Football / FA Cup Fourth Round: Gillespie gives balanced view: United take their time

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Manchester United . . . . . .1

Brighton and Hove Albion. . .0

STEVE BRUCE reported: 'The boss wasn't very pleased at half-time. I couldn't tell you what he said, at least not before 11.30 at night.' Alex Ferguson did not look especially pleased afterwards, either, despite the fact that the bookies will now offer you only 7-1 against a United League and FA Cup double.

Perhaps Malcolm Allison's remarks last week, when he implied that he believed neither Ferguson nor Ron Atkinson has the nerve to take the championship, would not have improved Ferguson's mood after returning from a bruising match with Queen's Park Rangers.

Winning three Scottish championships, with Aberdeen, while all Glasgow was in a fury, was rather more than a driving test. Ferguson's mood lifted slightly on Saturday morning; only Mark Hughes was a direct casualty of the battle of Loftus Road, but Eric Cantona remained troubled with a hamstring and Andrei Kanchelskis was withdrawn after his wife had a miscarriage.

Not that anyone, not even a smiling Barry Lloyd, seriously questioned the validity of United's win. Some brave and agile goalkeeping by Mark Beeney and some wayward finishing by Giggs, McClair and Sharpe produced the impression that Brighton had been unlucky when, in fact, they could have been swamped.

Stuart Munday had an impressive second senior match and Clive Walker was the old sweat necessary for a proper FA cup tie. 'Was he injured ?' Lloyd was asked . 'Oh, no, he always plays like that.'

The pitch was superb, despite the heavy morning rain, but the afternoon wind was strong and gusty and defenders were always wary of the high ball. 'Our game plan was to deny them space and play them on the break and there were two or three balls across the box we might just have got a foot to,' Lloyd added, in what was valid manager-speak.

It is also true that Peter Schmeichel did not have to make a save that tested him. Not until the last 30 minutes, however, did United's attack begin to function. Ferguson admitted that the balance was improved by the appearance of Keith Gillespie in place of the injured Danny Wallace.

Gillespie may be only 18 but he is a good professional, invariably doing the right thing when he takes the ball, something that cannot always be said of Wallace or, come to that, of Ryan Giggs. The Welshman is still only 19 and turned Brighton inside out and upside down, winning the match with a brilliantly taken free-kick, but there are occasions when Giggs might be a little more aware of the players around him. United have two forward thinkers, McClair and Cantona; Bryan Robson is still around and Paul Ince, outstanding on this occasion, is developing. The great teams carried four or five tacticians.

Goal: Giggs (74) 1-0.

Manchester United: Schmeichel; Parker, Irwin, Bruce, Sharpe, Pallister, Wallace (Gillespie, 61), Ince, McClair, Phelan, Giggs. Substitute not used: Martin.

Brighton and Hove Albion: Beeney; Chivers, Chapman, Wilkins, Foster, Bissett, Munday, Kennedy (Edwards 79), Nogan, Codner, Walker. Substitute not used: Crumplin.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).