FA Cup

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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Funes Mori escapes Everton punishment, Jagielka doubtful

Roberto Martinez says Ramiro Funes Mori has not been disciplined internally after his sending off against Liverpool, while Phil Jagielka faces a late fitness test ahead of Everton’s FA Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Funes Mori saw red for a tackle which injured Divock Origi in the 4-0 derby defeat at Anfield on Wednesday, the Argentine then grabbing the crest on his shirt as he left the field in what could be interpreted as a provocative gesture.

Addressing the media on Friday, Martinez revealed he has taken no further action against the defender, who is suspended for the match against Manchester United at Wembley this weekend as a consequence of his dismissal.

Asked if Funes Mori, who issued an apology to Origi on Thursday, has been punished behind the scenes, the manager said: “No, I had a conversation with Ramiro.

“Because of the proximity of the semi-final, the preparation has been about the next game. It’s an incident that we spoke about. It’s water under the bridge now.

“As a team it was a really tough moment. That’s not the sort of incident you want to allow the referee to make a decision on.”

Tom Cleverley, Leighton Baines and Aaron Lennon, who have recently returned to fitness, emerged unscathed from the Liverpool defeat, but Martinez is still waiting to determine the availability of several key men.

Jagielka suffered a hamstring injury against Watford on April 9, while a groin problem and illness respectively forced Gareth Barry and John Stones to be substituted at Anfield.

“Seamus Coleman will be missing the semi-final,” Martinez said of his Irish full-back, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury..

“We’re going to have a late fitness test today with Phil Jagielka [and] Gareth Barry. John Stones, we’re quite positive about.

“Medically, I wouldn’t expect Phil to be fit. Since he picked up the injury, it’s only been a short amount of time.

“We’re not going to say no. We’re going to treat his feelings rather than the injury and we’ll see how that shapes up going into the game.” 

As for the mood in the camp after a derby loss that has heaped further pressure on Martinez, the under-fire manager said: “We carry hurt. That’s normal after what happened.

“The focus is [on] the opportunity of being in the semi-final of the FA Cup. It’s only the third time in 20 years. Nobody at Everton is taking that lightly.”

Fri 22 April, 2016
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Prediction: Everton vs Manchester United

The 4-0 loss in the Merseyside derby was not exactly the perfect way to prepare for the FA Cup semi-final date with Manchester United at Wembley, meaning Everton will have to show massive improvement if they want to remain in the hunt for the coveted title. The Red Devils, on the other hand, made it five wins in last six fixtures, and they head into the high-profile game in excellent spirits.


Everton appointed Roberto Martinez as their new manager in 2013, hoping the Spaniard will help the team make the next step and break into the Premier League top 4, but fast forward three years and the Toffees are much closer to the bottom three than the Champions League positions. And with the players like Lukaku, Barkley, Stones, Baines and McCarthy in the squad, it is hardly surprising that the fans are disappointed by team’s showings this season, with second successive bottom table finish on the cards. The reality is that Roberto Martinez is in danger of getting the sack, and the only way to ensure at least another year at the helm is by winning the FA Cup trophy. Considering that Man Utd, Crystal Palace and Watford are the other three sides left in the competition, that would not normally be such a difficult task, but if we take one look at Everton’s showings over the last few weeks, the perspective quickly changes. The Toffees are not only winless in last six games, but they have lost three of those, scoring just two goals in the process, and having suffered an embarrassing defeat to rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside derby, they don’t seem capable of reversing the trend against Manchester United.

Team News

John Stones and Gareth Barry should be fit to play despite suffering knocks in the Liverpool game, but Ramiro Funes Mori is suspended.

Seamus Coleman has failed to recover from injury, meaning that Bryan Oviedo will again start at right-back, while Muhamed Besic and Tom Cleverley are pushing for starting places.

Manchester United

What looked like another very disappointing season for Manchester United could ultimately turn into a success, if the Red Devils manage to keep the rich vein of form. And while Louis van Gaal has got to be given credit for giving so many talented footballers a chance to shine, the results have simply not been good enough this term. But, Man Utd still have time to make things right considering that the impressive run of four wins in last five Premier League fixtures saw them close the gap behind fourth-placed Manchester City to mere two points ahead of the final four games. At the same time, the Red Devils have got an excellent opportunity to lift the first FA Cup trophy since 2004, as they are now 5/4 favourites to lift the coveted title. Manchester United head into the semi-final clash against Everton in much better spirits than the opposition, buoyed by successive wins over West Ham, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, and they will also attempt to take advantage of the fact that the Toffees will be under tremendous pressure seeing as how this is their final chance to salvage the season.

Team News

Captain Wayne Rooney should keep his place after proving his fitness, while Chris Smalling has recovered from the injury he suffered against Palace.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, Adnan Januzaj and Luke Shaw are all unavailable, whereas Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini are likely to play a part.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Man Utd won both fixtures vs Everton this season
  • Only one of last eight meetings saw both teams score
  • Everton are winless in last six matches (D3 L3)
  • Man Utd have five wins in last six games (L1)
  • The Red Devils kept four clean sheets during said period


Everton have largely struggled for form of late and having just suffered a 4-0 loss to local rivals Liverpool, we don’t see how they are going to upset Man Utd at Wembley. The Red Devils, on the other hand, have been on top of their game in recent weeks and they should have no problems booking a ticket for a return to Wembley.

