As the FA Cup final draws closer, the United writers share their thoughts on the game, as well as previous Cup finals –
Ahead of the FA Cup final, what is your opinion on United’s season, and how much of a difference will a win make?
It’s definitely been an improvement over last season, with United finishing second and managing to beat all their top-six rivals each at least once in the league. However, there is a sense of flatness around the club, due to the lack of a proper challenge to City, as well as Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final, in stark contrast to United’s limp exit against Sevilla. Therefore, while merely an FA Cup win is by no means good enough in the normal scheme of things, it would certainly help end the campaign on a sweet note. It would be the fourth trophy win in three years, and would help build more of the winning mentality that is so desperately needed in order to properly challenge next season.
Where do you think the game will be won/lost?
Midfield is undoubtedly going to be the key area in this game. I expect to see United start with three midfielders, which should give them the numerical advantage over Chelsea’s usual two. However, that would mean two attacking midfielders playing in support of Chelsea’s striker, and hence Nemanja Matic will be crucial to United’s efforts. If United manage to shield their back four effectively, and get the ball to their forwards quick enough, it should be enough to break down this Chelsea side.
Who is Chelsea’s biggest threat?
I honestly feel Olivier Giroud will be the most dangerous player playing in blue on Saturday. While the likes of Hazard and Willian may possess more skill and nous on the ball, the Frenchman has been in brilliant form recently, and has a decent record at Wembley as well. I fancy he will start the game, and the United centre-backs will have to be on the top of their game to deal with him.
Key player for United on the day?
This is a game crying out for Paul Pogba to take it by the scruff of the neck. He’s had a stop-start campaign, with brilliant performances interspersed with truly horrible ones; a microcosm of United’s season, and this game marks an opportunity for him to end it on a high. He has shown signs of being back to his best form in recent weeks, and it would be perfect if he were to put in a match-winning display on Saturday.
Where and with whom will you be watching the game?
I actually will be at a mate’s place to watch this one. He’s leaving for a different city the next day, so it would be a great way to spend his last evening in the same city as me. A win would be the perfect send-off!
Favourite moment from this season’s Cup run
It would have to be the semi-final win over Spurs. United come back from a goal down to win, Pogba bossing the game and even shrugging Mousa Dembele off to provide an assist for Sanchez, Herrera’s brilliant hit for the winner; it was a superb game and an even better comeback from United, and one that has hopefully set up another Wembley win.
Best and worst memory of Cup finals gone by
My earliest complete memory of an FA Cup final is also my worst; the 2005 final loss to Arsenal. We bossed the game, and should have wrapped it up in normal time, only for it to finish goalless, and for Paul Scholes, one of my heroes, to miss a penalty in the shootout, giving the win to the Gunners. The best memory would probably be our last Cup win, against Crystal Palace. That was another insane game, as United went behind to Jason Puncheon’s goal, only for Wayne Rooney to roll back time with a bulldozing run through midfield to set up the equalizer for Juan Mata, via Marouane Fellaini’s chest. I truly thought we were doomed when Chris Smalling was sent off for that daft challenge on Bolasie, only to dance around my room in ecstasy when Jesse Lingard thumped the winner into the top corner. Oh and the best memory has to be that of Alan Pardew’s smug little dance. #schadenfreude
Your starting lineup for Saturday
GK: David de Gea
RB: Antonio Valencia
CB: Chris Smalling
CB: Phil Jones
LB: Ashley Young
CM: Nemanja Matic
CM: Ander Herrera
CM: Paul Pogba
RW: Jesse Lingard
LW: Alexis Sanchez
CF: Romelu Lukaku