WAYNE ROONEY ended his goal drought as Manchester United came from behind to beat Preston and set up a mouth-watering FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal.
After watching Bradford take their second Premier League scalp of the competition on Sunday, United were wary of falling victim to another upset and they feared the worst when Scott Laird put Preston ahead.
But luckily for United manager Louis van Gaal, Ander Herrera equalised soon after and Marouane Fellaini poked home before Rooney scored a late penalty to give the Red Devils a 3-1 win.
Rooney, starting up front rather than in the midfield role he has occupied of late, looked threatening in the first half, working the channels, but was unable to test Preston goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann.
Rooney was not the only guilty party. Radamel Falcao put in yet another poor display and it did not come as a surprise when he was substituted for Ashley Young on the hour.
Van Gaal’s substitution proved crucial as Young set up Herrera for the equaliser.
Fellaini, who was pushed up front following Falcao’s removal, then poked in from close range after a brave save from Stuckmann. And then Rooney ended his seven-and-a-half week wait for a goal when he tucked away a penalty after tumbling in the box, although TV replays showed there had been no contact. The display against League One opposition will have done little to silence Van Gaal’s critics, but the Dutchman will not care. His team are now one step closer to ending the first year of his stewardship with a trophy - one that United have not won in 11 years.
Just a few days after intimating that Rooney would continue playing in midfield, Van Gaal took everyone by surprise by deploying his captain up front alongside Falcao. Rooney looked determined to make an impression by making darting runs behind the North End back four.
But two minutes after the restart, the Preston fans got the dream goal they had wished for. Laird ran on to Garner’s pass and fired an early shot that squeezed past De Gea via the toe of Antonio Valencia.
Van Gaal replaced Falcao with Young and he provided the assist for the equaliser, finding Herrera, who fired a shot past Stuckmann and in off the post.
Fellaini then struck to put the visitors ahead for the first time.
And the result was put beyond doubt when Rooney raced on to a through ball and appeared to be felled by Stuckmann. His penalty was decisive to seal United’s progression to the last eight.
Preston: Stuckmann, Clarke, Huntington, Wright (Wiseman 75), Humphrey, Kilkenny (Reid 75), Welsh, Gallagher, Laird, Kevin Davies (Robinson 75), Garner. Subs not used: King, Brownhill, Hudson, Ebanks-Blake
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Shaw, Blind, Ander Herrera, Di Maria, Fellaini, Falcao (Young 60), Rooney. Subs: Evans, Mata, Januzaj, Valdes, McNair, Wilson.
Referee: P Dowd. Attendance: 21,348
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