Verdict: Away win

Best Odds: 1/1

Bookmaker: William Hill

Fri 22 April, 2016
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Van Gaal: Fosu-Mensah can be like Schweinsteiger

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has likened Tim Fosu-Mensah to a young Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Van Gaal, who worked with the Germany captain at Bayern Munich before signing him for United in the off-season, said he could see Fosu-Mensah tracking a similar career path to Schweinsteiger in the years to come.

Schweinsteiger started his career as a right winger before becoming an influential figure in the middle of the park when Van Gaal took the reins at Bayern, going on to star for club and country in that position.

Speaking of Fosu-Mensah’s best position, Van Gaal said, “It is dependable on vacancies in your squad.

“You have seen that players in my squad are playing in different positions than what they are used to in their former careers. It is also a little bit of luck.

“You can ask Bastian Schweinsteiger who, at Bayern Munich, played on the right side, the right wing. I made him a centre midfielder because I looked at his profile and I thought that he can better play in the middle and he enjoys it more than on the right side.

“I have changed a lot of positions of players.”

Fosu-Mensah starred in United’s FA Cup quarter-final replay win against West Ham, but was left out of Van Gaal’s Premier League starting XI for matches against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

Antonio Valencia was preferred at right-back, casting his involvement in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Everton in doubt.

Schweinsteiger, on the other hand, is definitely out of the FA Cup clash as he continues to comeback from injury.

Fri 22 April, 2016
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Fellaini savouring Wembley date against Everton

Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini is looking forward to a “strange” FA Cup semi-final against former club Everton.

The last time United played Everton in the FA Cup, Fellaini was wearing blue.

On Saturday, he will be in United red as he looks to reverse the outcome last time around, when Everton won on penalties in 2009.

“I played against United that day and won, but that is in the past and I want to win again this time with United,” said the Belgium international.

A lot has changed for both teams since then.

United have gone from regular Premier League winners under Alex Ferguson to mere top-four contenders under Louis van Gaal, while Everton have failed to put themselves in the continental football picture under Roberto Martinez, languishing in the bottom half of the table.

Fellaini moved from Everton to United in 2013 as David Moyes’ marquee signing, and while he has fond memories of his former club and the day they knocked United out on penalties at Wembley, he said he was putting sentiment to the side.

“It’s always strange to play against your former team, but we know what we have to do. We want to be in the final and we have one more step to take,” he said.

An FA Cup triumph would gloss over much of what has been an average season at best for United, in which the highs of wins over Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool have been cancelled out by the failure to challenge for the Premier League, and Champions League elimination at the group stage.

But Fellaini said any match at Wembley was one to savour.

“It’s a special stadium and there will be a lot of emotion on the day,” he said.

“Teams can tire at this time of the season, so you want to stay fresh in your head and mind, so you can do your best. But the most important thing is the result.

“I enjoy my role and whenever the manager puts me in the team, I always give everything. He trusts me, he knows what I can do.

“The manager and his staff know my qualities and that gives me confidence.”

Fri 22 April, 2016
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Van Gaal: Martinez and I know the importance of youth

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he can see similarities between himself and Everton boss Roberto Martinez ahead of their FA Cup semi-final clash.

Van Gaal and Martinez, aside from both being under pressure for better results from their respective clubs, have shown they are not afraid to trust youth in their times of need.

The Dutchman has successfully blooded the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Tim Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson from the youth academy throughout the season while he has also relied heavily on Anthony Martial since his arrival.

Since taking over Everton, Martinez has backed 21-year-old John Stones in defence, while Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku remain key figures in his team.

“What he is doing is the sign of a good manager because I believe in young players too,” Van Gaal said.

“They are always a stimulus in the group and that is very important. I think also that you have to make a mix of older and younger players in your team.”

Van Gaal said no-one should be surprised by his use of youth-team products having made a habit of it throughout his career, but admitted Rashford – who has scored seven goals since making his United debut – is not ready to be the main man for United up front.

“At Bayern it was [Thomas] Muller, at Barcelona it was Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta. I have lots of examples,” he said.

“Rashford is not ready. He knows that. You need always guts to put youngsters in the squad and also in the line-up.”

Pressed on whether Rashford should be selected for Euro 2016, he replied: “That you have to ask to other people, not to me. I don’t want to interfere.”

Thu 21 April, 2016
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Everton v Manchester United: Smalling backs returning stars to seal FA Cup final spot

Chris Smalling believes Manchester United’s injury crisis has abated at the perfect time as they prepare for an FA Cup semi-final with Everton on Saturday.

Louis van Gaal’s squad has been decimated by long-term fitness problems, which have contributed to the derailing of their Premier League and European campaigns, but the majority of the first team has now been welcomed back.

Captain Wayne Rooney returned from a knee problem in the quarter-final replay win over West Ham, meaning Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee), Luke Shaw (leg) and Adnan Januzaj (hamstring) are the only major concerns for United ahead of their trip to Wembley.

And with his side having won five of their last six matches in all competitions, keeping four clean sheets in that time, Smalling is hopeful that United can field close to their strongest possible team against out-of-form Everton. 

“I’m looking forward to it because it’s going to be a great occasion,” Smalling, who has shaken off a knock sustained in Wednesday’s league win over Crystal Palace, told MUTV. “Hopefully we can do the job against Everton and get back there for a second visit [for the final].

“A lot of the lads have been coming back into the team in the last couple of games, and everyone’s getting fitter. The manager’s now in a great position to pick a strong team, and hopefully one that is ready to go out there and do the job on Saturday.”

United’s upturn in form has been in stark contrast to that of Everton, who knocked the Red Devils out at this stage of the tournament on penalties back in 2009.

