It’s the big game in Wembley as twelve-time champions Manchester United take on Pochettino Tottenham Hotspur in their temporary backyard for a place in the FA Cup final.
It is a silly exercise to boil a season down to the outcome of one game but such has been the year for Manchester United where they fell short of what was expected of them in all the competitions this season. A title challenge eluded them in the league while they failed to defend the League Cup – conceding the trophy to rivals Manchester City.
But strangely, the biggest disappointment came in the Champions League – where after a solid group stage showing, Mourinho’s side failed to kick on in a way Mourinho’s side usually does in Europe – as they were unexpectedly but fully deservedly ousted by Spain’s Sevilla – the league’s fifth best team. Mourinho has prided himself on his accumulation of silverware and while even an FA Cup was not enough for Van Gaal to keep hold of his job, for Mourinho, this could be the momentum builder ahead of his third and crucial campaign.
For Pochettino, it has been four years of laying the foundation at Spurs which he has done rather remarkably on a relatively lesser budget. But the time has come for the Argentine to reap the harvest now in North London. Under Pochettino, Spurs have now become a young and powerful side who could beat anyone on their day with a strong and attractive identity – not to mention, powered by an English core.
They are one of the best sides in the country and have arguably the most balanced 11 in the league but with nothing to show for in terms of silverware, they are doing themselves no favours. They came close last season having lost at the same stage to Chelsea but this time ahead of moving in to the new stadium, there is no better way to embrace the what lies ahead for Spurs, by collecting a trophy for all their efforts that have enabled the transition.
There were no new injury concerns to arise from the win on the South Coast, with only Sergio Romero expected to miss out due to an injury sustained on international duty with Argentina last month.
Spurs are set to miss left-back Danny Rose (calf) and midfielder Harry Winks (ankle). Second-choice stopper Michel Vorm has played in goal throughout their cup run, as he did last season, but no.1 Hugo Lloris was brought back for their semi-final defeat to Chelsea a year ago and Pochettino may opt to do the same this weekend.
- United have advanced to the last four of the competition for the second time in three years, impressively without conceding a goal.
- 24-year old Harry Kane has 37 goals and 5 assists in 43 appearances in all competitions this season.
- United have played at the national stadium on 50 previous occasions, including 18 FA Cup finals, seven League Cup finals and two European Cup finals
Key Men Comparison
Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur) v Jesse Lingard (Manchester United)
I’ve touched on this fascinating comparison briefly week ago – which is likely to be the key battle in the Summer for England and probably the most important issue that Southgate needs to address.
If there is a way to fit in both Alli and Lingard into the England team, he should, But conventional wisdom suggests they are more similar in the way they operate in the final third – the quick ‘give and go’ with an eye on a forward run on the shoulder of the last defender and the random but well executed attempts from 18 yards that have produced some eye-catching goals in recent months, years. Lingard has made it a habit of scoring in big games, particularly in the domestic cup competitions where he comes to the fore for United. It will be interesting to see if it will be Alli this time, taking on the mantle.
David De Gea will be the difference, once again.
Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur