By Toby Davis
Manchester United reached the FA Cup fifth round and avoided any further embarrassment against stubborn fourth-tier side Cambridge United with a 3-0 replay win at Old Trafford that did little to excite their fans.
After drawing 0-0 at Cambridge, who were promoted from the minor leagues last season, United eventually made their superiority tell with goals from Juan Mata, Marcos Rojo and James Wilson, although it was a largely laboured display.
Louis van Gaal’s side, who almost fell behind in the first minute when Cambridge striker Tom Elliott hit the post, will next play third-tier Preston North End, who beat cup specialists Sheffield United 3-1 away in their fourth round replay.
Second-tier Fulham flirted with an upset against Premier League visitors Sunderland after taking a first-half lead, but were eventually beaten 3-1 after conceding three times in the last half-hour at Craven Cottage.
Cambridge, the lowest ranked team to reach the fourth round, were already big winners having guaranteed themselves a bumper payday of about one million pounds from gate receipts and TV money – a huge sum for a team at their level.
The Cambridge chairman said their mighty windfall would be spent on building new toilets at their run-down Abbey Stadium. Any hopes they had of producing one of the biggest shocks in cup history, however, were flushed down the pan.
They had a great chance to stun their illustrious opponents after one minute when Elliott raced on to a poor ball from Daley Blind, but his curling effort struck the post and Cambridge’s resistance quickly wilted.
United midfielder Marouane Fellaini headed an Angel Di Maria cross back towards Mata who poked it in off the bar after 25 minutes and Rojo scored his first for the club when he headed in a deft cross from Robin van Persie just past the half-hour.
Substitute James Wilson fired in left-footed from the edge of the box to round off the win after 74 minutes in an efficient display where again the result trumped the performance.
“We have done what we had to,” Van Gaal told the BBC.
“Tonight, I don’t think we played a very good match. But it is always difficult against a defensive team. We could have done better but I am pleased with the result.”
Sunderland fell behind to a close-range Hugo Rodallega goal for Fulham after 28 minutes but a Marcus Bettinelli own goal, Ricky Alvarez strike and Jordi Gomez penalty put them through.