Louis van Gaal was proud of his players for keeping Manchester United’s FA Cup dreams alive at the end of a “very nasty week”.
A run of four successive wins in all competitions proved a false dawn for the Red Devils, with a 1-0 league loss at West Brom compounded by a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.
Overturning that deficit will be a big ask in Thursday’s return fixture, but United will go into it buoyed by Anthony Martial’s late leveller in Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final with West Ham.
The strike cancelled out Dimitri Payet’s stunning free-kick at Old Trafford and secured a 1-1 draw, meaning a replay in east London will now decide who progresses to Wembley.
“For the first 15 minutes I think West Ham were the better team and they created a few chances, but after that we came back into the match,” Van Gaal, who is hoping to end United’s 12-year wait for FA Cup glory, said.
“We have created chances and in the second half we were the better team. They scored out of a free-kick. We were behind.
“We have played against West Brom and lost, and Liverpool and lost this week, and when you come back from that I think it is amazing, and fantastic spirit in the team, in spite of a very nasty week. I am very proud of my players. We are still in three competitions.”
Martial’s strike allowed Van Gaal to breathe a sigh of relief on an afternoon when it had looked like Payet’s beautiful 25-yard free-kick would punish United’s lacklustre display.
The Frenchman’s exquisite strike was not without controversy, though, having escaped a second yellow card for simulation in the penalty area shortly before.
“Payet was, more or less, diving,” Van Gaal said. “Of course, he was maybe touched but not to fall like that.”