Roberto Martinez’s side have failed to win any of their last six games and were thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool this week in a damaging derby encounter at Anfield.

Gareth Barry sustained a groin injury during the loss while John Stones was affected by illness, while Ramiro Funes Mori earned a red card for a poor challenge on Divock Origi, meaning he is banned for the Wembley trip.

With Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman also struggling with hamstring problems, Martinez – who is under growing pressure following supporter protests – is set to use a makeshift defence to face a United side who have beaten them twice this season without conceding.

But the Everton boss insists they can move on from their “horrible” derby defeat and give the fans something to celebrate.

“Nobody deserved to experience that – no fan or player deserved to be in that situation or chain of events,” he said. “We need to move on quickly and repay our fans with a proper performance and showing in the semi-final.

“That game is so close to us that I don’t think we should dwell on this one for too long because you have to focus on Saturday. It was a horrible experience for everyone connected to the football club.

“We need to regroup and make sure we have that opportunity to give the fans what they deserve – a chance to get in the final.”


Key Opta Stats:
– Everton have progressed from six of their last seven FA Cup semi-finals, the exception being their last appearance at this stage in 2012 vs Liverpool. They have needed extra time or penalties to make the final in four of those six progressions.
– Romelu Lukaku has scored in each of his five FA Cup appearances for Everton (six goals).
– Manchester United have scored just once in their last four matches against Everton at Wembley, but that goal from Norman Whiteside was to win the FA Cup in 1985.
– Louis van Gaal’s only previous game at Wembley as a manager came while at Barcelona, beating Arsenal 4-2 in the Champions League group stage there in October 1999.

Thu 21 April, 2016
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How is Roberto Martinez still a Premier League boss?

Roberto Martinez is now looking out-of-his depth at Everton

Roberto Martinez is now looking out-of-his depth at Everton

‘Gutless’, ‘passionless’ and ‘embarrassing’ were just a few words that Everton fans used after the Toffees sorry 4-0 thumping at arch-rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday night.

As an Everton of over 30 years it may well have been the worst Everton display I have ever seen and it came against the worse possible opponent.

This game will be talked about for a long time by both sets of supporters. The majority of Toffees fans talking about boss Roberto Martinez leaving the club.

Martinez cannot organise a team

First we need to state that Liverpool more than deserved their victory. The Reds look like they could moving forward under the guidance of the affable Jurgen Klopp, who I still can’t help liking despite his presence at our arch-rivals.

Right back to the subject at hand the Blues boss. The Spanish boss has received praise in the past for the way his teams play attacking possession football, but that means very little when his teams win very few games because they are so poorly organised.

He has never had any sort of defensive nous and was praised for keeping Wigan in the Premier League, even though the Latics were actually surviving in the top-flight before his arrival.

This season Everton have been very good going forward and totally useless at the back. Their style of play has led the Toffees to their worst home record in 138 years. Thanks for that Bobby.

When Everton have been leading Martinez has been unable to organise his team in a way that they can preserve a lead and at times his substitutions have been completely baffling.

Cannot get the best out of talented players

Everton have their most talented group of players in a long time and Martinez is somewhat responsible for that, but he cannot get the best out of the talented group. For all the criticism of former-boss David Moyes he was a master of getting every last bit of talent out of his players.

The Scot used the clubs money very well and was backed with very little transfer funds. Martinez has been relatively well backed by recent Everton standards. Most Everton fans will admit that the Toffees very rarely put in such a limp display under Moyes, even if some of the football was not great at times.

A friend of mine recently stated that Everton were better under Moyes with worse players and he is bang on with his assessment.  I am just wondering what Moyes would have got out of these players and in many ways he is opposite of Martinez in his style, but he got results.

Martinez’s debut campaign promised so much, as the defence that Moyes had assembled were still in position and did not need much organising. Two disappointing campaigns later and the Spanish techniques are being questioned, as he is not producing results.

Football fan are a fickle bunch, but a blind man can see that Roberto Martinez has lost the dressing room (sorry to use a cliché!) and the players do not believe in his philosophy any more.

Semi-final not make-or-break for Martinez

A couple of weeks ago Everton were fancied to win the FA Cup and now they are considered underdogs at odds of 11/4 to make it past Manchester United in Saturday’s semi-final.

The fact that Martinez’s team suffered such a terrible defeat against Liverpool last time out will have done nothing to lift the spirits within the Everton camp. To make matters worse they will head into the vital clash with a centre-back crisis.

Ramiro Funes Mori is suspended following his sending-off at Anfield. England centre-backs Phil Jagielka and John Stones are both also struggling with injuries, so it is not exactly ideal preparation for a cup semi-final.

Word on Merseyside is that Bill Kenwright has stated that Roberto Martinez will not be sacked this summer, but Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final should be make-or-break for the Spanish boss.

Kenwright is an Evertonian, but he also has a habit of being very loyal to bosses and it seems that is what is happening with Martinez. New majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri may not be as patient and will have a major say in what happens this summer.

Everton have gone backwards under Martinez and most Everton fans can see it. The derby defeat just confirmed what most Toffees know, Roberto Martinez is out of his depth at Everton.

I am not one for sacking bosses, but if the Spaniard does not leave Everton in the near future the club could sink to even new depths next season and it is the fans that would have to face up to the reality of the situation.

Should Roberto Martinez be sacked by Everton?

Thu 21 April, 2016
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Pardew rues ´blurred focus´ at United as Wembley date looms large

Alan Pardew admits Crystal Palace were distracted by their looming FA Cup semi-final during Wednesday’s 2-0 Premier League defeat to Manchester United.

