By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor
Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench to score the winner as holders Manchester United had to work hard to beat Championship strugglers Blackburn in the FA Cup fifth round.
Striker Ibrahimovic was allowed too much time in the box to latch on to fellow substitute Paul Pogba’s pass and tuck in from close range to set up a quarter-final tie against Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Danny Graham had given the hosts the lead with a rising finish following excellent play by Marvin Emnes, who himself had tested Sergio Romero with a thumping effort moments earlier.
In response, Rovers goalkeeper Jason Steele pushed away Ander Herrera’s fierce shot, but Marcus Rashford equalised for the visitors by going round the goalkeeper and slotting in from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s precise pass.
Rovers striker Anthony Stokes had a goal rightly ruled out offside following Romero’s triple save late on.
Victory for United maintains their hopes of a cup treble this season, as they travel to Saint-Etienne in the Europa League on Wednesday with a healthy last-32 first-leg advantage, and face Southampton in the EFL Cup final next Sunday.
Jose Mourinho’s side did not have it all their own way at Ewood Park and were slow and sloppy in possession, while struggling to carve open clear-cut opportunities.
But they had summer signings Ibrahimovic and Pogba to thank as the two players combined for United’s winning goal, with the side now losing just one of their last 10 away games in all competitions.
World-record signing Pogba, who reportedly said he left the club in his first spell after failing to play against Blackburn in 2011, picked out Ibrahimovic with an inch-perfect pass, although the home defenders should have done better to close the Swede down for his 24th goal of the campaign.
It was also Mkhitaryan’s incisive, outside-of-the-foot pass which opened up the Blackburn’s defence for the opening goal. The excellent Armenian controlled much of the match with his intricate passing and pacy forward play, driving a strike narrowly wide in the first half.