FA Cup


Ledley will miss the FA Cup final, and remains doubtful for Euro 2016

Alan Pardew has confirmed that Joe Ledley will miss Crystal Palace’s FA Cup final clash with Manchester United after suffering a fractured fibula.

The Wales international replaced Yohan Cabaye at half-time during last weekend’s 2-1 home win over Stoke City, but was forced off just 11 minutes later and replaced by Jordon Mutch.

Eagles boss Pardew announced that the injury to the midfielder is a threat to his chances of representing Wales at the European Championship next month.

Ledley was an influential figure in the national team playing in seven of Wales’ 10 qualifying games, and Pardew believes he has the qualities to return stronger.

“He was very disappointed when he heard the news but he’s a strong character and now he’s just determined to make the Euros, so he’s got a good mind-set again.”

Pardew vowed that Palace will endeavour to help Ledley with his rehabilitation to play in the Euros.

“I think he’s 50/50 [to make Euro 2016]; it’s as tight as that. I’m sure Chris Coleman will be desperate to have him, so we’re doing everything we can to help him.

“We have oxygen chambers and all sorts to try and help his recovery from that injury.”

Fri 13 May, 2016
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I hope Fellaini never plays in the Premier League again – Carragher

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher hopes “repeat offender” Marouane Fellaini never makes another Premier League appearance. 

Fellaini was handed a three-match ban after an altercation with Leicester City defender Robert Huth, who also suffered the same punishment, keeping both players out for the rest of the 2015-16 league campaign.

Television replays showed Huth appearing to pull Fellaini’s hair before the Belgium international struck him with an elbow in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Leicester last Sunday. 

Carragher believes Fellaini deserved a much greater punishment, with the midfielder eligible for selection in United’s FA Cup final clash against Crystal Palace.

“How did they get the same bans? One man deliberately swings an elbow, knowing full well the damage that can be caused. The other grabs a clump of hair. Both, somehow, end up with three-match suspensions,” Carragher wrote in a column for the Daily Mail.

“The more I look at the punishments that Marouane Fellaini and Robert Huth received, the less I can understand the Football Association’s decision. Huth, a giant in Leicester’s fairytale campaign, misses his side’s big celebration for an incident you associate with a school playground.

“Yet Fellaini could end up playing in the FA Cup final. Can pulling someone’s hair cause the same damage as a flailing elbow? No. Not in a million years.

“It can’t be right that he will be available for Manchester United’s big day against Crystal Palace on May 21. My personal hope is that we would never see him playing in the Premier League again.

Carragher added: “He is a repeat offender and it has gone beyond the point now where people can attempt to defend him by saying he is a tall lad who is using his arms for leverage.

“When he first arrived in the Premier League, as Everton’s record £15million signing in 2008, he was booked five times in his first two months. The assumption, initially, was to put it down to exuberance, awkwardness and immaturity. But here we are, eight years on, and he hasn’t changed.

“The figures are damning. He has been booked 61 times in all competitions since coming to England and picked up a further three red cards. He has served 18 matches in bans, including three for a head butt on Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross when he was at Everton that enraged David Moyes.

“He is a menace in the worst possible sense. I don’t use that term lightly but he is not a Manchester United player in any shape or form.”

“I was never convinced he would fit in at Old Trafford when he left Goodison Park and have never been given reason to change my mind. Yes, he’s a good player with some qualities but he is absolutely not United standard.”

Fri 6 May, 2016
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Pardew seeks Leicester inspiration for FA Cup final

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew hopes Leicester City’s underdog success story can inspire his side to victory over Manchester United in next month’s FA Cup final.

Leicester started the season as 5,000-1 outsiders to lift the title and were widely tipped as relegation candidates, having mounted a late escape act in 2014-15.

However, the Foxes completed one of greatest surprises in sporting history by clinching the Premier League title after nearest rivals Tottenham drew 2-2 with Chelsea on Monday.

Palace are also unfancied to beat United at Wembley next month, but manager Pardew has called on his team to emulate the spirit shown by Leicester to pull off their own underdog story.

“Leicester won it after 36 games, last year for 10 games they were in the best form. For near 50 games they’ve been best in the country,” he said at a news conference.

“It’s proof the underdog can do it. And it will give us a boost for the cup final.  

“Leicester have shattered the glass ceiling, and I thought it was impossible to break. They’ve gone and done it. Amazing.

“Football isn’t all logic. It’s almost like some stardust has fallen on Leicester City Football Club – great for them. Let’s hope it falls on us for the final.”

Palace will go head-to-head with United at Wembley on May 21 in a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup final.

Thu 5 May, 2016
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Keane: United lack character

Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane has given his vote of confidence to manager Louis van Gaal, saying he hopes the board allows him to see out the third and final year of his contract at Old Trafford, though there is a distinct lack of character within the team.

Keane said United are still in transition following the departure of their most successful manager Alex Ferguson in 2013, with Van Gaal struggling to restore the club’s status as the Premier League’s dominant force amid reports link Jose Mourinho with a move to Manchester.

Ferguson oversaw United’s most successful period – in which Keane proved a vital player – and the former Republic of Ireland international said winning the FA Cup ahead of Crystal Palace would represent a successful season for Van Gaal and Co.

“It was always going to be difficult, even for David Moyes, after Alex Ferguson,” said Keane while talking on ESPN’ podcast Beyond the Pitch.

“But I think if United can win the cup — it might be difficult to finish fourth — I don’t see why United won’t let him finish out the last year of his contract.

“I think Van Gaal has made it clear he’d like to do that. And I hope he does.

“I don’t like sitting around watching managers suffering and I think if they can win the FA Cup then it might just give him the breathing space to finish the job off next year — and that, when we’re talking about Manchester United, is winning league titles, et cetera.”

Keane said a complete rebuild was not necessary for United, despite their league struggles.

United topped the Premier League in December but have since fallen into fifth and face a mammoth task to overtake cross-town rivals Manchester City in fourth with three games to play.

“Rebuild is too strong a word but there’s a lot of hard work ahead for Man United because of the competition around,” he said.

“Leicester coming through. Chelsea will be stronger next year. Man City with a new manager. It’s not going to get any easier for United but if they’re going to recruit again this summer — which it looks like they’ll have to — whatever about getting good players, United probably need two or three characters in the team so that on their bad days they’re capable of grinding out results.

“I just think they don’t have enough characters in that team to get them back to winning league titles at this moment.”

Thu 5 May, 2016
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Mata: United can finish fourth and win FA Cup

Juan Mata remains confident Manchester United can secure Champions League football as well as win the FA Cup.

Louis van Gaal’s men sit fifth in the Premier League table with three games left, trailing rivals Manchester City – who have just two matches remaining – by four points, while they meet Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final on May 21.

