TERRACE TALK: Man United - Anthony Martial saves a season but not Louis van Gaal

There have been some legendary United ‘goons’ at Wembley down the years. Moments when all bodily and mental control flies out of the window, and gruff grown men can be seen kissing each other on the lips, ululating like possessed animals, and falling over each other into tangled heaps of blood and joy.

Consider:

  • Sammy McIlroy’s 1979 equaliser
  • Norman Whiteside’s 1985 curler
  • Mark Hughes’ 1994 semi-final volley
  • Eric Cantona’s 1996 winner
  • ...and even Nani’s 2011 Charity Shield clincher — well, it was City, after all.

To that august list can now be added ‘Anthony Martial’s 2016 scousebuster’, which has finally provided this largely wretched and traumatic season with its Moment To Remember. 

It is hard to conceive of it being bettered in the few matches that remain— although the moment we learn of Louis Van Gaal’s removal would certainly be hugely satisfying.

That last line answers the question, should anyone dare to ask, as to whether Saturday’s extraordinary thrillfest has made any difference to our overall judgement on LVG’s credentials for job retention.

A crushing piece on the morning of the game by the hugely respected north-west expert Ian Ladyman in the Daily Mail had neatly anticipated any such pro-Louis wheedlings by clinically arguing that even an ultimate FA Cup victory should not be allowed to save his job.

For 90% of us, that ship has sailed and isn’t coming back.

After the whistle, Louis looked like he’d finally read the writing on the wall too, a wall towards which he’s been driving headlong for months. 

Fans and hacks alike were struck by the strange, defeatist air surrounding him, as he bizarrely carped about adverse refereeing decisions in a game he’d just won.

No one yet knows what he’s heard, or been told, behind the scenes. But those terrifying eyes that usually sparkle with fiery defiance looked to this observer as though the lights had been turned out.

Coincidence or not, that very morning a respectable Portuguese newspaper had splashed on its front page that the deal for José to succeed him has finally been agreed, if not signed.

My own pro-José Lisbon sources continue to preach caution but admit they are all “confident”. 

They, like most of us, do not think United are likely to finish in the top four, which is ultimately all that really matters for Ed Woodward and the Glazers.

Should Louis win the FA Cup yet still leave Old Trafford, he would not be the first: Tommy Docherty did so, in rather different circumstances and to our universal lasting regret, almost 40 years ago. 

It would be a marvellous face-saver for Louis were he able to claim a trophy that the traditional sentimental part of him really does covet before waving adieu.

But we get ahead of ourselves. 

We cannot yet know for sure whether Louis’ exit visa has been stamped, and there’s also the small matter of the actual final to negotiate. 

United were favourites for the cup even before the semi-final, and are doubly so now, but we mustn’t overlook the fact that Saturday’s victory was, objectively and dispassionately, somewhat unimpressive.

Everton came into the game demoralised, out of form, fresh from a derby thrashing, and with key injuries, all overseen by a hangdog expression attached to a head en route to the guillotine. 

Yet there we were, 10 minutes to go, in a game we had controlled until half-time? 

Hanging on for dear life, and thanking every deity going for miraculously delivering us from De Gea’s Madrid transfer last summer.

We’re still not very good, so no one in this house is ordering the naff commemorative replica trophy just yet. 

But, erm, we’ve checked out the prices online...

Here’s a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis: Premier League Player of the season


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