Football / FA Cup Semi-Final Replay: Imperious Robson sweeps United down Wembley way: Kanchelskis helps set up final with Chelsea

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Manchester United . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Oldham Athletic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

THE Dream Treble may have eluded them, but history still beckons United, who will equal Tottenham's record of eight FA Cup wins if they beat Chelsea in the final on 14 May.

Much more important from the Old Trafford viewpoint, the classic Double is still very much on after a vibrant, restorative performance which will have caused shock waves all the way from Stamford Bridge to Ewood Park.

Lucky to survive Sunday's first bite at this little-and-large semi-final, United took full advantage of their reprieve, dominating the replay from the outset and rattling in goals from all areas to prove that there is life without the players' player of the year, Eric Cantona.

In the continuing absence of the Frenchman, who completes his five-match suspension on Saturday, Andrei Kanchelskis took centre stage, spreadeagling the Oldham defence with his startling pace.

The Ukrainian, who has just been omitted from Russia's World Cup squad, gave an impressive demonstration of the gifts his adopted country will be missing, scoring one goal and making another, for Ryan Giggs.

Poor Oldham had a psychological barrier, as well as the best team in the country, to overcome. It was hard for anyone - their own players included - to escape the conclusion that they had missed the boat on Sunday, when they were barely a minute away from their appearance in the final when Mark Hughes conjured the equaliser that necessitated the replay.

Now, the relegation candidates needed to raise their game all over again. The task proved to be beyond them.

Relieved as he was to get out of the original match with a draw, Alex Ferguson had been far from satisfied with another below-par performance, and dispensed with Dion Dublin, Brian McClair and Lee Sharpe to accommodate Kanchelskis and Roy Keane, both back after suspension, and the old warhorse, Bryan Robson.

Robson was deployed, notionally at least, as a sweeper, in front of the back four, and with Kanchelskis and Keane occupying their customary midfield stations, Hughes was left to plough a lone furrow in attack. Not that he was ever alone. United poured forward from deep, pressing Oldham back and filling their penalty area with red shirts.

Keane had been let loose just five minutes after his latest ban when he was in trouble again, booked for a painful challenge on Neil Pointon. It was an irksome inconvenience, soon forgotten.

Nominally a sweeper, Robson is never one to hang back when opportunity presents itself, and after 10 minutes he popped up deep in Oldham territory to supply a pass which Denis Irwin, once of Oldham, chested down before driving the first goal past Jon Hallworth from 12 yards.

After a quarter of an hour it was 2-0, and the red legions were looking ever more raucously on the bright side of life.

Keane and Paul Ince combined in midfield to supply Kanchelskis, Ince providing the final pass for the Ukrainian flyer to run diagonally across the defence, from right to left, before driving an angled shot inside Hallworth's left-hand upright.

There was the merest hint of an Oldham revival when Rick Holden shot wide across the face of the goal and Darren Beckford, put through by Nick Henry, demanded a decent save from Peter Schmeichel at close quarters.

Hint became reality five minutes before half-time when Robson and Schmeichel got themselves into a defensive muddle which saw Robson concede a senseless corner which allowed Pointon to score from prodding range.

The revival never got beyond the cradle. The interval enabled United to draw breath and regain their composure, and they reasserted themselves immediately after it when a typically pacy run to the byline and cut-back from Kanchelskis created a shooting chance for Hughes, who was wastefully wide.

Giggs did rather better in testing Hallworth with a strong skimmer, and the force was with the big battalions again.

Their grip was fully restored after 62 minutes, when the Oldham defence melted before Giggs's corner from the right, enabling Robson to celebrate his first appearance in the starting line-up for three months with a well-timed run to force the ball in.

Giggs drove in the fourth, five minutes later, and that was that. Another mazy run from Kanchelskis opened the route to goal and although Chris Makin managed to block Giggs's first shot, the ball rebounded obligingly for the Welshman to beat Hallworth via his left- hand post.

United's 12th Cup final equals Arsenal's record and will be their sixth final, in various competitions, in the last four years. Blackburn be warned. After that nervy hiatus, the champions are back.

Manchester United (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Parker, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin; Robson; Kanchelskis, Keane (McClair, 69), Ince, Giggs; Hughes (Sharpe). Substitute not used: Sealey (gk).

Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): Hallworth; Makin, Fleming, Jobson, Pointon (Redmond, 70); Bernard, Henry, Milligan, Holden; Sharp, Beckford (Ritchie, 70). Substitute not used: Gerrard (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe, Cornwall).

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