Having battled to a 1-1 draw at Arsenal at the weekend and with a clash with Watford at Wembley coming up on Sunday, Pardew opted to rest a number of players at Old Trafford in what proved to be a wholly one-sided affair.

Damien Delaney’s early own goal was added to by a fierce Matteo Darmian strike as United cruised to a win, with the scoreline kept respectable by a fine performance from Julian Speroni in the Palace goal.

And manager Pardew felt that the setback of the early goal, and thoughts of Sunday’s game, proved to be the undoing of his side.

“I was disappointed to concede as we did – it was avoidable, and took some ambitions out of us,” he said.

“They had a lot of offensive players which caused us a lot of problems, but they made it difficult to get up the pitch, get some possession and try to have some game time.

“After the Arsenal performance it was difficult to get the same energy. But the FA Cup is a big event for Man United. For us, it’s a huge event.

“I could see a bit of blurred focus from my players, and that’s understandable – some of these guys may never get the chance to get to a final.”

Pardew was happy to give valuable game time to some of his players ahead of the trip to Wembley, including Emmanuel Adebayor, Connor Wickham and James McArthur, who suffered a serious ankle injury in February.

Indeed, the former Newcastle United boss admits he could be tempted to start McArthur on Sunday, such has been his attitude in coming back to full fitness.

“We had two or three knocks, Scott Dann being our biggest worry,” he said.

“We got some good game time – Adebayor played 70 minutes, Wickham got some game time, McArthur got some game time – we’ve really missed him.

“I’d start no other player after that length of time other than him. He has a tremendous mentality, tremendous fitness. He’s a player I really admire.”

Pardew went on to praise Speroni for his performance, saying he will give the 36-year-old the chance to surpass John Jackson’s club record of 388 appearances in goal.

“It’s a tribute to him; he’s such a great pro,” he added. “I knew he’d play well because he trains well. He has two games to beat Jackson’s record this year and I am determined he would get them.”

Wed 20 April, 2016
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United hero Darmian hails ´massive victory´

Matteo Darmian hailed Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace as “massive” as they aim to snatch a top-four Premier League finish.

The Italy international forced the opening goal at Old Trafford as his low cross was turned into his own net by Damien Delaney, and he smashed in a superb strike just after half-time to secure the three points for the home side.

United are now just a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal, having played a game more, and are two shy of Manchester City in the race to finish in the Champions League places.

With an FA Cup semi-final on Saturday to come, Darmian believes Wednesday’s win could be a vital confidence boost.

“It was important, a massive victory,” he said afterwards. “We have to be focused on the next game against Everton, we want to reach the final.

“It will increase our confidence, so we have to continue. We need to win all our games and see where we can get.

“It will be a difficult game but it’s a big game, a semi-final of the FA Cup at Wembley. It’s a really good chance for us to win that trophy.”

Darmian was delighted to open his United account in front of the Stretford End.

“It was special. At the Stretford End, in front of the fans, it was a big goal,” he added.

Wed 20 April, 2016
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Flores admits FA Cup focus after West Ham loss

Quique Sanchez Flores conceded his team selection for Watford’s 3-1 Premier League loss to West Ham was made with an eye on this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final.

Watford face Crystal Palace at Wembley on Sunday, with Flores making seven changes for Wednesday’s Upton Park reverse.

Just as against West Brom last weekend, Watford gave away two penalties, but there was to be no repeat of Heurelho Gomes’ double spot-kick heroics, with Mark Noble netting both after Andy Carroll had opened the scoring.

Sebastian Prodl pulled one back, Troy Deeney was denied from the spot by Adrian and Nordin Amrabat saw red as Flores’ much-change side succumbed to defeat.

“We have used a lot of players recently and the plan was to try to conserve and be fit for the weekend,” the Spaniard said in quotes reported by BBC Sport. “Practically all of the players will be fit for the weekend.

“The application was very good from us. We conceded really early and then it was very tough to play against a tough team like West Ham as they had confidence early.

“In the second half, we reacted really well, but not good enough to reduce three goals.”

Regarding the two penalty calls against his side, Flores added: “I don’t completely agree with the decisions of the referee always.”

Wed 20 April, 2016
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Rooney must show he deserves spot – Van Gaal

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney must prove himself against Crystal Palace if he is to start the FA Cup semi-final, according to Louis van Gaal.

Rooney, 30, is set to make his second start since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for two months earlier this year.

The timing appears ideal for Van Gaal, with United heading to Wembley to take on Everton in the cup semi on Saturday.

But the Dutchman has told Rooney he will need to prove he deserves his place when his side take on Palace at Old Trafford.

“It’s dependable how he plays, like every player,” Van Gaal said.

“You are presuming that he plays on Saturday. He played very well in the first half [against Aston Villa]. In the second half he was tiring but he has already got 60 minutes in his legs.

“He has trained on Tuesday and he has recovered so we have to see how he is feeling in the second half against Crystal Palace and still he has to play good.”

Rooney has scored seven league goals this season, trailing only Anthony Martial (eight) for United, while he also has four assists.

Wed 20 April, 2016
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Pardew seeks Palace momentum

Alan Pardew has no intention of making wholesale changes to his starting XI against Manchester United despite Crystal Palace heading to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.

Palace travel to Old Trafford on Wednesday just three days on from their 1-1 draw at Arsenal – where Yannick Bolasie rescued a point at Emirates Stadium – while their cup meeting with Watford is only four days later.

Despite the hectic schedule, Pardew insists he has never considered fielding a weakened side to help aid their cup dreams.

