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Andre Onana checked with the referee before ‘doing a Martinez’ as gamesmanship saves Man Utd

Referee Robert Jones shows a yellow card to Andre Onana

Andre Onana made a final check with the referee about receiving a second yellow card in a penalty shootout – and avoiding suspension for the FA Cup final – before his act of gamesmanship helped Manchester United get out of jail at Wembley.

The United goalkeeper had been booked for time-wasting during the 3-3 draw at Wembley and knew it would be wiped away if the tie went to spot-kicks, which was also the scenario last week for Emiliano Martínez during Aston Villa’s shootout win in Lille.

However, unlike Martínez in the Europa Conference League, the Football Association has confirmed that Onana will not be suspended for next month’s final against Manchester City. Onana had checked this ruling before the shootout with referee Robert Jones beforehand.

Onana’s planning turned out to be a decisive moment in one of the Cup’s most thrilling semi-finals. He knew he could afford a booking as he walked up to the edge of the penalty area to unnerve Ben Sheaf as he walked up to take his penalty.

Jones ordered him back to his goal-line but he kept yelling at Sheaf until the Coventry captain was almost at the penalty spot. Sheaf failed to hit the target with his penalty, allowing Rasmus Hojlund to score the penalty to secure a place in the final.

Andre Onana
Ben Sheaf smashes his penalty over the bar - REUTERS/Toby Melville

“I know the rules,” said Onana. “When the game was over, the referee told me the first yellow card was cancelled. It was a new start. I knew I wouldn’t be suspended, I spoke with the referee just before the penalties, so I knew the rules.”

Onana’s time-wasting booking drew criticism from ex-United captain Roy Keane working as a pundit on ITV. Keane felt the “messing around” at goal-kicks played a part in United dramatic collapse where they went from 3-0 up to going into extra-time.

But it was also Onana who saved them when Victor Torp’s volley was heading into the top corner and their £47.2 million summer signing from Inter Milan pulled off a stunning save. He says after going the distance, he thrived under the pressure of the penalty shootout in which he also saved from Callum O’Hare.

“I’m here for those types of moments,” he said. “We have experienced players who are used to playing under pressure. Especially this year, it has been very difficult, so we are used to difficulties at the moment.”

Despite the prospect of winning the FA Cup, Onana says the season will not be a success with just one knockout trophy. His form has been in the spotlight during their early Champions League exit and struggle to keep pace with the top four in the Premier League.

Onana’s mixed season has included him going to the Africa Cup of Nations but getting dropped by Cameroon with a zero per cent shot-save percentage in the tournament. He has returned to United and has played himself into better form, although worryingly United have one of the worst record for shots faced in the Premier League. So he has been kept busy.

He is still well off the pace for the Golden Glove this year, which was won by David De Gea before he left for a free transfer last summer and Onana was brought in.

“I don’t think being a Manchester United player winning the FA Cup is a successful season,” he said. “We are big players and always want to win everything, whether it is the Premier League, Champions League or FA Cup. At the moment it is what we have so we will go for it.”

His ambition for United has been clear from talking earlier this season when he insisted he was at the club for major trophies and to win “big things”.

“You will see much more, trust me,” he said. “Hopefully in the coming years we’ll fight for big things. That means trying to finish in the top four this season, which is very important for us to be in the Champions League. We’ll fight for everything.”

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