Mata realises United must be on top of their game in their remaining four fixtures to save their season, but he is hopeful they can end 2015-16 on a high

“We can get both,” Mata told Manchester Evening News.

“I believe that if we win every game in the Premier League we will have a chance to be there. We know that Manchester City and Arsenal have to face each other so maybe then we’ll have the chance.

“But first we have to win our games and we are focused on that. If we don’t win, it’s useless.

“I’m looking to win my first trophy with the club. The FA Cup is a special trophy. It’s been two seasons without a trophy and I am looking forward to lifting my first trophy here.

“But we have to win the final, it is not won yet. We are playing against Crystal Palace and it will be tough, but everyone is looking forward to it.”

Tue 3 May, 2016
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Bilic: I might have to be a Manchester United fan!

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic admits he may have to become a Manchester United fan to secure European football for his side.

Bilic’s men sit sixth in the Premier League – the final Europa League qualifying spot – and one point ahead of seventh-placed Liverpool with four games to go.

However, victory for Manchester United over Crystal Palace in next month’s FA Cup final would see an additional berth allocated to the league, increasing West Ham’s chances of continental football.

“We are feeling really motivated and good,” he told a news conference. “And, of course, we would like to see Manchester United win the FA Cup to give us a cushion as well.

“Of course everything is in our hands, so we would rather do it ourselves than wait a week after the season and be a Manchester United fan.”

A top-four finish is not beyond West Ham, but the eight-point gap to Arsenal makes Champions League qualification unlikely.

“Top four is very hard for us, but we didn’t approach that subject 10 or eight weeks ago. We are still approaching the same way,” added Bilic ahead of Saturday’s clash with West Brom.

“We are still approaching each game as it comes, starting with West Brom. We have a full squad and it’s a big boost for us.

“Top six is a target and has been for quite a while. With four games to go, we have a little gap but we can’t afford to lose games.

“It’s going to be hard with four really tough games and with Liverpool and Southampton there [in seventh and eighth], but we are on a really good run.”

Thu 28 April, 2016
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Van Gaal: I´ve done the best I can with this squad

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes he has done the best he can with the players at his disposal, stressing he has been working with players who do not necessarily possess the qualities he needs.

United sit fifth in the Premier League table with four games to go and booked their ticket for the FA Cup final at the weekend by beating Everton 2-1.

But the Dutchman, whose position at the Old Trafford is the subject of widespread media speculation, believes United could have performed better this season had they had more quick and creative players and not been hit by injuries.

“I have said everything before. We need quick, creative players. I’ve said that, also in the transfer period,” Van Gaal told reporters. 

“That’s a tricky remark of me because I have to manage players whose quality is not always what I want.

“But still we are here, still we are fighting for the fourth place, also we are in the final of the FA Cup. 

“We have played in three competitions, I think we are the team who have played the most matches in this season. We’ve done it with a small group with 14 injuries.

“When everybody was fit, I tell it again, I have said it before. We were first in the league at that time. Then when we had 14 injuries, or the double injuries on the full-back positions, I could not solve that problem.”

Mon 25 April, 2016
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De Gea is so good he´s not human – Herrera

After his heroics in the FA Cup, Ander Herrera insisted “special” Manchester United team-mate David de Gea is the number one goalkeeper in the world.

De Gea helped United reach the FA Cup final on Saturday, saving Romelu Lukaku’s second-half penalty as Louis van Gaal’s side went on to beat Everton 2-1 in dramatic scenes at Wembley.

The Spain international, who was named in the Premier League Team of the Year for a third season, also denied Gerard Deulofeu in a second-half masterclass.

And Herrera was quick to shower De Gea in praise, saying his countryman is so good that he is not human.

“What can I say? I am not objective,” Herrera said.

“He is the number one in the world. In England you know that but in the rest of the world they think they have better goalkeepers, but I don’t think so. When we win titles or trophies I think he will be more recognised.

“He has a special talent. When you are born with that quality and ability, you are so lucky. The rest of the humans, we have to work more. You have to work harder.

“But what I like about him is that he is very calm, he has his feet on the ground. He doesn’t change when it comes to these kind of games so I think he is number one of Spain and in the world and he is my friend so I am very happy for him.”

Of De Gea’s happiness and future at Old Trafford after his move to Real Madrid collapsed last year, Herrera added: “I think he is very happy in Manchester United.

“You can see that. If you are not happy in one place you cannot play like that, so it’s easy to say that.

“We can be calm and optimistic, first because he is in a fantastic club and if we start winning trophies, it’s easier to keep world class players.”

Sun 24 April, 2016
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Satisfied Flores deflects talk of Watford exit

Watford’s FA Cup semi-final performance pleased head coach Quique Sanchez Flores, who refused to discuss his future at the club after a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace left them with little to play for in the season’s closing weeks.

Flores had to battle questions over his future in the build-up to the game after reports suggested that his contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the season.

A promising Premier League campaign, in which the Hornets sat in the top half for long periods, has fizzled out into mid-table safety.

Though disappointed at his failure to lead Watford to a season-ending showpiece fixture, Flores was positive over his side’s progress in 2015-16.

“I am pleased with the performance,” Flores told BBC Sport.

“It was difficult to play Palace who defend with an English style and have pace and power. It was hard to concede the first goal. 

“It took some time to recover. We came back and in the second half we matched Palace.

“In this moment, I feel we had the chance to win the match. The most important thing is that we are competitive in the semi-final.”

With Flores’ future at Vicarage Road such a hot topic pre-match, the Spaniard believes the season will be looked back on favourably, whether it earns him a new contract or not.

“We have a lot of reasons to be happy this season. The main target was to stay in the Premier League,” he said.

“In the future when we look at the history of Watford we will see how important this season was for the club.”

Sun 24 April, 2016
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Bolasie goal was ´homage´ to Pardew´s Liverpool heroics

Alan Pardew says the corner routine that set Crystal Palace on their way to FA Cup semi-final success was an “homage” to his own exploits at the same stage 26 years ago.

Yannick Bolasie nodded home to put Palace on their way to a 2-1 Wembley win over Watford that sealed a final showdown with Manchester United.

Pardew was Palace’s semi-final hero with an extra-time header in 1990 as Liverpool were beaten en route to a final that the Eagles lost to Alex Ferguson’s United, and Bolasie’s effort bore a not entirely unplanned resemblance.

“It was homage to that game, I’m glad it came off because I would have looked stupid,” Pardew told BT Sport.

“It was a chance to show me of course!

“It feels good, we deserved to be in the final. We were excellent and our run’s been very difficult.

“Now we’re playing the biggest team in the world, they probably weren’t in 1990 but they are now and that’s the biggest challenge.”

