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Football Sport

Van Gaal and Martinez seek silver lining in FA Cup

Man United take on Everton in the first semi-final on Saturday, before Crystal Palace battle it out with Watford on Sunday

THREE of the four managers leading their teams out at Wembley for this weekend’s FA Cup semi-finals will do so knowing defeat could have serious ramifications for their short-term future.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has been dealing with so-called ‘must-win’ games throughout a troubled season and Saturday’s clash with Everton (7.15pm) falls into that category.

Everton boss Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, has fallen out of favour with a large section of the club’s fans who have seen no tangible progress this season.
Crystal Palace’s woeful form since Christmas has turned up the heat on Alan Pardew too, although a semi-final against Watford (Sunday 6pm) represents an opportunity for redemption.

Watford manager Quique Florez is perhaps the odd man out.
The Spaniard has made an impressive impact in his first season at the club who were promoted last season, guaranteeing survival with plenty to spare.
Dutchman Van Gaal has faced a ceaseless debate about his Old Trafford future after crashing out of the Champions League group stages and serving up some turgid football earlier in the season when United fell out of the title race.

He has soldiered on, however, and a silver lining is on the horizon with United favourites to lift the trophy for the first time since 2004 after beating West Ham United 2-1 in a quarter-final replay last week with their best display of the season.

Even if he does achieve that, there is no guarantee that he will see out the final season of his contract as a top-four finish in the Premier League was his first priority.

But having won trophies everywhere in his long coaching career, he would at least be able to hold his head high.
“I have said for the club it is much more important that we are finishing in the first four positions because the Champions League is the highest level,” he said.

“But a trophy is of course fantastic, especially the FA Cup, as it is a lot of years that we didn’t win it.
“There is a big arousal among the fans. It is nice to see they are hungry to get the FA Cup, but still we have to beat Everton first.”

Martinez won the FA Cup with modest Wigan Athletic in 2013 when they beat Manchester City in the final a few weeks before being relegated, securing his move to Everton.

But after finishing fifth in his first season, the club finished 11th last term and, despite a squad full of flair players, were hammered 4-0 by arch-rivals Liverpool in Wednesday’s Merseyside derby- a performance Martinez described as ‘embarrassing’.
“If we win the games, everything will be fine; if we lose, everything will be my fault,” Martinez said this week.

Pardew was part of the Palace side that reached the 1990 final and his return to the club as manager in January 2015 turned the club from relegation candidates to contenders for Europe midway through the current campaign.

Palace have stalled since, however, and Pardew hopes the FA Cup can re-ignite his squad.
“For us and Watford, one of us is going to hurt and one’s really going to come alive. So we really want to be that team that comes alive,” he said.



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