London: Manchester United striker Anthony Martial kept their FA Cup hopes alive when he struck eight minutes from time to salvage a 1-1 draw with West Ham United in Sunday’s quarterfinal tie at Old Trafford.
West Ham playmaker Dimitri Payet looked to be sending the 11-times Cup winners tumbling out of the competition with a wondrous, 30-metre curling free kick in the 68th minute. But with time running out, United’s young French starlet Martial hooked Ander Herrera’s cross on the volley back into the net from the narrowest of angles.
Just like holders Arsenal’s exit earlier on Sunday in a 2-1 home defeat by Watford that heaped more pressure on manager Arsene Wenger, a United exit would have raised more questions about the future of boss Louis van Gaal.
With United 2-0 down after a dismal first leg performance in ther Europa League last 16 tie with Liverpool on Thursday and 13 points adrift of Leicester City in the Premier League title race, Martial’s strike offered blessed relief for van Gaal.
“I am very happy that my team showed their spirit after a nasty week,” a relieved Van Gaal told BT Sport.
“We have played a game against Liverpool on Thursday and they (West Ham) had the whole week to prepare. I have to give a lot of compliments to my team. They were mentally tired after Liverpool and also in the body.” Both van Gaal and his West Ham counterpart Slaven Bilic agreed it had been a thrilling finale.
“It was one of the best free kicks I’ve scored, and to score in one of the most beautiful stadiums in the league, it’s a great day for me,” said Payet, whose curler past David de Gea via the post was just the latest masterpiece of his exceptional breakthrough season.