Pardew hinted before the game that he considered the XI he was able to field as his strongest available, and was quick to hail his players again after they got the job done.

“I’ve only been able to play that team, I think that’s the eighth time today and it’s a solid team,” he explained.

“The game plan was good, we wanted to control from start to finish. We were really on top of our game.

“It’s great for our fans, they are going to love coming back here.”

Bolasie admitted after the match that watching his manager’s heroics back had put him in the mood to strike back on familiar territory, having grown up close to the national stadium.

“We saw a couple of videos yesterday which put us in the mood to get through to a cup final,” the winger said.

“Obviously I’ve grown up round here so it’s a dream come true. I scored at the Emirates too this week and now today so it’s been a double bubble for me. Now we look forward to the final.”

Sun 24 April, 2016
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Crystal Palace 7/5 to win against Watford in this afternoon’s FA Cup semi-final clash

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Crystal Palace to win against Watford
Odds: 7/5 @ William Hill

Crystal Palace and Watford lock horns in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley this afternoon, and it may be Palace who come out on top given their superior form of late. Alan Pardew’s side are slim favourites given their superior form in recent weeks, and have beaten Watford in the league season too.

However, Crystal Palace have had a woeful 2016, picking up only one win in the Premier League from 18. The Londoners have turned things around recently, however, with one win and three draws and in the FA Cup, Palace have been at their best, beating a host of strong Premier League sides to make it to the semis.

As for Watford, the underdogs have really struggled on the road of late. One win from eight in the Premier League sees Quique Sanchez Flores’ men in terrible shape at such a crucial part of the season. Watford are in real danger of missing out of the final given recent form, and William Hill are giving odds of 7/5 for Palace to deliver.

Bet: Crystal Palace to win against Watford in this afternoon’s FA Cup semi-final clash @ 7/5 with William Hill >>

Sun 24 April, 2016
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Is Romelu Lukaku good enough for a Champions League club?

Romelu Lukaku has recently stated he wants a move to a Champions League club, but is he good enough?

Romelu Lukaku has recently stated he wants a move to a Champions League club, but is he good enough?

Everton suffered a devastating 2-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat against Manchester United on Saturday, as French international Anthony Martial scored a 92nd winner to send the Red Devils through to next month’s final.

In truth the side from Merseyside produced a lacklustre display in the first half, but came out in the second half with a far better sense of purpose.

In fact the Toffees could have won the game with a bit of lucky and better finishing from record-signing Romelu Lukaku.

Looked low on confidence

For much of the season Lukaku has looked very good in front of goal, not always taking his chances, but a tally of 18 Premier League goals this season is pretty impressive.

In recent weeks the Belgian has struggled to hit the back of the net and against United the 22-year-old had eight attempts on the United goal, without scoring. The best of Lukaku’s chances came from the penalty spot.

His telegraphed spot-kick was brilliantly saved by David de Gea, but most Everton fans were asking why Lukaku is taking penalty kicks in the first place? Leighton Baines is an expert penalty taker and has missed only one in his career, ironically against United and De Gea.

For such a talented player Lukaku has looked bereft of confidence for the past month or so and his semi-final display summed-up his efforts. ‘He could have played for a month and still probably wouldn’t have score’ was the analyst of one Toffees fan after the game.

Wants to move to a Champions League club

Romelu Lukaku has not helped himself by recently declaring he wants to move to a team playing Champions League football in the near future. Unfortunately for the striker if anybody had seen him play in the last six matches or so, no self-respecting club playing in the Champions League would touch him with a barge pole.

Lukaku has never hidden his ambition and the hope was that his presence in the Everton attack would propel Everton to where he wanted to play. To be fair for much of the campaign the Toffees forward players have done their job pretty well and poor defending has cost the Merseysiders.

If the defence would have played as well as Lukaku for much of the season, Everton would not be in the bottom half of the Premier League table.

Ambition is good, but at 22-years-old there is plenty of time for Lukaku to play for a team in the Champions League. He feels he is ready, but it is just a matter of whether clubs in the Champions League will be prepared to pay the mooted £50-60million asking price on his head.

Lukaku is currently in the race for PFA Young Player of the Year, but is a major outsider at odds of 40/1 to claim the award. The fact Tottenham’s young midfielder Dele Alli is so far ahead of him in the betting suggests that Lukaku still has work to do to become the great player he believes he is already

Big summer ahead for Everton

This summer is a big one for Everton, as the likes of Lukaku, England centre-back John Stones and even attacking midfielder Ross Barkley are all being linked with big money moves.

One of the most important factors for the Toffees this summer is whether boss Roberto Martinez remains in charge at Goodison Park. The Spaniard has been under-fire for the Toffees poor Premier League position this season and the majority of Everton fans seem in favour of the club changing managers.

New majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has promised that there will be funds available to the manager this summer to strengthen the squad. If the Toffees show some ambition then maybe Lukaku will stay at the club.

However he seems itching to test himself at the highest level. The question would be is he ready for the higher level? Many fans watching Lukaku in recent games will say not at the moment.

Romelu Lukaku does not belong at a bottom half team, but most knowledgeable fans would say that Everton are in a false position and that poor tactics and defensive mistakes have cost the Toffees dearly this season.

Whether Lukaku is plying his trade at Goodison Park next season or not, Everton fans will always remember his poor showing against United and his comments about moving to a Champions League club.

Romelu Lukaku does have undoubted talent, but as his showing against United illustrated maybe he is not yet the complete player he believes he is and should continue to develop at Everton for another season at least.

Is Romelu Lukaku good enough for a Champions League club?

Sun 24 April, 2016
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FA Cup glory can start something special at United, says Rooney

Wayne Rooney believes lifting the FA Cup could prove to be “the start of something special” for Manchester United.

Louis van Gaal’s side secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Everton at Wembley on Saturday to reach their first final since 2007, thanks to an injury-time strike from Anthony Martial.

Rooney has twice suffered defeat in the FA Cup final in the past, with United losing to Chelsea in 2007 and Arsenal two years earlier, making it the one domestic trophy the England captain has yet to get his hands on.

And the 30-year-old hopes that bringing an end to his long wait to lift the famous trophy could spark a successful run for United, who have won nothing but the Community Shield since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

“I’ve played in two FA Cup finals and both have ended up in defeat,” he said, as quoted by the club’s official website. “It’s a cup I haven’t been lucky enough to win yet, so it’s a good chance for us.

“Whoever we play in the final, I’m sure it’ll be a tough game for us. I think the fans deserve it – they’ve got to come to Wembley for a cup final, and we have to give them a good performance.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us. There are a lot of young and new players in the dressing room for us so it could be a big day for us in the final and the start of something special for us, I hope.”

