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Man United beat Brighton, reach FA Cup semis thanks to Jose Mourinho's 'favourites'

MANCHESTER, England -- Three points as Manchester United beat Brighton 2-0 at Old Trafford to book their place in the semifinals of the FA Cup.

1. Mourinho's favourites secure United Wembley trip

Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic were the only Manchester United players to come out of Jose Mourinho's 12-minute new conference rant with any credit.

And when the Portuguese coach needed a result after Champions League humiliation against Sevilla on Tuesday night, it was his two favourites who scored the goals to secure an FA Cup semifinal at Wembley and ensure United still have a trophy to play for.

Mourinho said before the game he had picked a team that "deserved" to play. That meant there was no place for Alexis Sanchez -- the first time the Chilean has not started since joining from Arsenal in January -- or Paul Pogba, despite the Frenchman playing just 30 minutes against Sevilla.

Sanchez and Pogba were pointedly left out of Mourinho's impassioned new conference speech as the United boss name-checked the players the next manager will be happy to inherit.

Two he mentioned, Matic and Lukaku, were responsible for United's opening goal.

They had not created that much of note before Luke Shaw, in the team in place of Ashley Young, rolled the ball back to Matic in the 37th minute.

The Serbian's delicate first-time cross looped towards the back post where Lukaku powered over Lewis Dunk to head past Tim Krul.

It was the Belgian's 12th goal in his last 11 FA Cup ties and maintained his record of scoring in every round this season. He has got 25 for the season, just one shy of his total for Everton last year. With more questions than answers about Sanchez and Pogba, Lukaku is proving his doubters wrong.

As if to prove Mourinho's point about Lukaku and Matic -- the two players he said on Friday have performed since "day one" -- it was Matic who made the game safe in the second half.

Manchester were made to work but got the job done in the FA Cup against Brighton.

Young, on for Shaw at half-time, swung in a free kick seven minutes from time and the midfielder headed in at the back post.

It was far from a vintage performance and Sergio Romero was forced into making a good save in each half. But at the end of a week when Mourinho has come under fire for the first time at Old Trafford, his two stars eased the pressure.

2. Shaw running out of chances

Asked about Luke Shaw's chances of making it to the World Cup with England in the summer, Gareth Southgate insisted Jose Mourinho was "happy" with the left-back.

His first start since the last round of the FA Cup last month should have been a chance for Shaw to impress both his club and international managers and put some pressure on Ashley Young's place.

It didn't work out like that.

Mourinho spent most of the first half screaming towards the far touchline urging Shaw to get further forward. There was a point when the 55-year-old got so frustrated he kicked snow towards a cameraman and had to apologise.

With the game barely 30 minutes old, Mourinho turned to his bench and ordered Young to warm up. It may have been then that he made up his mind. Shaw did not reappear after half-time, Young taking his place.

Sources have told ESPN FC that Shaw is set to assess his options in the summer and nights like this will only strengthen the 22-year-old's resolve to see what else is out there. There will be plenty of takers for a player who, not that long ago, was the Premier League's best left-back as a teenager. You wonder how much longer Mourinho and Shaw can stomach each other.

Shaw was subbed at half-time against Brighton.
Luke Shaw was hooked at half-time and looks to have fallen out of favour again with Jose Mourinho.

3. A missed opportunity for Brighton

Brighton are having a fine season. If you had offered Chris Hughton Premier League survival and an FA Cup quarterfinal in August, he would have bitten your hand off.

Still, this felt like a missed opportunity.

Brighton are 12th in the table, six points clear of the relegation places. The international break means they do not have another game for two weeks.

Hughton, though, opted to make five changes to his team, leaving out first-choice goalkeeper Maty Ryan and top scorer Glenn Murray among them.

The 6,000 fans who travelled through the snow from the south coast to make it to Manchester for a 7:45pm kick-off on a Saturday night might have hoped their team would have more of a go -- especially against a United team who had suffered a hit to their confidence in midweek.

The players chosen acquitted themselves well but it is not that often Brighton have been one game away from Wembley. It may be a while before they get another chance.

Making sure they are playing Premier League football next season remains the priority for Brighton and Hughton and their next three games -- against Leicester and Huddersfield at home and Crystal Palace away -- will be key. But in their first FA Cup quarterfinal since 1986, there was perhaps an opportunity to show a little more ambition.

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.


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