Rashford rocket ends Hammers' dreams
West Ham 1-2 Man Utd
Published 14/04/2016 | 02:30
There will be no silver-plated farewell to Upton Park after all, but Louis van Gaal can still dream of ending Manchester United's 12-year FA Cup drought after his team ruthlessly claimed victory in the last-ever cup tie at West Ham's famous old ground.
A stunning opener by 18-year-old Marcus Rashford ten minutes into the second half, followed by a bundled finish by Marouane Fellaini, settled this quarter-final replay for United, who will now face Everton at Wembley on April 23 for a place in the FA Cup final against either Watford or Crystal Palace.
With West Ham vacating this ground for the Olympic Stadium at the end of the season, the narrative had all been about the Hammers taking silverware into the venue which dripped gold during London 2012.
But despite a late James Tomkins diving header, which ensured a pulsating finish to the game, United held on to justify Van Gaal's tactical plan.
With the cup offering United's only realistic prospect of success this season - a top four finish appears unlikely after last Sunday's 3-0 defeat at Tottenham - there was little sense of win-or-bust for Van Gaal in terms of his team selection.
Rather than take the game to West Ham in an attempt to defeat Slaven Bilic's team with the expensively-assembled flair of Juan Mata, Memphis Depay and the fit-again Wayne Rooney, Van Gaal opted for caution in the form of Ander Herrera and Fellaini.
This was United's roundheads rather than their cavaliers, but in fairness to Van Gaal, the pragmatic approach paid off during a first half which saw the home side start brightly but fade quickly once they became bogged down by United's well-stocked midfield.
Full-backs Marcos Rojo and the impressive Timothy Fosu-Mensah both pushed forward at every opportunity, with the pair delivering dangerous crosses into the area which were too often wasted by the forwards.
Rashford and Jesse Lingard were a threat through the centre, however, with Lingard creating a good chance for Fellaini on 18 minutes, only for the Belgian midfielder's close range shot to be tipped over by Darren Randolph.
It was all very functional, however, and West Ham were no better, with Dimitri Payet having one of his quieter nights due to Fosu-Mensah's performance.
But with no FA Cup success since 2004 the visiting supporters grew restless with the paint-by-numbers approach of Van Gaal's team and began chanting 'attack, attack, attack' in an effort to encourage some adventure.
Lingard responded, flashing a 25-yard shot wide and West Ham, appearing leggy, struggled to respond.
The game was United's for the taking, but the breakthrough came in spectacular style with Rashford once again displaying maturity and calmness beyond his years in front of goal.
With Herrera intercepting Michail Antonio's loose pass, the Spaniard fed Martial, who found Rashford advancing on goal 40 yards out. Rashford still had plenty to do to create a scoring chance, but the teenager used Tomkins as a screen for his shot before curling a right-foot strike beyond the helpless Randolph for his sixth goal in 11 games.
When Fellaini scored with his left knee from three yards on 67 minutes, following chaotic West Ham defending, the tie looked to be won for United.
But Tomkins' header, after Andy Carroll had headed Payet's corner across the six-yard box, gave West Ham hope and left United needing to cling on. And cling on they did, with Carroll heading over from ten yards on 88 minutes before David de Gea produced a double save from the striker and Cheikhou Kayate.
Payet then saw a stoppage-time free-kick deflected over as West Ham pushed and pushed, but United somehow held on to book their passage to Wembley.
Independent News Service