Shrewsbury Town 0 Manchester United 3
Playing against the lowest ranked team still left in the FA cup and with a tasty home tie against West Ham awaiting the winner in the quarterfinals should have been incentive enough for the Red Devils to ease through the 5th round.
With so many players injured van Gaal once again turned to a mixture of experience and youth with a starting XI comprised of: Romero, Varela, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson, Schneiderlin, Herrera, Mata, Lingard, Memphis and Martial.
United got off to a quick start in their changed strip of all white as they won a corner in the first minute. Blind's delivery was met by the head of Smalling, but the captain's header was over the bar.
It was after ten minutes that the Shrews keeper Leutwiler was first tested and that was from a low drive from Memphis that he managed to palm to safety. It was all United without the final punch.
Herrera tried his best to kick the ball out of the stadium, but failed as his shot only reached row W. Maybe he and Memphis had a side bet on who could belt the ball into the car park first.
After twenty minutes and the home side were holding out against United who just couldn't find the killer touch to warrant all their possession. Same old story of the season. But even United would find it difficult not to carve out a clear-cut chance in the remaining seventy minutes, surely.
Martial then almost turned the tie in United's favour with a show of quick feet inside the area and a shot which was saved by the keepers legs then cleared off the line by Grandison. That was by far the closest United had come to taking the lead.
The defender showed calmness under pressure and struck the ball into the ground and on its way towards goal it took a deflection and looped into the goal. 1-0 ahead and you would expect the Red Devils to put this game to bed as soon as possible. They continued to attack and the pressure paid off right on the stroke of half-time.
Half-time and United were comfortably leading a tie they had controlled from the first whistle even if at times they had made it look more difficult than it should have been.
United started the second half and van Gaal made one change to his side by giving a first team debut to young full-back Joe Riley who replaced Borthwick-Jackson at left back.
The away side picked up where they had left off in the first half by immediately going on the attack and caused panic in the home defence and won an early corner.
There were two close attempts on goal within minutes as first Memphis showed his determination with a run and shot that flew inches wide then Martial watched his close-range header go agonisingly wide.
Within minutes of the goal wand with clearly an eye on two important games coming up van Gaal decided to withdraw Mata and replaced him with Pereira.
With twenty minutes left on the clock van Gaal made his final change of the match by giving Martial a well-deserved rest and put Keane on up front.
Once again the away fans were in fantastic voice making the majority of the noise inside the stadium of just over 9,000 spectators.
Will Keane's first taste of action almost saw him score the fourth goal, but his left-footed strike hit the post. Unfortunately for the young forward it was his last taste of action as he had to leave the field with what looked like a groin strain. So, having used up all their substitutes, United had to see out the final fifteen minutes of the match with only ten men.
At the death, Memphis was still trying to get his name on the scoresheet but the keeper managed to block his close-range effort.
Cole came close for the Shrews with a shot that only just went over Romero's bar. You wonder what would have happened if Shrewsbury had played the whole match with as much energy as they had shown in the final ten minutes.
Next up is the small matter of the return tie against FC Midtjylland and another chance for van Gaal and his team to reignite the season and make amends for the first leg.
Thanks for reading.