Louis van Gaal will settle for a scrappy victory over “beautiful goals” as he aims to win a first trophy with Manchester United in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
A failure to qualify for the Champions League and a number of uninspiring displays from his side have seen Van Gaal’s position come under increasing scrutiny this season, with numerous reports claiming United are lining up Jose Mourinho as a replacement.
The axe seems almost certain to fall if United fail to end a three-year wait for major silverware – and a 12-year stretch without winning the FA Cup – against Crystal Palace at Wembley.
And Van Gaal seems happy to stick to his oft-criticised tactics in order to ensure a win that could see him stay in the job heading into next season.
“To impress and perform well depends on a lot of factors,” he said. “You need two attacking sides and then you get a fantastic match.
“Of course, our starting point is to perform well, to score beautiful goals, but a 1-0 win is enough because winning is the most important thing in the final. When you lose, you have nothing.”
Van Gaal is wary of the speed of the Palace attack – which includes former United winger Wilfried Zaha – and suggested he could recall Marouane Fellaini to deal with their set-piece threat.
Fellaini missed United’s last three league games through suspension but scored in both the quarter-final replay win at West Ham and the semi-final victory over Everton.
“You have to wait and see the line-up. I can’t answer that now,” he said when asked about the Belgium international’s return. “They have scored 29 goals out of set plays – more than 50 per cent. That’s more than we’ve done. They have a lot of speed in attack, on the counter, so it shall be very difficult.”
Palace’s record against United does not make for encouraging reading for the London club. They have lost 15 of their last 20 meetings in all competitions and were beaten 1-0 when the 1990 final – their first ever – went to a replay.
Manager Alan Pardew played in both of those finals but, rather than focus on vengeance, the 54-year-old is eager for his players to express their “street football” and out-fight their opponents.
“There’s no revenge. This is about this team getting to a cup final and winning it. We’re not going to drown ourselves in 1990,” he said.
“We play street football, we play a fast game, we have players from all different roots into the professional league: from non-league, from Paris Saint-German, internationals.
“We’re going to have to be patient at times. We are going to be the side which needs to fight that bit harder to win, there’s no doubt about that.”
Van Gaal has passed Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian fit after recent knocks, though there are doubts over Morgan Schneiderlin, who missed the 3-1 win over AFC Bournemouth with illness.
Joe Ledley (broken leg) is out for Palace but Pardew hopes to have Scott Dann, Zaha, Connor Wickham and Yohan Cabaye available after they were rested for the 4-1 loss to Southampton last week.
Key Opta Stats:
– United have reached their first FA Cup final since 2007, and 19th overall (W11 L7). Only Arsenal (12) have won the trophy more times than the Red Devils.
– This will be United’s 14th game at the new Wembley Stadium – no team has played more games there (Chelsea also 14).
– Crystal Palace have won six of their last seven FA Cup ties against fellow Premier League sides (L1).
– Palace have won their last three games at Wembley Stadium, including both games since it was reopened in 2007 (both against Watford).
– Anthony Martial has been directly involved in 25 goals in all competitions this season (17 goals, eight assists); four many than any other Man Utd player.
– Marcus Rashford has scored eight goals from just 14 shots on target for Manchester United in all competitions. Since his first team debut on February 25, no United player has scored as many.
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