“I don’t think anyone will look at our side and worry about us putting an under-strength team out when they see the team-sheet,” Pardew told a news conference. 

“We need to be strong and keep focus, so I am not going to change my team completely. I don’t believe in that.

“It’s been a long time since we have had much momentum, and I think that is more important than rest. So I want to keep the momentum of this team, certainly until the end of the season. 

“There’ll be one or two changes because I will definitely need to increase the energy, and we have got one or two problems.

“Yala [Bolasie] has got an issue, [Joel] Ward will definitely miss the game, and Scott Dann is struggling with the injury he picked up at Arsenal. 

“Joe Ledley has also got a knock, so we have got a few problems. They should all be okay for Sunday but they are not going to make Manchester United.”

Whoever Pardew does select, he expects them to be in for a tough evening on Wednesday as United – who are four points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal – look to maintain their Champions League charge.

He added: “Defensively we’ve been very, very sound and we need to take that to Man United, because there’s just a bit more energy in that side than there was in the first half of the season. They’ve picked up and we need to be ready for them.”

Tue 19 April, 2016
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Martinez ready for ´defining´ week in Everton season

Everton face a “defining” week in their season according to Roberto Martinez, as they prepare to face Liverpool in the Premier League and Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final.

Despite progressing to the last four in both domestics cups, Everton’s league campaign has largely been one of disappointment and frustration for everyone involved with the club.

Recent games have seen banners among the fans calling for Martinez to leave, while boos have greeted some performances.

Everton have won just nine of their 33 matches in the league – with only four coming at Goodison Park – and as a result sit 12 points off the top six with five games to go.

Arch-rivals Liverpool are first up before meeting United at Wembley, and should results continue to go against him, Martinez knows his future could be under pressure.

“Football is about results, it’s about the results business I would never be stupid enough to look away from that,” he told a news conference.

“I am the one who drives the hunger and desire, and I set the expectations, and I know we will fight to take Everton where we want to be.

“I take full responsibility for the results at home, which we all know haven’t been good enough.

“It’s a defining week yes, with real excitement. To be in the FA Cup semi-final is very exciting, and something really exciting to be involved in. The derby is more than just a game, it’s a chance to make our fans proud.”

Tue 19 April, 2016
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Besic calls for support from Everton fans

Injury-hit midfielder Muhamed Besic has called for calm from Everton supporters as tempers threaten to boil over at Goodison Park.

The Everton faithful have been less than impressed with manager Roberto Martinez this season, whose side sit in the bottom half of the Premier League table with five games remaining.

Despite their league struggles Everton are into the semi-finals of the FA Cup where they will face Manchester United at Wembley, and could also restore some pride in their league with a Merseyside derby win over Liverpool on Wednesday.

Besic says it is important that the fans back their team ahead of a huge week for the club, though he admits he understands their frustrations.

“It’s their choice,” Besic said. “We will always give our best.

“You can’t say the season is all bad, just maybe we didn’t win so many games but we are also in the semi-final.

“They should be behind us.”

He added: “That’s the fans, they are always right, that is not a problem for us, I just mean we have to be together, all the fans, the players, the staff to reach the final and maybe win the Cup.”

Everton have been particularly poor at home in 2015-16, where they have won just four of 17 league games.

Besic said his team-mates were feeling the pressure at Goodison Park but said fan unrest was no excuse for such a poor home record.

“You feel that, but we are professional footballers and we have to deal with that,” Besic said.

“Away is a different game, we have to defend more and the opponent has more of the ball.

“Here we have to take the ball and play. That is maybe the difference this season not that we are afraid to play at home.

“Maybe, we feel better to defend and play on the counter.”

Mon 18 April, 2016
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Martinez ready for big week

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is not underestimating the importance of the next week to his club’s fans.

Martinez’s Everton take on local rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday, before facing off against Manchester United in a FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

And Martinez, who is under increasing pressure at Everton as fans question his suitability for the role amid an underwhelming Premier League season, said he knows what is at stake.

“Every team has a defining week,” he said.

“We are going to have our defining week in mid-April. Other teams have defining weeks in February when they are out of the FA Cup.”

Everton remain outside the top half of the Premier League ahead of their crunch clash with eighth-placed Liverpool but could move back into the top 10 with a win after Chelsea’s 3-0 loss to Manchester City.

But Martinez will have to balance his squad’s output with his ambition to knock off United in the FA Cup.

And while the chance of silverware in the FA Cup is tempting, Martinez will not rest players for the midweek derby.

“We are going to be as strong as we can be,” he confirmed. 

“I don’t think you can switch on and off.  You have to perform well before you go to a semi-final, create a competitive nature in every game.

“We will get that from players coming back from suspension and injury.

“I always say football is not about managers. As a manager my job is to allow my players to enjoy their football and enjoy the opportunity we have in front of us and be as good as we can be. Then we will see where that takes us.”

Sun 17 April, 2016
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De Gea may be the world´s best, says Fosu-Mensah

Tim Fosu-Mensah hailed the performance of David de Gea against West Ham, describing the goalkeeper as “maybe the best in the world”.

The 18-year-old defender impressed as Manchester United battled to a 2-1 victory at Upton Park on Wednesday to book their place in the FA Cup semi-finals.

De Gea made a string of fine stops as Louis van Gaal’s men preserved their advantage, with Fosu-Mensah paying tribute to the Spain international as well as some of the team’s senior players.

“David is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, maybe the best,” he told the club’s official website.

“It’s very good to have a goalkeeper like that in your team. He can save you points or save you in the cup. 

