Rashford rewards Van Gaal for faith in youth
Whatever criticism is hurled Louis van Gaal’s way even his harshest detractors cannot accuse the Dutchman of failing to give Manchester United’s youngsters a chance.
They did him proud on Wednesday as United responded to Sunday’s dismal Premier League defeat by Tottenham Hotspur to beat much-fancied West Ham United 2-1 in an absorbing FA Cup quarter-final replay at Upton Park.
Two in particular stood out — 18-year-old forward Marcus Rashford and defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
Rashford, who scored twice on his debut against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League, bagged two against Arsenal and a winner against Manchester City, produced a moment of magic to curl United into a 54th-minute lead.
Fosu-Mensah, a product of the Ajax academy, showed tremendous maturity at the back to help snuff out West Ham’s dangermen, including Dmitri Payet and Andy Carroll.
Jesse Lingard also impressed in a vibrant forward line while Van Gaal signing Anthony Martial tormented West Ham’s defence.
All in all, it was a good night for Van Gaal who found himself again under fire after defeat at Tottenham left United fifth in the Premier League and struggling to qualify for the Champions League — the minimum requirement this season.
“He’s very focused on his work and that I admire, when you are so young and there is so much attention,” Van Gaal said of Rashford who he took off at halftime against Tottenham.
“He is scoring so many goals and important goals.
“He can cope with criticism also and he can say about himself, ‘yes manager you are right and I have to do that’. I think it is fantastic.”
Victory kept alive Van Gaal’s hopes of salvaging some silverware from a troubled season, although the Dutchman still insists his side can finish in the top four.
Everton will be United’s opponents in the FA Cup last four with Watford or Crystal Palace waiting in the final.
“I have a desire to win a title because I have done that with every club I’ve coached,” Van Gaal said.
“But it’s more important for the club, for the players and for the team. I said I wanted a title and I am very happy but it is very important for the club.”
Van Gaal also hit back as reports of discord in the United dressing-room over his tactics — saying the proof was in the reaction of his team after defeat by Tottenham.
“Upton Park is a difficult place to come — they haven’t lost here since August; it was difficult because they have beaten all the top teams here,” he said.
“The spirit in the team is very good, you cannot deny that.”
Report by Reuters
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