Football

United's Kids Are Alright, says Richard Buxton

The likes of teenagers Rashford and Fosu-Mensah have added a dash of dignity to van Gaal's impending exit

QUARTER-FINAL REPLAY

WEST HAM 1

(James Tomkins 79)

MAN UNITED 2

(Marcus Rashford 54, Marouane Fellaini 67)

If he hasn't already, Louis van Gaal had best start rehearsing his lines.

No doubt armed with another potentially memorable address, the Dutchman's list of acknowledgements should rival those of an Oscar-acceptance speech, when he takes to the stage again for Manchester United's end-of-season awards next month.

A rousing rendition of The Kids Are Alright by The Who would possibly articulate his gratitude far better, given the manner in which United's belated passage into the FA Cup semi-finals was assured yesterday morning (Singapore time).

In Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, United's young guns continue to vindicate the legendary Matt Busby's assertion that age and inexperience remain largely irrelevant for those capable of making the grade.

Credit for saving the Red Devils' campaign and as well as van Gaal's own largely ailing reign is no longer exclusive to Ed Woodward, the club's unstintingly loyal executive vice-chairman.

Rashford's meteoric rise to prominence has spared his manager's blushes, both in the English Premier League and on the continent, but will invariably draw parallels with that of Federico Macheda, whose 2009 ascent faded as quickly as it was sparked.

For all the fanfare of recording a prolific sixth goal in 11 competitive outings, such doubts persist; not least with that second-half strike being the first away from the comforts of his native Manchester.

Taken off by van Gaal at half-time during last weekend's indignant defeat by Tottenham, those underlined inconsistency issues that, combined with a lack of appearances, sealed his inevitable omission from the PFA's Young Player of the Year shortlist.

FEARLESS

But his Upton Park outing yesterday morning defied both his manager and the doubters, illustrating a fearlessness that many have come to expect from West Ham, previously unbeaten in their soon-to-be former home since August.

Aided by Martial's supply, the 18-year-old Rashford's technique and guile, leaving James Tomkins trailing in his wake before rifling into Darren Randolph's top left-hand corner, belied his shortcomings and delivered a goal worthy of the Wembley stage in its own right

He was not alone. Fosu-Mensah, arguably United's only standout performer at White Hart Lane, was again influential as he kept Dimitri Payet under wraps to further vindicate van Gaal's decision to pluck the fullback from his former Ajax stomping ground.

The industry of Lingard, too, cannot be understated; forging a solid understanding with Rashford and crafting opportunities for the striker and Marouane Fellaini, whose bundled goal ultimately settled the tie.

Once more, Old Trafford's starlets came to its aid.

That collective combination of pace, skill and raw natural ability has been a rare glint of light in a season that has remained, thanks largely to its manager's tactical dogma, in the doldrums.

Van Gaal is unlikely to remain in the Old Trafford hot seat beyond this summer but, in continuing to cling to his job on the coattails of United's homegrown prospects, any potential extrication has now been afforded more than a mere modicum of dignity.


"It’s so good to see young lads come in and do well and take their chances... he doesn’t change and he works hard, listens and is willing to learn. he has a great chance of staying at the top for a long time... I think he is here to stay."

- Man United veteran Michael Carrick lavishing praise on Marcus Rashford, who has scored six goals in 11 competitive matches


SEMI-FINAL LINE-UP

Crystal Palace v Watford

Everton v Man United

*To be played at Wembley on April 23-24.

LVG: Rashford has no 
nerves

PHOTO: AFP

Louis van GaaI saluted Marcus Rashford after the striker's wonder goal helped fire Manchester United into the FA Cup semi-finals yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Rashford broke the deadlock against West Ham in the 54th minute. after a superb run and curling shot into the top corner.

Marouane Fellaini prodded in a second and United held on to book a Wembley date with Everton, despite James Tomkins pulling a goal back in the 79th minute.

Rashford has now bagged six goals since he burst on to the scene in February, and the 18-year-old's latest may again silence calls for his manager to be sacked following an underwhelming season.

Van Gaal (above) said after the 2-1 win: "It was a great goal. I was behind it on the bench and saw the gap in the corner and shouted 'shoot', but to do it is much more difficult.

"A great goal and the dribble, also. He has that quality and he can score a lot of goals.

FOCUSED

"He has no nerves, he's very focused on his work. I admire when you are so young and with so much attention now. He's scoring important goals.

"He can cope with that attention and focus on the next match and, when you have criticism, he can cope also."

West Ham striker Andy Carroll, who scored a hat-trick against Arsenal last Saturday, did not have an impact against United.

The clamour for an England call-up for this summer's European Championship could now shift to Rashford.

But van Gaal would only add: "That's not my job. I'm the manager of Manchester United."

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic was also impressed by Rashford, saying: "He's done it before in the derby against Manchester City and he scored a brilliant goal here.

"The finish was excellent, It was a great goal." - PA Sport.

Manchester UnitedFA Cuplouis van gaal