Rooney was once more deployed in a deeper role by Van Gaal, with teenager Marcus Rashford preferred in the lone strike position, and the United captain feels he was able to bring a calming influence to the second half after Everton snatched an equaliser through Chris Smalling’s own goal.

“I think you’re obviously more involved in the game, you have a bigger influence from that position,” he said. “I’ve tried to play what I’ve seen and I think it worked, with me and Michael [Carrick] having a bit more experience in there. We helped calm the game down when we needed to, especially after the equaliser, so I enjoyed it.

“I think the amount of games I’ve played – I know I’m still 30 – I try to help them and try and enjoy my football, which I’m doing.”

Watford and Crystal Palace contest the second semi-final on Sunday.

Sun 24 April, 2016
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Carrick: Winning FA Cup would make United´s season a success

Michael Carrick said winning the FA Cup would make Manchester United’s season a successful one, after his side booked their spot in the final with a 2-1 win over Everton on Saturday.

United have struggled in other competitions this season, facing an uphill battle to finish in the Premier League’s top four having looked like title contenders in November, while they also exited the Champions League at the group stage before being dumped from the Europa League by arch rivals Liverpool.

Manager Louis van Gaal faces an uncertain future at the club, but Carrick said if he could lead United to an FA Cup triumph, then the club’s campaign would have to be deemed some sort of success.

“The FA Cup is the FA Cup regardless of everything else,” he said.

“We’re in the final now and we have a chance. We’re not getting carried away because it’s a final and anything can happen.

“But in terms of the season, if you win the FA Cup, then it’s a successful season in some right.”

United earned the right to return to Wembley to contest the final against either Crystal Palace or Watford, who play the other semi-final on Sunday, thanks to Anthony Martial’s injury-time winner.

But Carrick and Co. had to survive some heavy pressure in the second half before Martial came up with the winner.

United dominated the first half and took a 1-0 lead into the break, before David de Gea had to save a Romelu Lukaku penalty.

Everton eventually equalised through a Chris Smalling own goal, but Martial’s intervention ensured United moved into the final on a day where Carrick said the only thing that mattered was winning.

“You expect [Everton] to come forward in the second half because it’s a cup semi-final and they’ve caused us some problems,” Carrick added.

“But to win like we did was a phenomenal feeling.

“Today was about getting through regardless of the performance.”

Sun 24 April, 2016
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Fosu-Mensah thanks De Gea for penalty save

Manchester United defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah cut a cool and calm figure when he faced the media after his side’s 2-1 FA Cup semi-final triumph on Saturday, but he made his relief clear on Twitter.

The 18-year-old gave away a penalty with United 1-0 up in the second half of the game when he slid in on Ross Barkley as Everton piled on the pressure at Wembley, but David de Gea got down low to his right to turn away Romelu Lukaku’s spot-kick.

Everton went on to score anyway after Chris Smalling put the ball in the back of the net with 15 minutes remaining, but Fosu-Mensah was glad to have his blushes spared by the Spaniard in United’s goal.

United won the game in the injury time thanks to Anthony Martial’s clinical finish.

“Thank you David,” the Dutch defender tweeted after the game.

 

Fosu-Mensah said he was learning with every passing game at United and thanked his team-mates for supporting him.

“It’s very big for a young boy [to play for Manchester United], I just turned 18 two months ago,” he told reporters after the game.

“But I have the right players around me. Players like Daley [Blind], Wayne [Rooney], [Michael] Carrick and [Chris] Smalling. They all help me.

“The manager helps me, [assistant manager Ryan] Giggs, everyon helps, so I’m happy with the support I get and I try and learn every day because I can learn a lot still.”

Veteran midfielder Michael Carrick joined Fosu-Mensah in praising De Gea, but was mainly relieved to progress to the final.

“They scored after the penalty anyway, and when they scored, I thought we had come back into the game a bit more, but Dave has been making saves like that for so many years now,” Carrick said.

“I’d prefer if he had quieter games to be honest.”

Sun 24 April, 2016
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Van Gaal has discussed United future with board

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he has discussed his future with the board but is not prepared to do so with the media.

Van Gaal has been under pressure following a below-par second season at Old Trafford, with United four points off adrift of a Champions League qualification place with four games remaining. 

But the Dutchman was provided with some cause for celebration as Anthony Martial’s stoppage-time winner ensured a 2-1 FA Cup semi-final victory over Everton at Wembley on Saturday.

Despite United’s progress in that competition, there is widespread speculation Van Gaal will leave the club at the end of the campaign, with Jose Mourinho touted as a potential successor.

Asked about his future Van Gaal told a post-match media conference: “I’m not looking beyond this competition.

“We live with pressure. For the future I have discussed that with my board and not with you.”

Martial’s coolly taken winner came after Chris Smalling’s own-goal had cancelled out Marouane Fellaini’s opener, with Romelu Lukaku seeing a penalty saved by United goalkeeper David de Gea prior to Everton’s leveller.

On Martial, Van Gaal added: “He can do much better because I see still a lot of things he can improve on and he shall improve because only by training and playing can you improve.

“But also when you are playing at a higher level you improve also. When you are older you know all the things shall happen again. Then you have experience and can decide much better in the same situations as before.

“I don’t think he is a striker, he is more a wing player. But maybe in the future [he could be a striker].

“But I don’t think so. He’s another type of striker than Ruud van Nistelrooy or other examples of Manchester United strikers.”

Sat 23 April, 2016
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Everton 1-2 Manchester United: Five things we learned as Red Devils earn their place in FA Cup final

Anthony Martial repaying his hefty fee / Image via express.co.uk

Anthony Martial repaying his hefty fee / Image via express.co.uk

Manchester United were forced to work hard to reach their first FA Cup final since 2007 as Anthony Martial scored in stoppage time to beat Everton at Wembley.

It was one of the most exciting semi-finals the competition has seen in years and here are the five things we learned:

Two different halves

Former Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini opened the scoring as he swept home Martial’s pass in what has been a half overly dominant from Manchester United.

The Toffees came back after the break with a completely different attitude as they started pressing high and putting a lot of intensity into their play.

David de Gea saved Romelu Lukaku’s penalty, but Everton did manage to level the score when Chris Smalling turned Deulofeu’s cross into his own net.

And when it seemed that the match would go into extra time, Martial drove home the winner having latched on Herrera’s through ball sending the Red Devils into finals following 90 minutes of entertaining football at Wembley.

Poor defending took centre stage

Everton’s defensive struggles were well documented even before the Saturday’s match with Manchester United as Roberto Martinez had plenty of problems selecting the back four in the first place.

Baines, Jagielka, Stones and Muhamed Besic as make-shift right back were desperate at times, particularly in the first half of the game.

