LONDON (AP) - Qualifying for the Champions League looks increasingly out of reach for Manchester United. The season could still end with silverware after Louis van Gaal’s side reached the FA Cup final by beating Everton on Saturday.
And yet Van Gaal still has the air of a manager who could be leaving his job.
Even amid the joy at seeing Anthony Martial score in the third minute of stoppage time to clinch a 2-1 victory over Everton in the semifinal, Van Gaal responded curtly to a question about the team beyond this season.
“I am not looking beyond this competition, the FA Cup, because we live in the present,” Van Gaal said. “And for the future I will discuss that with my board and not with you.”
When it was pointed out that he had another season remaining on his contract, the 64-year-old Dutchman said: “Yes. You repeat what I have always said.”
Counterpart Roberto Martinez also faced questions about his future, with Everton ending the season without a trophy and the team 11th in the English Premier League.
“I share the drive the club has, which is getting into the Champions League and situations where we can win silverware,” Martinez said. “Every season we are developing and reaching certain signs where I feel we can please our fans and bring the silverware they deserve.
“But clearly, at moments like this of true disappointment, it is very difficult to see through that the real good things we have developed over the last three seasons.”
Martial set up Marouane Fellaini’s opener in the 34th minute against his former club. Although David de Gea saved Romelu Lukaku’s penalty early in the second half to preserve United’s lead after Ross Barkley was brought down by Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Gerard Deulofeu’s cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by United defender Chris Smalling with 15 minutes remaining.
Martial’s winner was a slick completion of a rapid counterattack that prevented extra time. The 20-year-old France forward linked up with Marcus Rashford on the left flank and then played another one-two with Ander Herrera before slotting in the winner.
The 11-time FA Cup winners will discover on Sunday whether Crystal Palace or Watford will be their opponent in the May 21 final.
It seems that the FA Cup would be only a consolation prize for United if it does not follow a top-four finish in the Premier League to secure a route back into the Champions League.
“It’s not for me to judge, it’s for the board of Manchester United,” Van Gaal said following months of reports not disputed by the club that former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has been lined up as a replacement.
With four games remaining, United remains fifth, four points behind Arsenal, which plays relegation-threatened Sunderland on Sunday.
Crosstown rival Manchester City is a further point ahead in third place after beating Stoke 4-0 in one of four Premier League games on Saturday. Kelechi Iheanacho, City’s 19-year-old forward, scored twice after first-half goals from Fernando and Sergio Aguero from the penalty spot.
Newcastle remained in the relegation zone despite coming from behind to draw 2-2 at Liverpool, which announced before the game that defender Mamadou Sakho failed a drugs test before a Europa League game last month.
After conceding goals from Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana in the first half, Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle salvaged a point thanks to strikes from Papiss Cisse and Jack Colback on the manager’s return to the club he won the Champions League with in 2005.
Southampton kept alive its outside shot at qualifying for the Europa League by compounding already-relegated Aston Villa’s woes. Dusan Tadic scored twice in a 4-2 victory for seventh-place Southampton, between headers from Shane Long and Sadio Mane.
Deposed champion Chelsea is a place behind after cruising to a 4-1 victory at Bournemouth, which has already secured a second season in the Premier League.
Cesc Fabregas played a key role in all four goals, including Eden Hazard’s double that produced his first league goals of a disappointing season for the reigning player of the year. Pedro Rodriguez and Willian also scored for Chelsea.
The focus shifts to the title race in the coming days. Leicester, which has a five-point lead over Tottenham, hosts Swansea on Sunday. Tottenham faces West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane the following day.
This story corrects that Tottenham is playing on Monday.
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