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Lingard Lords It Over Palace

2016 FA Cup Final: Crystal Palace 1 Manchester United 2

Local lad Lingard became the hero as he won the FA cup in extra time for ten-man United with a blistering strike that lit up an otherwise ordinary final.

Manchester United have enjoyed a special relationship with the oldest club cup competition down the years that goes back to their first win back in 1909. Since then they have lifted the trophy eleven times but hadn’t tasted success since 2004. Read the full story

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Rooney Runs The Show

Manchester United 3 Bournemouth 1

The final day of the season is not usually known for its drama off the pitch, but on it. That was exactly the case at Old Trafford on Sunday following the bomb scare that caused the stadium to be cleared and the match to be rescheduled.

After the suspect package had been discovered the security staff have to be praised for the calm way they conducted the evacuation of 75,000 people in such an orderly fashion.

However, questions have to be raised at the club in regards to the way a suspect package had been left unnoticed for four days. And the security company that left it there have to be dragged over the coals for their ineptitude.

The last league game of the season eventually saw United welcome Bournemouth to Old Trafford after the understandable postponement of the match on Sunday.

This rescheduled match meant two things. Firstly,  United knew that barring a victory of 19 plus goals, there would be no Champions League football next season. Secondly, it would interrupt preparations for the upcoming FA Cup final against Crystal Palace this weekend.

How would these factors effect van Gaal’s team selection from the one he chose for the original game? The answer was it didn’t as he picked the exact same eleven: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson, Carrick, Rooney, Lingard, Mata, Martial and Rashford. In came the recalled trio of Borthwick-Jackson, Carrick and Lingard at the expense of Rojo, injured in training, Schneiderlin, ill and Herrera who started on the bench.

In all honesty, there was very little to say about the first half as it had been pretty much unremarkable until Rooney gave the fans something to cheer as he netted his 100th Premier League goal at Old Trafford in the 43rd minute.

The captain had the easiest of finishes as he buried the ball into the back of the net after Martial and Mata had played a neat one-two with each other and the former produced a cross that Rashford stepped over which left Rooney able to pounce. One down, only 18 to go.

Before the opener the closest the sides came to raising the pulse of the fans was when Carrick almost got a touch to a Rooney delivery from a free kick and at the other end, Pugh had an effort blocked by Valencia. The match had that feeling of a pre-season friendly written all over it.

At least at the start of the second half, both sides had decided to make a go of it with Rooney eyeing up a shot that was blocked and Mata who went to ground in the penalty area after being caught from behind but referee Jon Moss waved play on.

The visitors had their moments when Pugh and Wilson tried their luck from the edge of the area but would need to do better to beat De Gea.

Carrick was the next player to jolt the fans into life as he blasted a swerving, long-distance drive against the crossbar.

At the centre of United’s attacking forays were Martial’s quick feet on the left and the precise passing of Rooney from his midfield position.

Somehow the score remained 1-0 after a spot of football pinball inside the Cherries box after great play by Rashford. The ball just wouldn’t go in after every shot was blocked by the defenders.

United had found the desire to kill the game off and Valencia came close with a cracker of a shot that Bournemouth keeper Federici brilliantly saved with his fingertips.

What a difference the two halves were proving to be.

The home side had another penalty shout when Lingard was brought down. However, the referee wasn’t interested in the appeals of United.

The visitors did manage to put the ball in the net, but to their disappointment, Wilson was correctly ruled offside. It was a reminder to United that one goal might not be enough.

Right on cue Rashford made it 2-0 in the 75th minute. The move started with a delightful ball played deep into the box by Rooney which was headed back into the danger area by Valencia and there was Rashford to fire a low shot into the net and celebrate his call-up to England’s provisional squad for the European Championships.

Van Gaal made three substitutions in the last ten minutes with Herrera, Memphis and Young replacing Mata, Rashford and Martial. And it was the forgotten man Young, who produced the icing get on the cake in the 87th minute with United’s third goal of the game after great work from the man of the match, Rooney. He beat the defence with a well-timed chip to provide Young with the easiest of chances to score to which he duly obliged.

The match had time for one more twist when in added time Smalling managed to put the ball into his own goal which denied De Gea a share of the league’s golden glove, much to the Spaniards dismay judging by his reaction.

After an anti-climatic first half at least the players brought the game to life in the second half. Rooney pulled the strings from his midfield role and provided a master class of passing combined with his never say die attitude when chasing back.

The main objective apart from the win was to not sustain any injuries before the cup final. In that respect mission accomplished.

United had chances so many times this season to make sure they booked their seat at the caviar and champagne table of the European elite and only have themselves to blame for ending up picking up the scraps in the Europa League.

Have we witnessed the van Gaal farewell at the Theatre of Dreams? Which in all reality has turned out to be nothing less than a nightmare for the coach who arrived with such high expectations following an impressive career across Europe. However, once again the season has fallen short for the club under his so-called philosophy.

Surely the time has come to put everyone, including van Gaal, out of their misery. No matter what happens in the FA Cup final the board have to find the right person who can take United in a new direction or witness the further demise of our great club.

Thanks for reading. Next stop Wembley.

Miles Dunton | FacebookTwitter

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United Blow Their Chance

West Ham United 3 Manchester United 2

It was a night of heated tension as Manchester United came from behind only to gift West Ham two goals in the space of five minutes which allowed them to leave their home for the last 112 years on a high.

The evening started badly for the Red Devils even before the match had begun when their team bus came under attack on the way to the stadium. An event that could have shook the players confidence even before they had entered the ground. However, no excuses can be made for the way they squandered the lead after Martial’s double had put their noses in front.

