Wayne Rooney on trial for place in cup semi-final

Wayne Rooney’s hopes of facing former club Everton in Manchester United’s FA Cup semi-final on Saturday could depend on a strong showing against Crystal Palace tonight.

England and United captain Rooney played for 67 minutes against Aston Villa last Saturday in his first start since recovering from a knee injury.

The 30-year-old, who has never won the FA Cup and was not selected for the 2009 semi-final against the Toffees, looks to have done enough to continue for the Premier League visit of Palace to Old Trafford.

Beyond that, however, Wembley places are still to be played for.

Manager Louis van Gaal said: “It’s dependent (on) how he plays, like every player. We have to see how he is playing.

“I think he played very well in the first half (against Villa), I have said that already. In the second half he was tiring but he had already got 60 minutes in his legs.

“He has trained today and he has recovered so we will have to see how he is feeling in the second half against Crystal Palace and still he has to play good.”

United have won their last two games since a 3-0 defeat by title-chasing Tottenham.

Second-placed Spurs have enjoyed an outstanding season and are 12 points above United – having played a game more – but Van Gaal insists there is not a lot between the two sides.

He said: “We have beaten Tottenham 1-0 (earlier in the season) and until the 70th minute I think we were the better team but then (there was) a mis-communication.

“So, I don’t think there is a lot of distance between Tottenham and Manchester United, but the distance is in points.

“They have won more, they are scoring more and that’s because they have more creative players.”

Van Gaal believes a failure to sign another creative player last summer has badly affected his side’s season.

“It’s always the case,” he said. “I have said in advance what we need and in my opinion I don’t have a senior creative player. Everybody knows that.”

For his part,

Alan Pardew has conceded he made mistakes during the damaging run that threatened to ruin Palace’s season.

A promising start to their campaign took Palace into contention for European football before a failure to win in the Premier League after December 19 at Stoke until their 1-0 home defeat of Norwich on April 9 left them at risk of relegation to the Championship.

Having overseen six consecutive home defeats during that run, before which he was widely being spoken of as a future England manager, Pardew came under increasing pressure.

“You can’t manage at this level if you’re not going to sometimes say to the players ‘I got it wrong’, on occasion, and I have done that many a time in my career, and I have this year,” said Pardew.

“(It’s) ‘maybe that gameplan was wrong, maybe with hindsight I shouldn’t have gone down that road’. You can’t just criticise the players who couldn’t deliver the gameplan, sometimes they deliver the gameplan and the gameplan didn’t work. Well then who’s the finger pointing at?”

  • Manchester United have swooped to sign Ireland U16 captain Lee O’Connor.

The 15-year-old is the first Waterford-born player recruited by the club since John O’Shea in 1998.


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