“I think players like Michael Carrick, Daley Blind and Chris Smalling kept the team together in order to win this match. It was very important because they give confidence to everyone on the pitch.

“I saw [Cheikhou] Kouyate score and thought ‘no, no’ but then I saw the linesman’s flag so I was relieved it was offside.

“It was a very big game and a great win. I’m happy we won this game and that we can go to Wembley for the semi-finals. It’s very special because it was a huge occasion.”

The tie saw Fosu-Mensah make only his third start for United and the Netherlands youngster is relishing the first-team opportunities.

He continued: “I have not really faced an atmosphere like that but I’m getting used to it more and more. It’s great for my development to obtain such experience.

“I went from right-back to left-back and I do my best in every position and just do what I can for the team.”

Thu 14 April, 2016
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Rashford is here to stay – Carrick

Michael Carrick has little doubt Marcus Rashford has a bright future ahead of him at Manchester United following his rise to prominence.

The 18-year-old has netted six goals from 11 appearances in all competitions since making his first-team debut in the second leg of United’s Europa League round-of-32 win over Midtjylland in February.

Rashford opened the scoring with a well-taken strike in United’s 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final replay win over West Ham on Wednesday and Carrick has been impressed by the youngster’s professional attitude.

“It is incredible. It is so good to see young lads come in, do well and take their chance,” Carrick told MUTV.

“Not in his wildest dreams could he have predicted the last two or three months that he has had. He has still got his feet on his ground though.

“He keeps coming in, he does not change, he works hard, he listens, he is willing to learn and I think he has got a great chance of staying at the top for a long time. 

“I do not think it is a flash in the plan, in and out. I think he is here to stay and goals like that, we will welcome more of them,” Carrick said of the classy finish at Upton Park, which helped to book a semi-final against Everton on April 23.

Thu 14 April, 2016
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Fellaini: I knew Martial would miss with his left foot!

Marouane Fellaini jokingly said he knew team-mate Anthony Martial would miss after scoring in Manchester United’s 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final replay win at West Ham.

Fellaini made sure of United’s spot in the semi-finals as he bundled home the team’s second goal after Marcus Rashford sparked the game into life at Upton Park on Wednesday.

Martial’s deflected shot from close range fell into the path of Fellaini, who diverted the ball past Darren Randolph in the 67th minute.

And Fellaini said he was not surprised that Martial’s effort made its way to him inside the penalty area.

“I knew he [Martial] would miss because it was his left foot!” Fellaini told MUTV.

“I was stood in front of the goal and I just put my knee out towards the target. It was important in the end.

“It’s always nice to score; it’s good for confidence. Now we have a game on Saturday which we have to win in front of our home supporters.”

Everton await United in the final four of the competition and Fellaini added: “When I was at Everton eight years ago, we played the semi-final against United and we won, so this time I hope I am on the winning side again.

“At a club like Manchester United, we have to win something. I think all the players want to do that this season.”

United return to Old Trafford on Saturday as they host Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Thu 14 April, 2016
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Van Gaal: FA Cup win important for United, not me

Louis van Gaal insisted Wednesday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay victory over West Ham was more significant for Manchester United rather than his own future.

The Dutchman has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks as United have lost ground in the race for the Premier League top four, his style of play also receiving criticism.

However, he remains on course for silverware despite United’s inconsistent campaign and their 2-1 win at Upton Park eases some of the pressure on him.

Van Gaal is not concerned by that, though, and says the result is much more important for the club ahead of a Wembley semi-final with Everton. 

“It is not important for me, it is important for the club, for the players and for the team,” he told BBC Sport. 

“I said I wanted a title and I am very happy but it is very important for the club.”

It took United the opening 45 minutes to really find their stride, Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini netting around the hour mark.

James Tomkins pulled a goal back, but United were able to hold on despite late pressure, much to the delight of boss Van Gaal. 

“We played defensively very well. We didn’t give so much away,” he said. 

“They lost the ball a lot of times and I believe with a bit more composure we could have finished it much earlier. I said at half-time we had to show composure in the third and fourth phase. 

“We did that better but I still believe we could have finished the game earlier.”

Rashford’s strike was a particular highlight after excellent work by Anthony Martial, the youngster showing great composure to fire past Darren Randolph.

Van Gaal added: “I was on the bench behind his [Rashford] shot. I saw the corner of the goal and I thought you have to shoot and he did but it is much more difficult than you think.”

Wed 13 April, 2016
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Bilic expects West Ham reaction after cup exit

West Ham will not allow their FA Cup exit to derail their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League this season, says Slaven Bilic.

Upton Park’s final cup tie ended in disappointment on Wednesday as Manchester United secured a 2-1 victory in the quarter-final replay, ending West Ham’s hopes of reaching Wembley.

Goals from Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini sealed the win for Louis van Gaal’s side, while a late strike from James Tomkins proved to be a mere consolation.

With six games to go in the league, the defeat could threaten their chances of earning a Champions League place, but Bilic is confident in his squad to bounce back.

“It is not what we wanted of course, but we gave our best,” he told BBC Sport. 

“They were better tonight in the majority of the game. We had energy and commitment but they were killing us with ball possession.

“This is a big disappointment. It takes out a bit of energy and motivation but we still have a big thing to play for. We are going to bounce back.

“We are fighting to finish as high as possible in the league, we have six big games coming.”

West Ham sit sixth in the league, five points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City ahead of a trip to Leicester City on Sunday.

