In the final FA Cup match at Upton Park, it was Manchester United left celebrating after goals from Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini helped secure a 2-1 win over West Ham and a place in the semifinals. A full month after their original quarterfinal meeting, the mood looked set for West Ham to bid farewell to FA Cup action at their long-time home in style and inflict the latest blow in a season to forger for Manchester United.
But just three days after their 3-0 defeat to Tottenham that all but ended their hopes of Champions League qualification, Manchester United produced a dramatically improved showing to keep their season, and perhaps Louis van Gaal’s job, alive.
It was Van Gaal’s decision to take Rashford off at halftime at White Hart Lane and replace him with Ashly Young that caused much of the consternation among supporters and observers. And it was Rashford who brilliantly sparked his side’s victory on Wednesday.
Manchester United had been on top in the first half, but unable to find the breakthrough until a giveaway from Michail Antonio allowed Anthony Martial to find Rashford with a chance to drive into the box. Not lacking for composure or confidence, Rashford created space against a defender before curling a brilliant, unstoppable strike into the top corner of the West Ham net.
Midway through the second half, the visitors’ lead was deservedly doubled. Fellaini has so often borne the brunt of supporter frustration at Old Trafford since his arrival from Everton at the start of the ill-fated David Moyes era, but he produced one of the best performances in a United shirt on Wednesday. And he was rewarded with a goal, too, when he adeptly turned Martial’s strike into the net from close range.
After their thrilling 3-3 draw with Arsenal on Saturday, West Ham struggled to match the intensity of the atmosphere created by the Upton Park crowd on a historic evening. But with 11 minutes remaining they sparked dramatically into life to give their supporters’ reason to remain in full voice. Carroll, fresh from his hat-trick against Arsenal, headed a corner back across goal and James Tomkins fired past David de Gea to give West Ham hope.
It led to plenty of wobbles from Manchester United and sizable drama in the 89th minute when De Gea blocked an effort from Carroll before Cheikhou Kouyate headed in, only for his celebrations to be cut short by an offside flag. Manchester United, and Van Gaal, had just about about held on to book their place at Wembley.