By Tommy Gorman
- Goals from Rashford and Fellaini book semi-final with Everton
- Rooney returns from injury as late substitute
Manchester United reached the semi-finals of The FA Cup with a professional performance and a 2-1 victory away at West Ham United, in the last Cup match to ever be played at the Boleyn Ground.
United went into the game after a horrific loss across London on Sunday against a resurgent Spurs side whilst The Hammers went into the fixture of the back of an enthralling London derby against Arsenal in which Slaven Bilic’s men stormed back from two goals down to lead Arsenal only to concede twenty minutes from time.
The teams emerged from the tunnel to deafening noise from all sides of the ground, most notably from the travelling Red Army, housed in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand.
The match itself started at great pace, with West Ham immediately laying siege to United’s back line. Michael Carrick seemed particularly leggy and jaded in the first 20 minutes – players like Payet and Lanzini running rings around the Englishman and the inconsistent Marouane Fellaini.
However, once the initial pressure had subsided, United began taking control of the game, Carrick pulling the proverbial strings just in front of the United defence.
Louis van Gaal’s men were particularly on top down the right hand side with the powerful Fosu-Mensah overlapping the mercurial Jesse Lingard, regularly giving Aaron Cresswell a real headache and crucially forcing the hosts’ dangerman Dimitri Payet to track back, thus taking him further and further away from David De Gea’s goal.
Chances for Lingard and Fellaini came and went just before the interval with United becoming increasingly frustrated not to have the edge going in to the break.
As the players sloped down the famous tunnel, the general consensus seemed to be that United had been on top and should be ahead. Also, the opinion of many was that West Ham seemed to be slightly overawed due to the historic occasion that the game was.
United were on the pitch along with the officials at least two minutes before the West Ham players, seemingly eager to continue the dominance they had enjoyed during the 1st period – but with goals. The first half began pretty much as the first had ended, United enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
Eventually, the possesion told. Young Marcus Rashford netted his sixth goal in 11 United appearances when he took the ball from Martial after a poor ball from Enner Valencia. The 18 year old Mancunian jinked left before curling a beautiful shot into the top right corner leaving Adrian no chance.
Soon after, it was two. After an intricate move involving Martial and Lingard, the ball cannoned off Fellaini’s thigh into the net, sending the United fans behind the goal into raptures.
Dissappointingly, the Reds appeared to sit back and allow The Irons to grow steadily in confidence, the raucous home crowd raising the decibel level. David De Gea made a series of good stops before West Ham eventually breached the United rearguard.
11 minutes from the end, Dimitri Payet floated in a delicious cross to the far post. It was met by Andy Carroll who cleverly centred the ball for James Tomkins to bravely nod home.
West Ham then threw the ‘kitchen sink’ at United’s defence but thankfully it stood firm, allowing Van Gaal’s side to progress to their first semi final since 2011.
Manchester United: De Gea, Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Blind, Rojo (Valencia 68), Carrick, Fellaini, Lingard, Herrera (Schneiderlin 76), Martial, Rashford (Rooney 89) Substitutes Not Used: Romero, Young, Mata, Memphis