A late Anthony Martial goal sent Manchester United into their first F.A. Cup final since 2007. At the expense of Everton, and an under pressure Roberto Martinez, Louis van Gaal will now compete for his first piece of silverware as Man United boss. Here are five things we learned from the pulsating semi-final.
- Roberto Martinez is almost certainly leaving Everton this summer
In what was a pivotal week for the former Wigan Athletic manager Martinez saw his side played off the park in the Merseyside Derby in a 4-0 drubbing which only got worse as the game went on. The rotten cherry on top of this stale cake is Martial’s late winner in Saturday’s semi-final. With fan patience now at the end Martinez is walking a tightrope and looks almost certain to lose his job this summer with underperforming stars, an inability to defend and lack of tactical flexibility.
Everton face four more games this season against: Bournemouth, Leicester City, Sunderland and Norwich City. Even if Martinez manages a clean sweep and collects 12 points from the remaining fixtures it will surely be nothing more than a last act of defiance before the Everton board pull the trigger on the Spaniard.
- Martial, Rashford & Lingard are the makings of a fearsome front three
Be it by managerial brilliance or luck – be that good or bad – Louis van Gaal has integrated Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard into the Manchester United side with great success. Add the superstar in the making that is Martial and they have the makings of a truly terrifying front three. Not since Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez have United had an attack so full of pace, directness and trickery. The chances are this will not be the permanent front three of The Red Devils going into next season – especially if Jose Mourinho takes charge. The trio clearly have a bond on the field which sees them bring the best out of each other and the sample size is becoming larger to show that it is not fluke that they are quality players together. Against Everton’s back line they constantly ran at them forcing the defenders to back off and created the lion share of Manchester United’s chances.
- Lukaku and Stones need new voices
This could go for the entire Everton team but no players need a new voice in their head quite like Romelu Lukaku and John Stones do. Both have had their heads turned by potential moves to bigger clubs in England and abroad and the inconsistencies of The Toffees has not helped matters. On a day when Everton needed their big players to have a big game they were left disappointed – particularly in the case of the big Belgian. Lukaku saw his penalty saved by David De Gea and that summed up what was an overall poor performance, Lukaku has had attitude problems in the past and they surfaced again today with the former Chelsea hitman not being at his terrorising best which has seen him find the net 25 times this campaign.
Stones by contrast had a mixed bag but his regression throughout the season is clear for all to see. He needs a new coach and manager before he forever lingers in the bracket of looking better than he is. Stones failed to steal the ball from Rashford in the build up to United’s opener and then allowed Marouane Fellaini to steal a yard on him giving the Belgium international a goal against his former employers. Perhaps this summer will see the pair shipped out of Goodison Park and for their sake they may need it.
- Semi-finals can be amazing
Often semi-finals can be dull one goal affairs with both teams often looking not to lose the tie before going on to win it. Not the case with this one, attack was the best form of defence and, although van Gaal’s men bossed the opening 45 minutes, we were treated to a mouth-watering clash with bags of chances and barely a moment to send a tweet out before the next bit of drama unfolded. Martial’s goal was a fitting finish to 90 minutes of rollercoaster action.
- The F.A. Cup still matters
Of course it still maters and it always will. The F.A. Cup is part of the very fabric of our culture in England. However, the reason it matters is changing greatly. The cup now represents buying managers a time. Arsene Wenger saw fans keep patience with him after back-to-back F.A. Cup wins in 2014 and 2015. Van Gaal could now see his position safe should he guide Man United to cup glory – the same could be said of Alan Pardew and Quique Sanchez Flores who are also under huge pressure to keep their jobs.
The F.A. Cup in recent times has come under more scrutiny as the perception grows that the bigger teams in the Premier League do not treat it with the same respect as they once did with Premier League and Champions League honours top of their list of priorities. Now it can be seen as a life raft keeping managers afloat. Perhaps the prestige has taken a knock but the drama has certainly intensified, you only have to go back and look at a champagne soaked Arsene Wenger clenching his fists to see what victory in the F.A. Cup can mean.