UNITED KINGDOM, March 13 – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal praised the spirit of his side as they scored a late goal to earn an FA Cup quarter-final replay at West Ham and potentially save their season.
United trailed to a stunning Dimitri Payet strike before Anthony Martial equalised in the 83rd minute to give Van Gaal’s side renewed hope of ending the season with a trophy and potentially keeping the Dutchman in a job.
Van Gaal said: “When you have played against West Brom and lost and against Liverpool and lost, to come back like that is amazing.
“When you see the spirit of my team it is unbelievable. When you lose a game against Liverpool it runs very deep in the club.
“Then you have to play within two days against a very good team like West Ham, who have been preparing for this game for a week while we had to recover in two days, and found yourselves 1-0 behind. So to come back like that is fantastic.
“I was very proud of my team and the fans were also very proud. I have seen a great match, an entertaining match. We are still in three competitions and I said to Wayne Rooney, Luke Shaw, Ashley Young that you can still play the final.”
The injured trio will be fit by May but United — trailing Liverpool 2-0 from the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie and sixth in the Premier League — still have a long way to go to try and win the FA Cup for the first time since 2004.
West Ham, whose last success in the competition was in 1980, had won 10 of their previous 15 games to reach the last eight of the Cup for the first time since 2011 and to go above United in the Premier League in pursuit of a possible top-four finish.
– Payet controversy –
They went close to winning at Old Trafford for the first time in 11 visits thanks to Payet’s 11th goal of the season, superbly converted from a 30-yard free-kick.
However, there was some debate as to whether the France international should still have been on the pitch, having been booked earlier for a trip on Jesse Lingard and then going down in the box four minutes before his goal when there looked to be no contact from a challenge by United defender Marcos Rojo.
“Payet was more or less diving,” added van Gaal. “He was maybe touched but not enough to fall like that. But there is always discussions about the decisions of the referee.
“The man has to decide within one second. That is more difficult than I can do. I have seen the videos. That is why I am in favour of a fourth referee with the video.”
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, not surprisingly, defended his man and is looking forward to a second chance to beat United in what will be the last cup tie at the Hammers’ current ground before they move to the Olympic Stadium in the summer.
Bilic said: “If you have a screen, show me, I am going to defend my point at Cambridge (debating union). There is more than a contact. It is definitely not a dive.
“Nobody in the world can say there wasn’t a touch. Then if it was a touch, and it is more than a touch, it is a penalty. I am not saying it was nasty, but it was mistimed.
“In our dressing room after the game it was kind of silent. We are a little bit disappointed because we were there the last few minutes and the time when we conceded makes you a little bit down.
“But that is good. It shows you have confidence and are moving in the right direction. It is difficult to play here in front of 75,000 fans. It will be different at Upton Park.”