Wed 13 April, 2016
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West Ham 1 Manchester United 2: Rashford helps book Wembley trip for Van Gaal´s men

Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini spoiled West Ham’s final FA Cup match at Upton Park as Manchester United moved into the semi-finals with a 2-1 victory.

Rashford sparked the quarter-final replay into life after 54 minutes with a stunning piece of quality to beat Darren Randolph, before Fellaini bundled home a second to set up a last-four meeting with Everton a week on Saturday.

There was little to separate the two sides in the opening 45 minutes, but, just before the hour, Rashford profited after excellent work from Anthony Martial, curling an 18-yard effort off the underside of the bar.

Martial was at the heart of the visitors’ second, too, as his shot was turned beyond Randolph by the unmarked Fellaini.

Two goals in quick succession sapped the life out of West Ham, and, although James Tomkins pulled one back and Cheikhou Kouyate had a late header disallowed for offside, Slaven Bilic’s men could not find an equaliser, leaving them to focus on challenging the top four in the Premier League.

With the backing of their vociferous home support, West Ham, who relocate to the Olympic Stadium at the end of the season, had the better of the opening 10 minutes with crisp passing moves, Dimitri Payet and Aaron Cresswell particularly impressing on the left.

Chances were hard to come by, though, with only Enner Valencia bringing a save out of David de Gea, his low shot from Cresswell’s pass easily held by Spain’s number one.

Slowly the visitors found their footing and began to pose a threat on the counter, Fellaini seeing a glorious chance deflect off Angelo Ogbonna before Randolph pushed it over.

Manchester United finished the half the stronger and saw two opportunities go begging. Jesse Lingard fired straight at Randolph after a marauding run by Rashford, before Michael Carrick’s low shot fizzed wide from 20 yards.

The visitors continued to press after the restart and soon took the lead as teenage prodigy Rashford netted his sixth goal in all competitions this season.

After Martial had intercepted a loose Michail Antonio pass, the Frenchman found the 18-year-old and – after making space for himself – he curled a pinpoint effort into the top corner.

Smart goalkeeping from Randolph kept the home side from being cut adrift in the tie as he raced off his line to intercept before Lingard and Rashford could pounce.

Randolph could do nothing to stop a second goal for Louis van Gaal’s men, though, as Fellaini diverted the ball home after 67 minutes. The Belgium international bundling home Martial’s deflected shot from close range.

That two-goal advantage did not last long, however, as Tomkins halved the deficit with 11 minutes to play. The defender pouncing from two yards out to head home Andy Carroll’s knock down.

Carroll and Kouyate went close to taking the game into extra time in the closing seconds, but both found De Gea in sensational form, the latter also seeing a header ruled out for offside.

Manchester United introduced Wayne Rooney for his first appearance in two months with a minute to play, and he was able to help them secure a semi-final berth, easing the pressure on Van Gaal following a lacklustre campaign that could yet end with silverware.  

Wed 13 April, 2016
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´I would rather Rooney didn´t play´ – Bilic

Slaven Bilic is hoping not to face Wayne Rooney when his West Ham welcome Manchester United in their FA Cup quarter-final replay.

Louis van Gaal’s job is hanging by a thread ahead of his side’s trip to Upton Park, meaning the Dutch manager might have to gamble on the fitness of Rooney.

The United captain made his return from a two-month lay-off with a knee injury when he played just over an hour for the club’s under-21 side at Old Trafford on Monday.

The FA Cup is United’s last chance of silverware this season, as the club face the prospect of failing to qualify for the Champions League for the second time in three years and it is reported that Van Gaal’s chances of seeing out the final year of his contract are riding on the result.

But still, Van Gaal could be unwilling to risk Rooney, not that Bilic is complaining.

“I would rather Rooney didn’t play. Seventy per cent, or 100 per cent fit, I would rather he watched the game,” he said.

“I’m a massive Rooney fan ever since he first stepped on to the pitch in an Everton shirt. I can’t talk about Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton or Bobby Moore, but in my era Rooney is the best English player.

“When teams are on a good run they don’t change, but because United lost 3-0 at Tottenham on Sunday, we really don’t know who is going to play. Will it be Rooney from the start?

“It makes it harder for us. But we won’t change our team because of them.”

Wed 13 April, 2016
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Mata: West Ham all we are thinking about

Manchester United’s Juan Mata says all he thinks about is the upcoming FA Cup quarter-final replay against West Ham.

Mata and Co. suffered a massive 3-0 defeat at White Hart Lane at the hands of Tottenham on Sunday in a match that may have spelled the end of the club’s Champions League hopes for next season.

But the Spaniard wrote in his weekly blog that he is happy the team has a chance to redeem itself so quickly.

United forced a replay after Anthony Martial’s late equaliser cancelled out Dimitri Payet’s superb free-kick for West Ham.

“I think it’s good to play the next game as soon as possible, on Wednesday, because it allows the team to move on from White Hart Lane and focus completely on the match against West Ham,” Mata wrote.

“It’s actually one of the most important games of the season and we can’t afford to feel sad or upset when preparing for it.

“On the contrary, we must be aware that in Boleyn Ground we have a fantastic opportunity to make it to Wembley and give our fans what they deserve: a reason for joy this season.

“And then we will be back to Old Trafford to play against Aston Villa in one of the last home games of the season, but right now the FA Cup quarter finals replay is all we think about.”

United could be boosted by the return of Wayne Rooney for the match after he got through over an hour of play with the club’s under-21 outfit at Old Trafford on Monday.

Tue 12 April, 2016
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Van Gaal warns United: We must stop the Andy Carroll show

Louis van Gaal has warned Manchester United’s defenders to step up their performance levels if they are to avoid a repeat of “the Andy Carroll show” against West Ham.

