Preston 1 Man Utd 3: Reds fight back to set up Arsenal clash
Man Utd gave Preston the lead but dodged another giant-killing to set up a mouth-watering quarter-final
Manchester United came from behind against League One side Preston to negotiate their passage into an FA Cup quarter-final in which they will host holders Arsenal next month.
To see off the Gunners, United will have to up the intensity that they showed for long periods of this fifth-round tie against a plucky Preston side.
Though the Premier League giants dominated possession in the first half, they failed to register a shot on target: an Angel Di Maria free-kick that curled wide was the closest they came to the Preston goal.
Then, two minutes into the second spell, the hosts took the lead to the delight of the Deepdale faithful when Scott Laird's shot took a deflection off Antonio Valencia and beat United keeper David De Gea.
Could the FA Cup be about to witness another famous giant-killing in a season that has seen Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham all slain by junior opponents?
The answer was an emphatic no, as United showed what their manager Louis van Gaal later described as "unbelievable team spirit" in the final half hour.
The key was van Gaal's decision to substitute the toothless Radamel Falcao for Ashley Young on the hour mark, a change that livened up United's attack. Five minutes after his introduction, Young teed up Ander Herrera for the equaliser and then on 72 minutes Marouane Fellaini gave the visitors the lead, stabbing the ball home after his initial header had been parried away by Preston.
The League One side didn't give up, with Kyel Reid and Callum Robinson both going close, but the final word went to United two minutes from time when Wayne Rooney converted a penalty after being felled in the area by Thorsten Stuckmann.
Declaring himself "reasonably satisfied" with the quality of his side's performance, van Gaal added: "We changed the shape and that was the solution."
United's reward for overcoming Preston is a mouthwatering clash with Arsenal, who, like the Red Devils, have won the FA Cup a record 11 times. The last time the sides met in the competition was in the 2008 fifth round, a match United won 4-0.
Marouane Fellaini is relishing the prospect of another opportunity to beat the Gunners. "It will be a good game, a great game," said the Belgian. "Against Arsenal is always a great game."
In other quarter-final ties, Liverpool host Blackburn, there is a Midlands derby between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion and League One Bradford City, who have beaten Premier League sides Chelsea and Sunderland en route to the last eight, play struggling Championship side Reading.
FA Cup quarter-final draw
Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion? Bradford City v Reading
Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers? Manchester United v Arsenal
Ties to be played on the weekend of 7-8 March