John Stones is not the same player he had been only a year ago, as it seems that his major slump in form coincided with increase of the transfer rumours regarding his future at Everton. All the talk about Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona monitoring the England defender have seemingly gotten the better of Stones and the appearance against Manchester United was not one of his best.

Besic tried to get into the new role, but the Everton midfielder failed to cope with the pace of Anthony Martial who destroyed the Everton man to set up Marouane Fellaini with the opening goal.

The tables have turned in the second half and it was up to Manchester United defence to come under the spotlight.

With Everton gaining pace and getting their foot in front, Manchester United’s defence line had plenty of problems containing their rivals and keeping them at an arm’s length.

Rojo, Blind and Smalling in particular, with his terrible intervention when he tried to clear the ball, but ended up sending it past David de Gea instead gave Louis van Gaal a huge headache. Manchester United lack a commanding presence at the back and the club will need to be active during summer in order to bring worthy replacements for Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Fosu-Mensah and Rashford United’s bright future

He might lose his job at the end of the season as he failed to accomplish what he had been brought to Old Trafford for, but Louis van Gaal deserves great praise for (at least) one thing.

The experienced manager was never too shy and afraid to throw young guns into fire and football-loving world will be forever grateful for what he’s done with numerous players in his early coaching days and it is enough to mention just one of them – Thomas Muller.

The beginning of his reign suggested a different scenario as Van Gaal’s every wish was granted and we saw plenty of players pour in as the club turned their back on Fergi’s philosophy to nurture young talent into the squad.

However, at the moment when injuries did their part, the Dutch manager was forced to get back to his roots as he introduced Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Marcus Rashford to the big stage and the 18-year-old academy products repaid his trust with impressive performances.

Such was the FA Cup semi-final display from the duo as well as their overwhelming desire and commitment are indeed a breath of fresh air. Manchester United have two shining pearls at their disposal and would be best off to nurture and take a good care of these two as they have the potential to become world-class players.

Wayne Rooney a huge impact

Manchester United captain has had an impressive match against Everton.

England international has displayed commendable commitment and extraordinary work rate to help his team achieve the ultimate goal.

Fitted in the role of a holding midfielder, Wayne Rooney replied with an impressive display having been a huge impact in United’s play, both in attack and in defence.

The 30-year-old England international made a crucial clearance just five minutes in the game, when he intervened on De Gea’s goal line to clear Lukaku’s effort on the open goal, and it might have been a quite important moment for the team in the end.

Rooney is getting back to his best and Roy Hodgson is right to stick with his choice to award Wayne with the reserved spot for the Euro 2016.

Roberto Martinez should start packing his bags

With his side winless since their FA Cup match against Chelsea on 12 March, Roberto Martinez took the blame for Everton slump accepting the responsibility.

His position is now under serious threat as there is a widespread feeling among supporters that the manager has lost the plot and is failing to get the best out of his squad.

Highly talented crop of players is at Martinez’s disposal and the Everton boss did manage to get it all out on the surface at the beginning of the season, but Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, John Stones and Gerrard Deulofeu have been widely underachieving in recent years and manager is likely to face the consequences after the most recent loss against Manchester United.

EVERTON: Robles 6 – Besic 5.5, Stones 6, Jagielka 6.5, Baines 6.5 – McCarthy 6, Gibson 6.5 (Mirallas 6) – Lennon 6 (Deulofeu 7), Barkley 6.5, Cleverley 6.5 – Lukaku 7.

Unused subs: Hibbert, Howard, Osman, Oviedo, Pennington.

MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea 7.5 – Fosu-Mensah 7 (Valencia 6.5), Smalling 5, Blind 6, Rojo 6.5 – Carrick 7 – Lingard 6.5, Fellaini 8 (Herrera 6.5), Rooney 7.5, Martial 8 – Rashford 7.

Unused subs: Darmian, Depay, Mata, Romero, Schneiderlin.

REFEREE: Anthony Taylor

Sat 23 April, 2016
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Martinez: Semi-final loss hard to take for Everton

Under-fire Everton manager Roberto Martinez found it hard to swallow his team’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United after Anthony Martial struck decisively in stoppage time.

Returning to action after their chastening 4-0 Merseyside derby loss against Liverpool, Everton still appeared to be feeling the effects as they were second best for much of the first hour.

Marouane Fellaini opened the scoring for United against his former club before Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, whose scoring touch deserted him throughout the match at Wembley, had a 57th-minute penalty saved by David De Gea.

That near miss galvanised Martinez’s men and they pressed forward to deservedly equalise through a Chris Smalling own-goal.

Everton appeared the more likely winners despite the wayward Lukaku before Martial created and finished superbly three minutes into injury time.

“It is a hard result to take,” Martinez told BBC Sport. “Over the 90 minutes we at least deserved the right to go into extra time.

“We were a little sluggish in the first half but we got the equaliser but to concede in injury time is a blow nobody deserved.

“I thought the fight we showed was really strong, a team with incredible togetherness.

“The support we had behind us was terrific. We coped with the tough period in the first half and we were strong mentally to cope. 

“The longer the game went on, the bigger chance we had. The game was going our way, the chances were coming and I felt we were the stronger team.

“It is tough to lose a semi-final because the feeling is a very undeserved feeling. If you are going to lose a tie that is the way you lose it, creating chances and in the second half we were the better side.”

Questions increased over Martinez’s long-term future at Everton following their Anfield debacle but the former Wigan Athletic boss was pleased by the response his players produced.

“There was no comparison between today [Saturday] and Anfield,” he added.

“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong but [this] was the opposite. We reacted with an incredible fight and togetherness.

“The performance was a typical Everton response.”

Sat 23 April, 2016
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De Gea lauds semi-final hero Martial

David De Gea was happy to pay tribute to Manchester United matchwinner Anthony Martial despite his own heroics in the thrilling 2-1 FA Cup semi-final triumph against Everton.

Spain goalkeeper De Gea magnificently kept out Romelu Lukaku’s second-half penalty and was regularly called upon as Everton piled on late pressure.

Chris Smalling’s own goal cancelled out Marouane Fellaini’s first-half opener with 15 minutes to play but, in stoppage time, France forward Martial crowned a superb individual showing by driving forward to settle the contest and book a final berth against either Crystal Palace or Watford.

“In one second, one action, he scores a goal,” De Gea told BBC Sport.

“He’s unbelievable. We won the game in the last minute – it’s unbelievable.”

On his efforts to keep out a well-struck spot-kick from Lukaku, Everton’s top scorer who endured a nightmare afternoon in front of goal, De Gea added: “It was a key moment, they played really well and had some chances at the end, but we played really well. We’re really happy.

“It is really important for us, for the fans and for the club [to win the FA Cup]. We [also] want to finish in the top four.”

Fellaini delighted in scoring against his former employers, who he left to join United under ex-Everton boss David Moyes in 2013.

