester United turned a potentially awkward away match on a poor playing surface into an FA Cup cruise by thrashing third-tier Tranmere 6-0 in the fourth round to ease some pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday.
Manchester City piled on the goals against lower-league opposition, too, sweeping to a 4-0 win over 10-man Fulham to take its defense of the famous old trophy into the last 16.
United chose an ideal time to record the biggest victory in its 13 months under Solskjaer, who has been under massive scrutiny this week after chastening, back-to-back losses in the Premier League to Liverpool then Burnley.
Beating a team in the relegation zone in League One has hardly resolved United’s issues but the manner of the win – United was 5-0 ahead at halftime on the back of some unforgiving finishes – will give Solskjaer and fans some source of encouragement, especially given the unsatisfactory standard of the heavily sanded pitch at Prenton Park.
Tranmere had also disposed of Premier League team Watford in a third-round replay three days earlier, highlighting the hosts’ threat.
United center back Harry Maguire set the tone for the game by carrying the ball upfield, cutting inside and smashing a fierce shot – albeit one that was slightly deflected – high into the net from outside the area in the 10th minute. It was Maguire’s first goal for United since his move from Leicester in the offseason.
Well-taken strikes by Diego Dalot and attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard, with his first goal in any competition in 366 days, made it 3-0 after only 16 minutes, with Phil Jones and Anthony Martial adding further goals before halftime.
Teenage striker Mason Greenwood converted a penalty in the 56th for the sixth goal and Solskjaer took the opportunity to give some of his key players a rest, with Martial, Nemanja Matic and Maguire coming off early to save their legs ahead of the second leg of a English League Cup quarterfinal against City on Wednesday.
City leads that 3-1 from the first leg at Old Trafford and warmed up with what proved to be a non-contest against Fulham after U.S. defender Tim Ream was shown a straight red card in the sixth minute for bringing down Gabriel Jesus in the penalty area.
City scored from the resulting spot kick, through Ilkay Gundogan, and a largely second-string team went on to dominate the game at Etihad Stadium.
However, despite monopolizing possession and creating chance after chance, the defending champions only added one goal – in the 19th minute through Bernardo Silva – before a late headed double from Jesus.
Silva’s strike from outside the area took City to 100 goals in all competitions this season – the first team in Europe’s top five leagues to get to that milestone.
Later Sunday, Liverpool plays away to third-tier Shrewsbury in the fourth round, with Jurgen Klopp fielding a much-weakened team for the match.