Cleat Geeks

Louis Van Gaal’s United Reach The FA Cup Final In ‘Fergie Time’

You know it’s going to be your day when the main opposition striker ( Romelu Lukaku) is through on goal in the first minute and your main striker (Wayne Rooney) heads the ball away from the goal clattering into the goal post at the same time. That is what happened at Wembley on Saturday April 23rd, in the first FA Cup Semi Final between Everton and Manchester United.Marouane Fellaini

In the following 45 minutes of the first half Everton seemed to be in shock as United’s young forwards, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard showed skill, pace and energy as they ran the Everton defence a merry dance. Martial should have scored and Lingard could have scored before the older Marouane Fellaini did score in the 34th minute from an incisive pass from Martial. Martial having beaten the Everton defender Muhamed Besic running toward the goal line before passing to an alert Fellaini who skuffed his shot it into the net.

In a first half which provided more opportunities for attacking football than most semi-finals United in the main were in control and perhaps should have scored more than the one they did. As for Everton, Lukaku once again spurned a promising opportunity to level the score before half time.

LVG-and-Roberto-800x504In an interesting backstory, before the match even kicked off both managers, Louis Van Gaal of United and Everton’s Roberto Martinez had been in the news, because both, according to various social media sources, were and perhaps still are, facing the sack in the near future. However in the previous weeks build up to the game Van Gaal’s team had beaten Crystal Palace 2-0 while Martinez’s Everton suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of their Merseyside rivals, Liverpool.

Perhaps both issues, the sack and the Liverpool defeat where on Martinez’s mind during the half time team talk because whatever he said to his players seemed to work and Everton finally realized how close they were to an FA Cup final and fired up their game accordingly in the second half. Taking the game to United, Everton finally gave their fans something to cheer about and United for the first time in the match looked vulnerable.

When Timothy Fosu-Mensah was adjudged to have fouled Lukaku Everton were offered a lifeline which unfortunately for Lukaku did not take. Lukaku’s body shape telegraphed where he intended to place the ball. While he was all pace and power in his run up for the penalty he offered David DeGea a split second decision in which way he should dive. DeGae dove the right way and palmed the ball around the post, much to United’s relief and Evertons chagrin.

DavidDeGeaEverton introduced substitute Gerard Deulofeu who added pace on the right side of the Wembley field. His cross from the right hit Chris Smalling in the box and was diverted past De Gea and Everton were level. A classic barnstorming match was now a reality however although Everton were a side almost reborn and United huffed and puffed a little bit, the defining moment came in the 93rd minute when Martial was put through on goal by Ander Herrara. Taking the ball at pace and outrunning the Everton defence Martial slipped it around the Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles in one sweet movement. He then ran to United’s adoring fans for the subsequent adulation and expressed that comes with scoring a late, late goal in a semi-final at Wembley.

It used to be called ‘Fergie Time’ one of the television pundits proclaimed. This referred to how the former manager somehow got his United side to score late, late goals to either draw or in most cases win important matches. The origin undoubtedly coming from Sir Alex Ferguson’s first premiership title win in the 1992-1993 season when Steve Bruce headed the winning goal against Sheffield Wednesday in the 90th minute at Old Trafford. United duly went on to win the first ever Premiership title in the last remaining matches that year and “Fergie Time’ was born.

A day later in the other semi-final Crystal Palace beat Watford 2-1 to reach the final in May against United in a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup Final which United won 1-0 in a replay after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the first match.

Van Gaal might yet win silverware for the club but whether the FA Cup will save his position as manager is anyones guess. Winning any cup is often down to luck as well as skill, which team you draw, where you play them, sometimes extra time and penalties, all the inconsistencies that cup matches throw up. Winning the league is down to skill, perseverance, tenacity, guts and desire something which most of the season has deserted Mr Van Gaal’s team.

Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

For some months now Jose Mourinho’s has been the heir apparent according to all the social media outlets and some respected journalists. Todays football ( soccer) world is global and the premiership at least is all about commercialism. On this front Mr Ed Woodward has surpassed himself in his ability to set up deals from fizzy drinks to elite watches. However the fans do not get excited about United advertising chinense noodles or booking flights with Aeroflot and this is where Mr Ed Woodward has fallen short of the required standard.

In a recent interview Van Gaal expressed the opinion that he would rather win the FA Cup than finish in a Champions League spot this season. It was a strange admission because it seemed to put Van Gaal’s own self interest and ego before the club which pays his wages and needs the Champions League for success more than an FA Cup win.

As Van Gaal enters ‘Fergie Time’ on his career, winning the FA Cup would be a good way to leave Manchester United, not necessarily a good way to stay for the final year of his contract. At the end of the day however there is a possibility that defeat to Crystal Palace and finishing outside forth place in the premiership will bring Van Gaal’s “Fergie Time’ to its own natural end. For now Van Gaal is holding onto his job but the next few weeks will be pivotal on both fronts, the sack and forth place. Whether the present time is a prelude to success or a counting down to failure on one or both of these fronts is as yet, unknown.

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