Marcus Rashford spoils West Ham party as Man Utd make semi finals
Teenage striker scores sumptuous goal for United as Upton Park bids farewell to cup football with a thriller
West Ham United 1 Manchester United 2.
A brilliant goal from Marcus Rashford helped Manchester United edge past West Ham in the last ever FA Cup fixture at Upton Park.
It was an emotional night in east London, as the curtain came down on 112 years of cup football in the famous old ground. The Hammers faithful had hoped they could wave goodbye with a win, before relocating to the Olympic Stadium, but 18-year-old Rashford played the party pooper.
In the build up to the FA Cup quarter-final replay the talk had all been about the return to action of Wayne Rooney after a two-month lay-off, but United's newest goal-scoring sensation stole the headlines with a sumptuous strike on 54 minutes.
Antonio's poor pass was the catalyst, with the loose ball picked up in centre field by Anthony Martial. He found Rashford on the edge of the area and with elegant grace he jinked inside one challenge before curling the into the top corner of the West Ham net.
It was a goal fit for a final, never mind a last eight replay on a Wednesday night, although United's second was less easy on the eye as Marouane Fellaini scrambled the ball over the line with his knee for a lead that most assumed was unassailable.
But West Ham clawed their way back into the game 12 minutes from time, with James Tomkins bravely launching himself at Andy Carroll's knock-down to head the ball past David de Gea. It was tough on the Spaniard, who moments earlier has saved sharply from Antonio, but the United keeper kept his side from extra-time in the closing minutes of the match, pulling off superb saves in quick succession from Carroll and Cheikhou Kouyate.
Kouyate then thought he'd headed the equaliser but referee Roger East correctly adjudged him offside and United - for whom Wayne Rooney played the final five minutes - closed out the tie. Their reward is a trip to Wembley on Saturday week to face Everton as they continue their pursuit of a 12th FA Cup title, which would equal Arsenal's record.
"It is important for the club, for the players and for the team," was how United manager Louis van Gaal summed up the competition.
There has been talk in recent days of player unrest at Old Trafford because of the Dutchman's management style, but Van Gaal dismissed rumours of any behind-the-scene battles following Sunday's thrashing at the hands of Tottenham. "I am happy in spite of that 3-0 defeat — we had the spirit against West Ham," he said. "You cannot deny my team has a lot of fighting spirit."
Van Gaal singled out Rashford for praise, explaining that he had had words with the youngster after his unimpressive display against Tottenham. "When he has criticism, he can cope with it," he told reporters. "He can say, 'Yes manager, you are right, I have to do that'. It is fantastic."
He also explained with a smile his part in Rashford's memorable goal. "I was behind him on the bench and I saw his view and I saw the gap, the corner in the goal, and I shouted 'Shoot!'," said Van Gaal. "But to do it is much more difficult. He has that quality. He can score a lot of goals.”