Anthony Martial’s 83rd minute equaliser has earned Manchester United an FA Cup replay against West Ham United this afternoon.
West Ham had the better of the opening exchanges at Old Trafford, with Andy Carroll and Emmanuel Emenike spurning good chances for the Hammers. At the other end of the pitch, Ander Herrera fired over the bar following good work from Marcos Rojo.
In the second half, Man United had a shout for a penalty turned down after the ball appeared to strike the hand of Winston Reid, who was rushing to block Herrera’s shot. Dimitri Payet was then lucky not to receive a second yellow card when he seemed to dive in the United box. The decision proved crucial as Payet fired in an unstoppable free-kick minutes later. United had been poor up to that point and the outlook for the rest of the match looked bleak. However, Martial earned his side a replay at Upton Park by getting onto the end of Herrera’s cross and forcing the ball in late on.
Varela was guilty of being sucked inside on occasion, meaning Payet and Aaron Cresswell had space to play with, although the defender might have expected a bit more protection from Jesse Lingard.
However, going forward, Varela was a threat. He wasn’t afraid to take risks in the final third and run at his man. It was a shame the majority of his teammates couldn’t follow suit.
You can’t argue with Payet’s free-kick; it was a superb, long-range strike which was masterfully taken.
What you can argue with was the forward’s ‘dive’ beforehand and there is a strong argument that he should have seen red. Payet, already in the book, was incredibly lucky not to receive his marching orders when he looked to take a dive in the United box under the attention of Rojo.
The cloud descending on Old Trafford following Payet’s goal was decidedly grey but Martial lifted the mood by scoring what could be a huge equaliser for United.
Prior to the goal, Martial got supporters off their seats and it always looked like something would happen when he was on the ball. Louis van Gaal has a lot to thank Martial for this term.
Still in the Cup
There were plenty of negatives for United but one overwhelming positive: they are still in the Cup.
With Arsenal exiting the competition, United have an excellent opportunity to win it. That being said, the display at Old Trafford against West Ham did little to suggest that van Gaal’s side can go all the way.