Louis van Gaal has defended his decision to start Marouane Fellaini in midfield ahead of the fit-again Bastian Schweinsteiger after the German changed the FA Cup clash with West Ham.
Manchester United were losing 1-0 and were heading out of the cup when Schweinsteiger replaced the Belgian with 14 minutes left on the clock; he drove them forward and eventually Anthony Martial scored an equaliser which forces a replay.
The former Bayern Munich midfielder – who has fallen from grace this season – returned from injury against Liverpool in the Europa League but was kept on the bench as a precaution against the Hammers.
“I think he did fantastically,” Van Gaal said of the German. “But, of course, he played 15 minutes. Ninety minutes is different but I was also happy with him.
“I think Fellaini played again a good match. He performed well in our gameplan.
“Matteo Darmian has played three minutes and he has to come from the bench onto the pitch because I want to make another change, and he also did good.
“So I have given a lot of compliments to my players because it was showing a great spirit because when you are 1-0 behind, 20 minutes to play and you are the better team and don’t break after losing against West Brom and Liverpool then you show a great spirit.”
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Van Gaal continued: “The first 15 minutes I think West Ham was the better team and they have created a few chances, but then we are coming back in the match, we created also chances, not the biggest chances but we are created chances.
“In the second half we were the better team, they scored out of a free-kick, we are behind, we have played against West Brom and lost and Liverpool and lost, and when you can come back like that I think it is amazing and fantastic spirit in the team, in spite of a very nasty week in a lot of aspects.
“So I’m very proud of my players and the fans were very proud. They were enthusiastic and applauded when the players were going off the pitch.
“I have seen a great match and we are still in three competitions. As I said to Luke Shaw, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young, you can still play the final.”