Video highlights: Louis van Gaal admits his team relied on luck at Preston
Louis van Gaal admitted Manchester United relied on luck to overcome Preston North End after fighting back from a goal down to secure an FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal next month.
With Scott Laird’s 47th-minute opener giving Simon Grayson’s League One team the lead, United required controversial goals from Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney, either side of Marouane Fellaini’s fourth goal of the season, to win this fifth round tie.
United captain Rooney appeared to be stood in an offside position for Herrera’s equaliser before winning a late penalty following little or no contact from goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann.
Preston manager Simon Grayson subsequently admitted he had no qualms with the decision of referee Phil Dowd for either goal, but Van Gaal conceded that fortune played a part in United’s victory.
Goals: Preston 1-3 Manchester United http://t.co/D3sd3FHuKV— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) February 16, 2015
“In the second-half, their goal was a little bit unlucky, it was deviated (deflected), but we showed again an unbelievable team spirit,” Van Gaal said. “We changed the shape and that was the solution I think but we got goals that were a little bit lucky.
“We had to fight again for the victory such as against Burnley last week. I have to give all the credit to the players because they have done again everything and the spirit in the team is unbelievable.”
Rooney was criticised by Match of the Day pundit Kevin Kilbane, a former Preston player, for ‘diving’ to win the penalty, from which the United captain scored.
But Grayson insisted that, while there was no contact, Rooney did not dive to win the penalty.
“I am not saying it wasn’t a penalty,” Grayson said. “I am saying there was no contact.
“Wayne has not been touched by the goalkeeper – yes, he has had to jump out of the way, but he has not been touched.
“You can interpret that how you want, but it wasn’t a dive. He has gone to get out of the way and took evasive action. I am not complaining.”
Grayson also admitted Preston could have no complaints over United’s equaliser, scored by Herrera, when Rooney appeared to be offside and in the eyeline of the goalkeeper.
"Our players thought Wayne was in the way for their first goal, but we can see now that he wasn't,” Grayson said. “But the players can be very proud because we gave United a good game.
"We looked like we were comfortable, but when United went 4-4-2 they exposed us down the sides.
“They have class, but the players can wake up in the morning and be proud of what they've done.”
Fellaini, who moved into an advanced position alongside Rooney following Ashley Young’s introduction as a replacement for Radamel Falcao, proved a key factor in United’s fightback.
“We can always beat pressure with him and he scores also goals,” Van Gaal said. “I played him now for the first time in the position he wants, but I have not always a position for him and that is my problem.”
Van Gaal, meanwhile, confirmed that Robin van Persie would be fit for the weekend trip to Swansea after missing this game due to injury.