|Anthony Martial wheels away to celebrate his equaliser for United |
Incredibly, Manchester United, visibly limping, are in the hat for the semi-final draw of the FA Cup. Perhaps more intriguing is that despite being the last traditional giant left in the competition, United are not considered favourites to win a first FA Cup in over a decade.
Such is the mire into which United find themselves that West Ham United are favourites going into the quarterfinal replay in what will be the last FA Cup tie to be played at Upton Park. What a fixture in prospect for the neutral!
Indeed, it counts for a positive that the Red Devils have somehow come away from the game yesterday still in the competition. West Ham were tipped to get the better of United even at Old Trafford, having already won at Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool this season. Sir Alex Ferguson thinks the Slaven Bilic will guide his team into the Champions League ahead of the two Manchester clubs. On current form, the Scot has more than reason enough to thinks so.
United predictably turned in another impotent Old Trafford display, dominating much of the possession but hardly troubling the opposition goalkeeper. Ironically, West Ham, with plenty of the ball, made De Gea work more. By now, you feel that the Spaniard is just about always expecting a busy afternoon.
With just the two shots on target, its amazing that United came away with a goal, never mind parity. For a side that needs to score at least three times to progress in Europe on Thursday, those shooting statistics are damning! Anything other than a direct approach will cost the side valuable time in clawing back a two goal deficit suffered at Anfield last week.
Until then, Louis van Gaal still gets to address the media to remind them that the club are still in three competitions. He has avoided, or at least postponed the ignominy of exiting two competition in a week.
Ironically, it is difficult to recall the last time United had a better chance of winning the FA Cup. Only West Ham, Crystal Palace and Everton stand between them and a record equalling 12th FA Cup triumph.
This season though has been for the underdog. The existing order has been emphatically toppled by the also rans. A new order seems to have taken root, albeit surely temporarily. United would have to go against the grain to succeed in any competition in a season that bears no fortune for the traditional elite. Above all, it is this turn of events in 2015/16 that makes West Ham United favourites to progress to Wembley next month for the FA Cup semi-finals.
Fortunately for United, that replay is not until the new month. Who knows? By then United could be on one of them runs of successive wins that keep Louis van Gaal in the job at his most desperate hour. Before then though is a reality of an exit from Europe that United must counter against their greatest rivals. It is not so much the result that United fans will be desperate for at Old Trafford but rather a performance of guts that shows a deeper care for the fixture than we were served up at Anfield last week.