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