Manchester United . . . . . . . . . . .3
THE unique treble dream of Manchester United moved sharply into focus yesterday, when Wimbledon were nonchalantly swept from their view.
The arch party-poopers have dashed a few dreams in their time, most memorably Liverpool's hopes of the double in 1988, but they were never a serious threat to United's aspirations once Eric Cantona had given his side the lead shortly before half-time with a goal of awesome beauty which contrasted with the general ugliness of the first half.
From then on, United were coasting to their 32nd game without defeat, and a home draw in the last eight of the FA Cup, hardly in need of the added security given them by further goals from Paul Ince and Denis Irwin, the latter's coming after a move of 15 passes, leaving Wimbledon a demoralised rabble.
None was more out of his depth than Vinnie Jones, who perhaps should have been put out of his agony with an expulsion by the referee for a disgraceful tackle on Cantona.
But for the here, there and everywhere man, Warren Barton, United might have been a goal up sooner, as he cut out a cross from Cantona that was destined for Mark Hughes and no doubt the net, and again when he cleared a shot from Roy Keane from his goal-line.
Meanwhile, Cantona was gradually getting his eye in, going just wide of the mark with a header, and his own back when he appeared to stamp on Jones. Enough of this nonsense, the Frenchman seemed to decide after 43 minutes, when he elevated this game to a much higher plane.
A cross by Irwin was headed weakly out by Gary Elkins straight to Cantona, who, taking the ball with his right instep, hooked it up and volleyed with the same foot a dipping shot of power and precision.
Scott Fitzgerald tried Mr Elleray's patience still further when he cut down the hitherto anonymous figure of Ryan Giggs in full flight to earn only a booking, but the Welshman should have exacted his revenge shortly after half-time, when he thrashed the ball against an upright from eight yards.
Only the fingertips of Hans Segers denied a Hughes header in the 62nd minute, but it was a temporary reprieve. From Giggs's corner, Ince lost his marker to score with a plunging header. Ironically, it was the menacing sight of a chastened Jones as United played keep- ball that prompted Irwin to set off on a bee-line for goal, playing a one-two with Ince and then skipping between two defenders to score.
Wimbledon (4-4-3): Segers; Barton, Fitzgerald, Scales, Elkins; Fear, Earle, Jones; Fashanu, Holdsworth, Blissett. Substitutes not used: Blackwell, Clarke, Sullivan (gk).
Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Parker, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin; Kanchelskis, Ince, Keane, Giggs; Hughes (McClair, 73), Cantona (Dublin 73). Substitute not used: Sealey (gk).
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).Reuse content