Van Gaal salutes fans after FA Cup draw against West Ham
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 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, 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."
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic angrily rejected that talk, instead arguing that goalkeeper Darren Randolph was impeded by Bastian Schweinsteiger when Martial equalised.
"A dive? Come on," the West Ham boss said. "If you have a screen, show me, I am going to defend my point at Cambridge if needed. There is more than a contact. It is definitely not a dive."
On the incident involving Schweinsteiger, Bilic said: "It was (a foul).
"I don't want to spoil the game talking about the referees – overall, he did a good job, but there have been a couple of situations, crucial ones, that have gone against us."
Martial's late goal means West Ham will now welcome United for a quarter-final replay – the last-ever cup match to be held at the Boleyn Ground before the summer move to the Olympic Stadium.
"In our dressing room after the game it was kind of silent," Bilic said.
"We are a little but disappointed because we were there the last few minutes and the time when you conceded makes you a little bit down.
"But that is good. It shows you have confidence and are moving in the right direction."