Tuesday 6 December 2016

Five things we learned as Man United booked a place Wembley

Mark Bryans

Published 13/04/2016 | 21:14

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 13: Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's second goal during The Emirates FA Cup, sixth round replay between West Ham United and Manchester United at the Boleyn Ground on April 13, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 13: Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's second goal during The Emirates FA Cup, sixth round replay between West Ham United and Manchester United at the Boleyn Ground on April 13, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Louis van Gaal led his Manchester United side into the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 2011 after beating West Ham in the last-ever cup tie at Upton Park.

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It was a result which the 64-year-old arguably needed and came as Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini struck before James Tomkins grabbed a consolation goal in a 2-1 defeat for the Hammers.

Here are five things we learned from Manchester United's performance as they head to Wembley to face Everton on April 23.

Another timely win for van Gaal

It seems whenever van Gaal really needs a result his team deliver, and it was the same again here.

After winning just two in seven in all competitions and losing 3-0 at Tottenham on Sunday, van Gaal's future was yet again under the microscope.

But his side came up with a tremendous display to ruin West Ham's FA Cup finale at Upton Park and set up a Wembley date with the Toffees - with ultimate success in the competition possibly enough to keep the Dutchman in a job.

Fellaini has a future

Fellaini was trending on Twitter ahead of the game - with most tweets lamenting van Gaal for selecting the big Belgian in his starting XI.

The 28-year-old polarises opinion and has never really settled into the United side after becoming David Moyes' first big-name signing.

But he played well throughout this contest, showing his ability in both halves of the pitch and flourishing in a more attacking role, scoring the second and decisive goal as Ander Herrera was the man tasked with holding the midfield alongside Michael Carrick.

Rashford the new Rooney

Rashford has burst onto the scene over the last couple of months and once again he scored a marvellous goal, with calmness belying his 18 years.

The teenager has now started the last 11 games while captain Wayne Rooney has been recovering from a knee injury.

This was his sixth goal in that spell as, with Rooney watching from the bench, he staked a claim to retain his place despite the skipper's return to fitness.

The kids are alright for LVG

As well as Rashford, United's best players were largely those youngsters given their opportunity in the first-team by van Gaal.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah has emerged as a hard-working, tough-tackling figure at right-back while Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard impressed in spells and they are keeping the likes of Memphis Depay and Ashley Young on the bench.

While a number of the academy stars have earned their chance mainly due to injuries throughout the season, van Gaal should be praised for throwing in a host of unfamiliar names during his rocky Old Trafford tenure.

Dave saves

For all of their precocious attacking flair, United's place in the last four was once again secured due to the heroics of goalkeeper De Gea.

He saved superbly at his near-post from Michail Antonio before a fantastic double-save in the closing stages kept out both Cheikhou Kouyate and Andy Carroll before the former headed home - only to be flagged offside.

The Spaniard nearly left in the summer but has been outstanding this season having lifted the club's player of the season award for the past two years.

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