Anthony Martial\’s stoppage-time goal sent Manchester United into its first FA Cup final in nine years on Saturday, with a 2-1 victory over Everton giving Louis van Gaal a chance to end an underwhelming season with a trophy.
Just as the semifinal was heading into extra time, Martial linked up with Marcus Rashford on the left flank and then played another one-two with Ander Herrera before powering in the winner in the third minute of additional time.
The relief was clear among the United players as they leapt into the crowd at Wembley Stadium, led by the 20-year-old Martial.
"When you see the joy in the eyes of the players, that is fantastic to see but also for the fans," United manager Van Gaal said.
United had led through Marouane Fellaini\’s goal in the 34th minute against his former club and goalkeeper David de Gea saved Romelu Lukaku\’s penalty in the second half to preserve the lead after Ross Barkley was brought down by Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
But Everton did gradually pose a real threat to United and, with 15 minutes remaining, Gerard Deulofeu\’s cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by Chris Smalling.
Everton couldn\’t beat De Gea again and Martial\’s late goal could have a big say in determining the fate of the opposing managers.
It will immediately crank up the pressure on Roberto Martinez, whose Everton side is 11th in the Premier League, but hand a potential lifeline to Van Gaal.
The Dutchman can now deliver the club\’s first major title since Alex Ferguson retired on its return to Wembley on May 21. United faces the winner of Sunday\’s semifinal between Crystal Palace and Watford.
Ferguson\’s last act as United manager after 26 years was to deliver a 20th English title but the team has not come close to No. 21 since then — first under David Moyes and for the last two years with Van Gaal at the helm.
United is struggling even to finish in the top four and secure lucrative Champions League qualification, with Arsenal four points ahead in fourth place.
Ultimately, snatching fourth place is more significant for United\’s prestige than winning a domestic cup, whose status has diminished with many teams sending out weakened line-ups in earlier rounds.
And United has not challenged the accuracy of months of reports that Van Gaal is heading for the Old Trafford exit before entering the final season of his contract, with former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho being lined up as a replacement.