This was the first of two important matches for the Red Devils in their season finale that would determine if their quest for a top-four finish would indeed materialise after another fairly disappointing season.

The target was clear win the last two games and they would secure a Champions League place at the expense of Man City. There could have been no greater incentive.

Louis van Gaal’s starting XI had a strong look about it: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Schneiderlin, Herrera, Mata, Rooney, Rashford and Martial. Van Gaal made four changes by bringing back Blind, Schneiderlin, Rashford and Martial, who had been a doubt after pulling out in the warm-up against Norwich.

The match was delayed for forty-five minutes to allow Man United more time to prepare for the game as their team bus was late arriving at the ground due to the mass of home fans outside the stadium. Fans decided it would be fun to pelt the United bus with various objects including beer bottles and probably jellied eels as it was the East End.

Once the match got under way it became abundantly clear that not only did United have to overcome the opposition but also the partisan home crowd if they were to come away with the victory.

Immediately following the kick-off West Ham bombarded United’s penalty area and in doing so created panic in the away defence.

Martial didn’t seem to be hampered by injury as he burst into the box in the opening minutes and was unlucky not to be awarded a corner.

It was not the start United wanted when the Hammers took the lead in the tenth minute following a cross from the left that found Sakho unmarked in the box and his effort was deflected by Blind past the despairing dive of De Gea to give the home fans more to shout about.

This was proving to be a match that would truly test the characters of the United players as they were in a cauldron of hate pouring down from he stands.

West Ham had a perfect opportunity to double their lead when Carroll was played clean through but with only De Gea to beat he placed his shot too close to the keeper who managed to get a block in and save Smalling’s embarrassment as it was the defender who lost the run of Carroll.

The ball was in the United net again in the twenty-first minute but thankfully for United, the goal was disallowed as it had already crossed the line for a corner.

As the half hour mark approached United finally started to put some decent passes together and created some space on the flanks but were let down by the final ball.

On one such attack Valencia and Martial linked well on the right and when the cross was played over Mata was adjudged to have fouled a defender as he headed goalward.

After a rare mistake from Martial, who slipped while in possession, Payet was gifted a golden chance but he totally miscued his shot and it curled harmlessly wide.

At the other end, Rashford tried to get on the end of a pacey Rooney cross but the youngster seemed to mess up his jump and the chance was gone.

As the half neared its conclusion it was the home side who were on the front foot and had plenty of chances to put the game beyond the reach of the visitors.

There was a late shout for a penalty after Martial was nudged as he sped into the penalty area. However, Mike Dean immediately waved away the claims from the United players.

Half-time and behind to only a single goal meant that in the second half United still had to hope they could overturn the score. The biggest problem in the first half was that United weren’t allowed to settle and when they did have the ball they didn’t seem to know what to do with it.

The most creative player for United had been Rooney, who in his deeper role tried to pick out the runs of his forwards and was unlucky on a couple of occasions that his passes hadn’t been as pinpoint as usual.

United got the second half underway looking for a vastly improved second forty-five minutes compared to the first. Van Gaal made his first change at the start of the half when he replaced Schneiderlin with West Ham old boy Carrick.

In the 51st minute, the home fans failed to return the ball to De Gea from behind his goal so a replacement ball was called for. From De Gea’s goal kick the new ball eventually fell at the feet of Mata who showed great awareness inside the area to cut the ball back from the byline and his pass was swept home by Martial to make the scores level.

Superb play by Mata to create a chance out of a long punt by his keeper. Bet the home fans wished they hadn’t delayed play by not returning the ball.

Unfortunately, Martial followed up his strike with the first booking of the match.

United were looking more dangerous in attack as Rashford tried a cheeky backheel across the six-yard area that Herrera was unlucky not to get on the end of.

The Hammers still provided their own threats on United’s goal and in one attempted header by Carroll it took a goal line clearance by Rashford to save a certain goal.

As the match entered the last twenty minutes tackles flew in left right and centre and there were two cautions in quick succession for Carroll and Valencia.

Then in the 72nd minute, that man Anthony Martial scored his second of the game and 17th of the season to put United into a 2-1 lead.

The move began with Rooney who played the ball through to Rashford who in turn passed to Martial on the left-hand side of the area. The French forward still had a lot of work to do as he dribbled his way into the box then from a tight angle clipped the ball into the net. A brilliant finish from a player on top of his game.

After the jubilation of the equaliser, West Ham pressed United back and then turned the game on its head with two soft goals both headed in from close range by Antonio and Reid that stemmed from a couple of set pieces delivered by Payet and poorly defended by the United back four.

The last fifteen minutes were played out against a crescendo of noise generated by the home fans around the ground. They must have been loving the fact that they had got one over United.

Herrera was substituted after he had been cautioned and was replaced by Lingard for the last five minutes. The last change by van Gaal was to introduce Januzaj for Valencia to try and rescue at least a point from the game which they failed to do.

Game over and United headed back up north licking their wounds knowing that they had blown a great chance to come away with a win but instead fell to their tenth defeat in the league.

From the start West Ham went for the throat fired up by the occasion with the backing of their fans behind them and United seemed to take an age to settle especially at the back. Everybody knows what a danger Payet poses at dead ball situations so why on earth did the United players continue to concede free-kicks in dangerous areas? Once Martial had provided the lead United imploded in the space of five minutes with a display of inept defending and only have themselves to blame.

Now the advantage has been handed back to Man City who have to win away at Swansea while United host Bournemouth in the final games of the season. The Swans are not a push over so expect a few more twists and turns during the last ninety minutes of the current campaign.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton | FacebookTwitter

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