FA Cup win could save Van Gaal
Louis van Gaal’s tenure at Manchester United has been blighted by disappointments, which has led to speculation that the Dutchman will leave the club at the end of the season.
United have failed to win a trophy since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, despite heavy outlay on transfers under the reigns of David Moyes and Van Gaal.
The club have struggled immensely in Europe after regaining their place in the Champions League with a fourth-placed finish last season only to be dumped out of the competition at the group stage.
Van Gaal’s side were given a major scare in the first knockout round of the Europa League by FC Midtjylland but teenage debutant Marcus Rashford bailed them out and set his side up for a showdown against Liverpool.
The Red Devils were well beaten by Jurgen Klopp’s men on aggregate in their march to the quarter-finals of the competition and this increased the pressure on the Dutchman.
A late strike from Anthony Martial saved United from crashing out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford after Dimitri Payet’s wonder goal looked to have sent West Ham United through to the last four.
The Frenchman has shown a pedigree for notching goals late in matches, with nine of his strikes coming after the opening score in the contest.
This makes the 20-year-old an intriguing option to use an anytime bet which can provide better value than first goalscorer for punts involving the Red Devils this season due to their struggles to find the net in the first half.
As a result of Martial's late finish, there remains one glimmer of hope for the club to end their trophy drought, although a stern test awaits them at Upton Park in the sixth-round replay.
United have a proud history in the FA Cup, with their 11 trophy wins second only to Arsenal who surpassed them last season.
However, they have not won the tournament since the 2003/04 campaign when they defeated Millwall at the Millennium Stadium. Since then the club have made the final just twice, with their last appearance coming in 2007 in a loss to Chelsea.
Reaching the semi-finals of the tournament would help ease the pressure which has steadily grown on Van Gaal throughout the campaign as the name of Jose Mourinho has been touted to replace him in the dugout at Old Trafford.
United’s 1-0 victory over rivals Manchester City has been a rare joyous moment, along with the emergence of goalscorer Rashford, although Van Gaal’s men still remain in a fierce battle to secure European football for next season.
They face an important final few matches of the Premier League campaign, with a place in the Europa League a minimum requirement.
Following their victory at the Etihad Stadium, just one point separates United from City in fourth place, which leaves both sides in a desperate fight to secure their spot in the Champions League and the extra riches it provides.
Should Van Gaal secure a place for the Red Devils in Europe’s elite competition and end the club’s trophy drought in the FA Cup to achieve the feats, he may have done enough to extend his tenure at Old Trafford into a third term.