Football: Last chance for silverware for Manchester United

Van Gaal aiming to break trophy duck as Hammers eye winning end at Upton Park

Manchester United players react during the game vs Tottenham Hotspur on April 10, 2016.
Manchester United players react during the game vs Tottenham Hotspur on April 10, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • There will be plenty at stake when West Ham host Manchester United today, and neither manager bothered downplaying the significance of the FA Cup quarter-final replay.

For West Ham, the competition represents a final opportunity to crown their farewell season at Upton Park, staging its last FA Cup tie ever, with silverware.

"It can't be bigger," said Hammers boss Slaven Bilic. "We are fully motivated and it is a massive game of course. It is massive for us and it is massive for them."

Both clubs saw their Champions League qualification hopes fade at the weekend, but while West Ham have been overachieving, United have been underachieving.

United manager Louis van Gaal may need to win the FA Cup if he is to hold on to his job, after Sunday's 0-3 defeat by Tottenham left his side four points off the Champions League places with six games left.

"It is the last chance of a title so it is very important for the players, for the club, for the manager, for the fans," said the Dutchman, who is yet to win a trophy in close to two full seasons at Old Trafford.

"I hope that we shall recover very good, also mentally, because (losing to Tottenham) is again a blow of course. But everybody knows this is the last chance."

West Ham's home since 1904 will be charged with emotion and has provided the scene for a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Liverpool in a fourth-round replay, as well as league wins over Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Arsenal almost became the latest heavyweights to fall to the East London side on Saturday, when Andy Carroll scored a hat-trick in the 3-3 draw.

Man United's defence was breached three times in six minutes at Tottenham and van Gaal could not disguise his discomfort at the thought of Carroll going up against Chris Smalling and Daley Blind.

"I've seen the Andy Carroll Show," he said. "And (against Tottenham) I think our problem was also the miscommunication of our central defenders."

Such comments, however, are unlikely to endear him to United's senior players. They are reportedly growing increasingly frustrated with his tendency to blame them - publicly and privately - for the club's poor performances rather than acknowledging any shortcomings in his tactics or style of play.

According to the British media yesterday, van Gaal heavily criticised striker Marcus Rashford, 18, in the dressing room during the half-time interval at White Hart Lane before hauling him off for Ashley Young.

United's first-team have also grown increasingly baffled by his determination to play players out of position - such as Young leading the line at Spurs.

In contrast, West Ham captain Mark Noble said his team's morale is high as the side gear up for a big week.

"Our attention is on Manchester United, as we would love to give our fans a Wembley day out," the midfielder told the club's official website. "Then we have the potential champions in Leicester (on Sunday). The team spirit is great and we just need to keep on going."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'LAST CHANCE FOR SILVERWARE'. Subscribe