The Belgium international has endured torrid moments during his time at Old Trafford but is now eyeing Wembley glory, having fallen short for Everton against Chelsea in the 2009 FA Cup final.

“Yes it was a tough game,” he said, speaking alongside De Gea. “Everton put on a lot of pressure in the second half.

“After I arrived with Everton I was in a final. Now I’m in one with United, I’m so happy for the club.”

Sat 23 April, 2016
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De Gea lauds semi-final hero Martial

David De Gea was happy to pay tribute to Manchester United matchwinner Anthony Martial despite his own heroics in the thrilling 2-1 FA Cup semi-final triumph against Everton.

Spain goalkeeper De Gea magnificently kept out Romelu Lukaku’s second-half penalty and was regularly called upon as Everton piled on late pressure.

Chris Smalling’s own goal cancelled out Marouane Fellaini’s first-half opener with 15 minutes to play but, in stoppage time, France forward Martial crowned a superb individual showing by driving forward to settle the contest and book a final berth against either Crystal Palace or Watford.

“In one second, one action, he scores a goal,” De Gea told BBC Sport.

“He’s unbelievable. We won the game in the last minute – it’s unbelievable.”

On his efforts to keep out a well-struck spot-kick from Lukaku, Everton’s top scorer who endured a nightmare afternoon in front of goal, De Gea added: “It was a key moment, they played really well and had some chances at the end, but we played really well. We’re really happy.

“It is really important for us, for the fans and for the club [to win the FA Cup]. We [also] want to finish in the top four.”

Fellaini delighted in scoring against his former employers, who he left to jo
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in United under ex-Everton boss David Moyes in 2013.

The Belgium international has endured torrid moments during his time at Old Trafford but is now eyeing Wembley glory, having fallen short for Everton against Chelsea in the 2009 FA Cup final.

“Yes it was a tough game,” he said, speaking alongside De Gea. “Everton put on a lot of pressure in the second half.

“After I arrived with Everton I was in a final. Now I’m in one with United, I’m so happy for the club.”

Sat 23 April, 2016
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Van Gaal slams referee Taylor despite FA Cup semi-final joy

Louis van Gaal criticised referee Anthony Taylor despite seeing Manchester United progress to the FA Cup final with a last-gasp 2-1 win over Everton on Saturday.

Marouane Fellaini opened the scoring for United against his former club in the 34th minute before David de Gea produced a fine save down to his right to prevent Romelu Lukaku from levelling matters from the penalty spot 12 minutes after half-time following Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s foul on Ross Barkley.

Everton did equalise 15 minutes from the end when Chris Smalling put the ball into his own net but Anthony Martial’s cool finish in the third additional minute ensured there would be no extra half-hour or a penalty shoot-out, sending United into their first FA Cup final since 2007.

Roberto Martinez’s men had chances to win the game themselves, but Van Gaal felt Everton’s second-half revival was predominantly down to the decisions of Taylor.

The Dutchman told BBC Sport: “It’s fantastic, when you see the joy in the eyes of the players, fantastic to see but also for the fans.

“I think we deserved to go in the final. I think the referee, we didn’t have any foul in our benefit. He changed the match I think.

“We had so many chances, we could have finished it much earlier.

“They [Everton] came in the match because they get all the fouls, all the fouls around the 60 metre area, then the fans of Everton were cheering. In the first half and before that, no [they were not].

“The referees are deciding the game and not the players anymore.”

Sat 23 April, 2016
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Time for positivity from Everton fans

Everton fans must get behind boss Roberto Martinez, even if only for today

Everton fans must get behind boss Roberto Martinez, even if only for today

Everton fans are accustomed to highs and lows in recent years, as following the Blues is a bit like being on a rollercoaster at times.

In recent years the Toffees position in the Premier League table has been stable and gone are the horrible 1990’s and early 2000’s relegation battles.

This season Toffees fans have turned against Spanish boss Roberto Martinez and rightly so.

However, all those opinions about Martinez need to be forgotten for later today Everton face Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

Problems mounting for Roberto Martinez

There is no getting away from Everton’s problems. The Toffees have struggled to fulfil their potential in the Premier League and their recent form has not been great. The last time the Toffees recorded a win was in the quarter-finals of this competition, when Romelu Lukaku destroyed his old team Chelsea to give the Toffees a memorable 2-0 win.

Not only is their form poor, but the Merseysiders now have a major defensive crisis on their hands. Full-back Seamus Coleman has been ruled out through injury, while Ramiro Funes Mori will serve a suspension for his dismissal against Liverpool on Wednesday.

England international Phil Jagielka is also expected to miss out through injury, while youngster John Stones is expected to recover from a stomach problem sustained in the derby.

Even experienced midfielder Gareth Barry, who has played at centre-back in the past, is doubtful for the Toffees. It all means that the Toffees may need to play players out of position with the likes of Muhamed Besic and James McCarthy possible candidates to fill in at centre-back.

Everton fans have always inspired their teams

Everton fans have had to endure some tough times in the recent past and some absolutely awful teams, simply because the club could no longer compete financially.

The one thing that usually rescued the team was the often ferocious Everton fans at Goodison Park. The fans got the team up and the players responded to the fervent support.

The old ‘Dogs of war’ days saw a great harmony between the players and the fans, as those players were not the best technical players, but they gave everything for the team. That is all that Everton fans ask of their players.

In recent displays, especially the one at Anfield, the Toffees players have looked like they just don’t care about the result, which in a football fans book is the worst possible crime.

Everton fans have the power to help their side through to the FA Cup final by putting to one side their feelings towards Roberto Martinez and give the Toffees players all their support. Everton needs their full support for the semi-final clash.

Everton thrive as underdogs

There is something about being underdogs that Everton have enjoyed in the tough times. In 1995, when the Blues last won the FA Cup they were fancied by few to beat today’s opponents, but against all odds they did it and brought the trophy back to Merseyside.

Even less-bitter Liverpool fans begrudgingly attended the bus parading of the trophy around the city and it was a great day for the club. Everton once more go into a clash against United as underdogs at odds of 10/3.

The Toffees had a habit of upsetting the richer clubs though and Everton never like to do anything the easy way. Some of that old ‘Dogs of war’ spirit is needed today, because make no mistake about it the odds are firmly against an Everton win against United.

Former-Everton hero and cup final winner Duncan Ferguson is now on the coaching staff at Everton, so maybe he will have a few words of advice to help those Everton players through today and to a victory.

Big Dunc loved the big occasion. He is a man of few words in the media, but hopefully his presence on the bench and in the dressing room can motivate the players, even if Martinez’s does not.

Even if Roberto Martinez is not the man to move the club forward in the long-term, the former-Wigan boss needs the fans support today and not their criticism. If the Toffees lose then the tough questions can be asked.