Carroll scored a superb hat-trick in his side’s 3-3 Premier League draw with Arsenal at the weekend to salvage a point after they had found themselves 2-0 down shortly before half-time.

United suffered a major blow to their top-four hopes a day later when they lost 3-0 to Tottenham, the goals coming in just six minutes late in the second half at White Hart Lane.

Van Gaal was left aggrieved at what he considered to be a lack of communication among his back four during that defeat and has urged them to improve if United are to progress from their FA Cup quarter-final replay.

“I saw the Andy Carroll show,” he said. “I think today our problem was also the miscommunication of our central defenders.

“I hope we’ve improved our communication because this game is very important for us. It’s our last chance for a title, so it’s very important for the players, the club, the manager, the fans.”

Van Gaal was keen to highlight the threat West Ham pose throughout their side, especially from playmaker Dimitri Payet, who scored a stunning free-kick in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

“Carroll has special qualities, we’ve seen that. That was against Arsenal who have great central defenders,” he said. “We have to cope with Andy Carroll but also with the other players, they have a certain player named Payet, for example. [Manuel] Lanzini can also play and score goals.

“Today we had to cope with Harry Kane, but also [Erik] Lamela, [Christian] Eriksen. It’s always difficult to cope with this kind of player at that level.

“And we have one day less than West Ham, which is also important, but we proved against Arsenal and Manchester City [in the Premier League] that we could beat them despite less days to recover. So I hope we recover very good, also mentally, because this [defeat] was a blow.”

With Champions League qualification looking difficult and with no other trophies to chase, talk has mounted that Van Gaal will be under greater pressure than ever to end United’s 13-year wait to lift the FA Cup.

But the former Netherlands boss rejected the idea that such pressure will be any less for Slaven Bilic’s side.

“I think the players of Manchester United have to cope with that pressure. And they’ve done it always. They know that every game in a cup is a match that you must win,” he said.

“I think West Ham also have that problem. So I don’t think that it [pressure] plays a role, because both teams know that, when you’re not winning, you’re out and you don’t have any title.”

Mon 11 April, 2016
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West Ham v Manchester United: Carrick ready for ´make or break´ tie

Michael Carrick says Manchester United’s squad are fully aware that Wednesday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay against West Ham is “make or break” for their season.

United are down in fifth position in the Premier League, four points behind rivals Manchester City with only six games to play and just one ahead of the Hammers in sixth.

The two teams drew 1-1 at Old Trafford last month after Anthony Martial’s late strike cancelled out a stunning free-kick from Dimitri Payet, setting up a replay with the winners set to face Everton at Wembley on April 23.

United go into the match on the back of a miserable 3-0 defeat to title-chasing Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Sunday which Carrick wants to forget immediately.

“We are looking forward to Wednesday now and that has got to be the focus,” Carrick told MUTV.

“We have got to take what we can from Sunday and move on to a massive game. We all know what that means and it is make or break on the night. 

“It is one we can look forward to and hopefully we can come away with the win and get into the next round.

“It is not the weekend we wanted at all but there are a few weekends left yet, so things can happen and we have seen that in all sorts of different ways. We just need to focus on ourselves now, take what we can from the rest of the season and see where it takes us.

“Anthony had a decent chance [against Tottenham] and when you come away from home in a game like that, you need to take the chances you get. Unfortunately we didn’t do that and we have paid the price.”

West Ham, meanwhile, rallied from two goals down to draw a thrilling encounter with London rivals Arsenal 3-3 on Saturday, courtesy of a magnificent hat-trick from Andy Carroll. 

Slaven Bilic’s men are unbeaten in 10 matches, although they have drawn four matches on the bounce coming into the last FA Cup tie at Upton Park before they move to the Olympic Stadium next season.

“The team showed a lot of character to get a point from the game,” Manuel Lanzini told the club’s official website. 

“It is slightly frustrating that we weren’t able to take the three points, but on the whole, I think we take a lot of positives from it and we will now concentrate on Wednesday’s cup game against Manchester United.”

Bilic was impressed by the impact of Carroll and hopes he will be available to disrupt United’s defence.

“We have good strikers, of course, and Andy is fit now and he looked really sharp and we hoped we were going to have success like this, with space on the flanks which we could use to put in good crosses,” the manager told reporters.

“We have a few players who can bend the ball in really well. Putting the ball in the box, it’s more likely to find Andy than the defenders – he has done it against Liverpool, against Chelsea and now against Arsenal, so it was a good decision.

“I hope he’s going to be fit for Man United but I don’t think Diafra Sakho or Alex Song will be fit for that game.”

United, meanwhile, have captain Wayne Rooney (knee) nearing a return to fitness but the game may come too soon for him.

Key Opta stats:

– This is the ninth time these sides have been drawn in the FA Cup – the previous eight have alternated between West Ham progressing twice and Manchester United progressing twice.
– The Red Devils have progressed the last two times they have faced West Ham in the FA Cup, meaning West Ham would go through if the sequence was to continue.
– Louis van Gaal’s side were eliminated at this stage last season to eventual FA Cup winners Arsenal. 
– West Ham have reached the quarter-final stage of the FA Cup for the first time since 2011, when they were eliminated by eventual runners-up Stoke.
– The Hammers are winless in their last 11 competitive meetings with Manchester United (D5 L6), but their last victory was in a domestic cup quarter-final tie at Upton Park (League Cup in November 2010).

Mon 11 April, 2016
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