Cup win a 'special' prospect: Rooney

Almost engulfed by a sea of jubilant Manchester United supporters, striker Anthony Martial celebrates after scoring the 93rd-minute winning goal at Wembley in the dramatic 2-1 victory against Everton on Saturday to put his team into the FA Cup final.
Almost engulfed by a sea of jubilant Manchester United supporters, striker Anthony Martial celebrates after scoring the 93rd-minute winning goal at Wembley in the dramatic 2-1 victory against Everton on Saturday to put his team into the FA Cup final. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Everton fans at the Chang Beer-The Straits Times pre-screening party on Saturday, ahead of the FA Cup semi-final clash between the Toffees and Manchester United.
Everton fans at the Chang Beer-The Straits Times pre-screening party on Saturday, ahead of the FA Cup semi-final clash between the Toffees and Manchester United. PHOTO: INTERBEV (SINGAPORE) LTD

Lifting the FA Cup could bring a new era, says captain, but van Gaal avoids talk of his future

LONDON • Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney believes winning the FA Cup could be "the start of something special" for the club.

The Wembley showpiece could also mark the end of Louis van Gaal's Old Trafford career.

The Dutchman was unwilling to discuss the likely effect a trophy could have on his future after his side edged Everton 2-1 on Saturday to reach the final, but British media reports yesterday suggested that he will be replaced by Jose Mourinho at the end of the season.

"I'm not looking beyond the FA Cup because we live in the present and for the future, I discuss that with my board and not with you," said van Gaal, whose side will face either Watford or Crystal Palace in the final on May 21.

The United manager has been under pressure all season, owing to disappointing results in the Premier League and Champions League, but is now within one victory of steering United to a first FA Cup success since 2004, after Anthony Martial's 93rd-minute winner at Wembley.

United are fifth in the Premier League - outside the Champions League places - and van Gaal would not be drawn when asked if FA Cup glory alone would represent a successful season.

"It's not for me to judge. It's for the board of Manchester United," he said after the match.

Few could question his choices on Saturday, when United played with purpose, creativity and panache, which they so often lacked this season.

He recalled Marouane Fellaini to the starting line-up and the former Toffee gave United the lead in the 34th minute when Martial sped to the left-hand byline and squared for the Belgium international.

Van Gaal - criticised earlier in his United reign for deploying Rooney in midfield - saw the 30-year-old flourish in the deeper position.

The Dutchman might even have provided England manager Roy Hodgson with a template for Euro 2016: Rooney dictacting the tempo and providing ammunition for Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.

Van Gaal's own youthful frontline - and substitute - combined for the winner after Romelu Lukaku's penalty was saved by United goalkeeper David de Gea and Chris Smalling scored a 75th-minute own goal.

With extra time seconds away, Martial, 20, collected the ball wide on the left and played one-twos with Marcus Rashford, 18, and substitute Ander Herrera before nervelessly finding the bottom-right corner. It was Martial's 14th goal in his maiden United campaign.

"I think (the final is) a great opportunity for us," Rooney told the club's official website.

"There are a lot of young and new players in the dressing room for us so it could be a big day for us in the final and the start of something special for us, I hope."

Everton manager Roberto Martinez, having seen his side improve in the second half, could only describe the finale as "cruel" and "very heartbreaking". It may yet get worse for the under-fire Spaniard but he insisted that he was still the right man to take the club forward.

"I've got so attached to Everton and my ambition is exactly the same as the club's ambition," he said. "I share the drive that the football club has, which is getting into the Champions League, getting into situations where we can bring silverware to the football club, and I'll give everything I've got to fulfil those expectations."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2016, with the headline 'Cup win a 'special' prospect: Rooney'. Print Edition | Subscribe