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MOTD: Everton 1-2 Manchester United
After Anthony Martial had put Manchester United into the FA Cup final with a heartbreaking stoppage-time winner over Everton at Wembley, United boss Louis van Gaal gave pause for thought. The Dutchman insisted that Martial, who assisted Marouane Fellaini’s opening goal from the left wing, is a winger rather than a striker.
“I like him on the wing, I don’t believe he is an out-and-out goalscorer like Ruud van Nistelrooy,” the United manager said of Martial. “In the future he might change, he certainly has the ability, but at the moment I see him as a wing player.”
That said, Martial proved yet again he is the best finisher United have at the moment.
“He has had an excellent first season in England and he can only get better with age and experience,” said Van Gaal, per United’s official website. “He can improve further, I can see things in his game that he can work on, but the best way to improve is to play at a higher level and that is what he is doing. Marcus Rashford is the same. He is doing a good job in the striker’s position and it means Wayne Rooney can contribute more from midfield.”
United had edged their way in front in a pulsating, tight contest via Fellaini’s opening but Everton equalized with fifteen minutes to go. Yet the Toffee’s resistance broke as Martial netted the winner with seconds to spare. The Frenchman’s was incisive down the wing and lethal in the middle, terrorizing Everton all night long with one of his best performances in a United shirt.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez, having been thrashed by Liverpool in Wednesday’s Merseyside Derby, is thought to be on his last legs at the club and although Everton gave a promising account of themselves, couldn’t knick the vital result they were looking for.
Martinez’s men lacked a cutting edge up front, whereas United buried their chances when it mattered most with lethality they have hitherto lacked this season.
“You can also be positive about this semi-final win if you like,” Van Gaal sarcastically snapped at reporters after fielding questions on his future at United.
For better or worse, an FA Cup final ticket to Wembley has appeared to buy him extra time to salvage something from United’s dreadful season.
David de Gea came up with an important penalty stop from Romelu Lukaku, who also miscalculated an earlier one-on-one with the Spanish goalkeeper. “Only yesterday in training we had a penalty competition and Sergio Romero won,” said Van Gaal. “He saved one penalty, De Gea zero. But then David came up with the save in the important game.”
Martinez admitted that United were the better team in the first half but praised the pressure they applied on United in the second period.
Chris Smalling scored an own goal with fifteen minutes left on the clock, only for Martial to turn it around in the dying moments.
“That was as cruel as football can get,” said Martinez, per The Guardian. “The goal was against the run of play at the end, we were growing into the game more the longer it progressed and I thought we would be the stronger side in extra time. We didn’t deserve that after getting back into the game, it left a bad taste.”