However, for today every Evertonian must band together as one in support of the team, as the Toffees need all the help they can get to make it to their first FA Cup final since 2009.

Can Roberto Martinez guide Everton the FA Cup final?

Sat 23 April, 2016
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Deeney: Time to make history

Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace provides Watford’s players with the chance to write their names into the club’s history books, says Troy Deeney.

A place in the cup final for the first time since 1984 is on offer for Quique Sanchez Flores’ men, with Watford having all-but secured their Premier League survival.

Victory over West Brom last Saturday took them past 40 points in the league, while a 2-1 triumph against Arsenal sealed their last-four spot in the cup.

And Deeney believes a cup final berth added to their league success would see the current squad go down in Watford history.

“I was confident we would do well at the start of the season,” he told the club’s official website.

“But in terms of the FA Cup and the 41-point mark at this stage, then I would have bitten your hand off and I’m sure that’s the same for all the players and fans.

“But now we’re in this position, we don’t want to just tail off and say that was an alright season. Now we want to make it special.

“The word legend is banded around a lot in football but we’re actually in a position where we can make that happen, so that’s the biggest incentive. 

“Forget money, forget prizes, you can be a Watford legend and I’m ready for that.

“This is now our time to make history.”

Sat 23 April, 2016
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Everton FA Cup hero Rideout slams Martinez tactics

Everton FA Cup hero Paul Rideout has criticised Roberto Martinez’s lack of contingencies ahead of the club’s semi-final against Manchester United.

Rideout, who scored the winner in the club’s famous 1995 FA Cup final win over United, said while Martinez encouraged good football, he needed to learn the darker side of the game if he was going to push Everton up the table.

Runs to the last four of both domestic cup competitions this season have done little to quell the critics for Martinez, with Everton coming into Saturday’s game at Wembley without a win in seven Premier League outings.

“I think he knows he is in trouble,” Rideout told the BBC.

“I like the way he plays the game. I just think you have to have a little bit of the other side and I don’t think he has shown that.

“You have to realise that it isn’t working after several games and change it. As soon as Everton concede it is like ‘oh, it is going to be one of those games’.”

Martinez needs to beat United to boost his chances of surviving in his job after a terrible Premier League campaign that got even worse in a 4-0 drubbing against Liverpool in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.

The magic of the cup could yet save Martinez, however, as Rideout said winning the famous trophy could provide a lifetime of memories for players and fans alike.

“It was a great day,” said Rideout of the 1995 final. “I am still living off it after all these years.

“We were happy to avoid relegation and we were enjoying our day out, but we knew we had a chance and went there in a confident mood.

“After we scored we knew we would be in for a tough 60 minutes but we hung in there.”

Sat 23 April, 2016
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Flores urges Watford to carry cup form

Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores urged his team to carry confidence from their Arsenal upset into their FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace.

Flores’ men have been on a fine run in the cup, including a stunning 2-1 victory over Arsene Wenger’s team in the last eight.

The Spaniard hopes that win, and the belief after it, can inspire his team at Wembley on Sunday.

“We beat the champions of this competition for the last two years in their stadium, so we have amazing feelings in this competition,” Flores said.

“We have been a serious team, trying to be competitive, trying to play well, trying to be honest with ourselves, so this is our idea and this is what we want to transmit.

“We need to be completely responsible because we are defending Watford, 30,000 fans will go there, and we have an amazing responsibility, because we would like to be in the final.”

Watford and Palace have met twice this season, a 1-0 win for the latter followed by a 2-1 victory for the former.

Flores said he had taken plenty out of those clashes.

“What we’ve learned is that Crystal Palace have an amazing team. They have a very good manager, and their players have done very well,” he said.

“They mix an English style with very good players and forwards, and they are a very dangerous team so we need to try to plan in the best way that is possible. 

“When you arrive at this point in this kind of competition, the teams are normally really positive because you need to win a lot of matches to arrive at a semi-final. 

“The feelings we have in this competition are really good, but we need to take care of the little details, take good decisions and try to be calm, because it’s not a moment to have fear.” 

Sat 23 April, 2016
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Lingard: United youngsters are fearless

Manchester United’s impressive youngsters are fearless, according to Jesse Lingard.

Lingard, a United academy graduate himself, has warned Everton that they should not expect him and his younger team-mates to be overawed by the sense of occasion ahead of what will be a first run out at Wembley for many of them.

Lingard is the most senior player of the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Tim Fosu-Mensah, who are all in consideration for the crunch semi-final.

“I am pretty much fearless, like the other young players as well that are coming into the squad now like Rashford and Martial,” he said.

“We just play with no fear and at the end of the day you are just playing football with your friends, pretty much. We are still adapting and getting used to it and that means we are going to be far more confident next year as well.

“But obviously now you still have to win the game. We have got a trophy to win and league games to win to get into the top four so everyone has got to be at it.

“To win the FA Cup would give everyone a lift – the fans, the staff at the club and everyone can go into next season a lot stronger and more confident.”

And the 23-year-old relishes leading his younger team-mates in battle, as seen in the most recent Manchester derby when the slight-framed attacking midfielder shoved the likes of Martin Demichelis, Eliaquim Mangala and others who were roughing up 18-year-old Rashford.

“Things like that … you can’t be getting pushed around by three City guys so someone had to step in,” the United winger said.

“On the pitch you are never going to really fight but I was squaring up to Fernandinho. It’s one of them where it’s an intense game so something was bound to happen.”

Lingard was at Wembley when United lost the 2011 Champions League final to Barcelona and remembers the enormity of the occasion.

“I remember watching the Barcelona game with the rest of the youth lads and thinking, ‘This is massive, with a massive pitch and a great atmosphere’,” he said.

“I’ve been there a few times and haven’t played so I just want to be out there playing.”

Sat 23 April, 2016
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Martinez takes blame for Everton slump

Everton manager Roberto Martinez admits the criticism against him during the side’s slump has been justified as they prepare for their biggest game of the season. 

Martinez and Co. head to Wembley on Saturday for an FA Cup semi-final against Premier League counterparts Manchester United. 

However, Everton are coming off a 4-0 thumping at the hands of local rivals Liverpool and are winless in their last six games in all competitions. 

Martinez believes the stick he has received during their poor run of form is justified but insists his only focus is on beating United into the final.

“When you lose games the criticism is justified,” the Spaniard said. “As a manager, the same way you get idolised, there are extreme emotions. I have to accept it and I need to be responsible. 

“My position as a manager is always questioned. As a manager you are always three defeats from being questioned. I don’t think that has changed. 

“Sometimes it’s in a public manner and more highlighted and there are different circumstances, but the position of the manager is never guaranteed. I don’t think any manager expects that.”

He added: “Since the quarter-final of the FA Cup the results have not been good enough so any manager should be under scrutiny. That is part of our position – down to the results. 

“But, believe me, it is not in my mind because now is not the time. At the moment the focus is all on the FA Cup and seizing the opportunity. It is 10 months of hard work to get into this position. 

“I am not wasting time on things I cannot control. Everything is about the semi-final and how we can get players ready for a big sporting occasion. Everything else is for the end of the season.”

Fri 22 April, 2016
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FA Cup a ´success´ but top-four finish crucial – Van Gaal

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal feels winning the FA Cup would represent a successful season, but said Champions League qualification is more important.

Van Gaal’s men take on Everton in a cup semi-final on Saturday but are fifth in the Premier League, two points adrift of rivals Manchester City in the race for Champions League football.

The Dutchman, however, said a trophy represented a successful campaign, although he knows the importance of a top-four finish.

“I think it is always a success when you win the title,” Van Gaal said.

“For the club it is more important, I have said that already a lot of times, to qualify for the Champions League, because we have to show ourselves at the highest level. And that was also our aim.

“I think always when you win a title it brings again something where Manchester United stands for.

“We have had a period of a lot of titles and we want to bring it back and when you win the FA Cup you have a title and a very respectable title in England – more than other countries.”

Van Gaal’s men are favourites to reach the FA Cup decider, taking on a struggling Everton side with manager Roberto Martinez under growing pressure.

Coming off a 4-0 Merseyside derby loss to Liverpool, Martinez’s side are sure to be hurting, leaving Van Gaal wary.

“When I see the people on the streets, they are so excited. You can feel already for the fans that it is fantastic,” he said.

“But we are only in the semi-final and not the final and I want to speak about Everton because it is not a piece of cake.

“We have to beat Everton and in spite of them losing 4-0, we have showed already this season that we have lost against Arsenal and the next match we have won.

“So Everton can do that also after Liverpool. And when you are winning, you can also lose. In spite of them having a lot of injuries I have read, still they have the chance to beat us.”

Fri 22 April, 2016
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Pardew urges players to repeat his own cup heroics

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew believes he can serve as the perfect inspiration for his players ahead of the FA Cup semi-final against Watford.

The Premier League counterparts meet at Wembley on Sunday to contest for a place in the season-ending showpiece and it is a stage of the competition to provoke fond memories for both Pardew and Palace.

During his playing days with the Selhurst Park club, Pardew scored an extra-time winner against Liverpool in 1990 to take Palace to their first and only FA Cup final.

“One of them could end up like I was as a player,” said the former Newcastle United boss at a pre-match news conference.

“As a manager you are never going to be the hero. The real hero is going to be the one who scores the winning goal or has a great game. That is who the fans remember.

“And I want it to be James McArthur or Yohan Cabaye or Wilfried Zaha or Yannick Bolasie. I want it to be one of my players.

“They have that opportunity and I really hope it comes to one of our players.”

A once promising season in the Premier League for Palace has fallen away dramatically, with Pardew’s men claiming a solitary top-flight win in 2016.

But their manager has first-hand experience of the galvanising effect that reaching a cup final can have across the club and beyond.

“When I look back to 1990 I remember our fanbase for that game and it was completely different after,” he explained.

“We had grabbed the community a little bit. And I hope we do that again this time. I think we need to win the semi-final to really grab it.

“So it is a great opportunity for us. And on the playing side we have an opportunity to win a trophy that does not come around very often.

“We have to understand that this is special in the history of this club.” 

Fri 22 April, 2016
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Crystal Palace v Watford: Flores stresses job is safe ahead of FA Cup semi-final

Quique Sanchez Flores has insisted his future as Watford head coach is secure and urged supporters to focus on Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Crystal Palace at Wembley.

Speculation has grown that the Spaniard could lose his job at the end of the season after just three Premier League victories since the turn of the year has seen the Hornets slip to 12th.

But Flores was quick to commit himself to Vicarage Road as he looks to take the club to a first FA Cup final since 1984.

“My future is completely happy,” Flores told reporters. “Because I have an amazing family, amazing kids, I am happy with my profession and I am completely happy with Watford fans.

“So my future is completely safe and is not important in this conversation. This conversation is about this match and Crystal Palace. The only thing I am worried about is this match.

“This is time to talk about Watford. Talk about Watford fans and how important this is for this club. I want to enjoy this experience and enjoy the last part of the season.”

Watford and Palace hold away wins over each other in the Premier league this season, with a late Troy Deeney strike sealing a 2-1 win at Selhurst Park in February in their last encounter.

“This kind of match is difficult because we know each other perfectly,” said Flores. 

“Both games were very competitive and even, so the difference is probably short in this moment between Crystal Palace and Watford.”

Watford made seven changes and rested key personnel for their 3-1 midweek loss to West Ham, including prolific striking duo Odion Ighalo and Deeney. Both are expected to come straight back into the side.

Nordin Amrabat is suspended following his red card at Upton Park. 

The two sides last squared off at Wembley in the 2013 Championship play-off final, which was won 1-0 by Palace thanks to a Kevin Phillips penalty.

It is Crystal Palace’s first FA Cup semi-final appearance since 1995 when they lost after a replay to Manchester United.

Alan Pardew called on the Premier League to look again at rules which mean English teams cannot play domestic fixtures on European nights, as he says it has caused a fixture pile-up.

“We’re really squeezing games in,” he said. “The run we’ve had – this is our fourth game in 12 days. That’s a tough run when you’ve got a semi-final, the biggest game in this club’s history for a while – since the play-off final for sure.”

Speaking about the semi-final, Pardew said: “When we’re in full flow, I think we have the edge on Watford. But their front two can do such damage. It’ll be tight.”

A host of Crystal Palace players missed Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat to Manchester United with minor injuries, but Scott Dann, Yannick Bolasie, Joe Ledley, Joel Ward and Dwight Gayle are all expected to be fit.

James McArthur, who returned on Wednesday after 10 weeks out with ankle ligament damage, is fit to play a part. 

 

Key Opta Stats:

– This is Crystal Palace’s first appearance in the FA Cup semi-final since 1995. They’ve been eliminated in three of their four previous semi-final appearances, the exception being in 1990 when they beat Liverpool 4-3.
–  Watford have reached the FA Cup semi-final for the first time since 2007. They’ve lost four of their five previous games at this stage, but did beat Plymouth Argyle in 1984 to reach the final.
–  Palace have lost only two of their last 11 meetings with the Hornets in all competitions (W7 D2).
–  However, Watford hold the edge in the FA Cup, losing just one of the previous six FA Cup games against Palace (W3 D2). Their last meeting ended in a 4-3 in Round 4 in 2009.

Fri 22 April, 2016
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