This year in the FA Cup final, we will see two real heavyweights clash against each other in a bid to get their hands on the beautifully designed trophy and make amends for an otherwise underwhelming domestic campaign.
This is all the more true for Chelsea football club whose decline has been every bit as rapid as it was expected after a poor transfer window. The Blues went from comprehensively winning the league to missing out on Champions League football in twelve months owing to the collective mismanagement at the top – in terms of player recruitment as Chelsea not only failed to bolster their own squad but also strengthened rival teams in a Summer window to forget.
Antonio Conte’s disillusionment with the board seemed to have seeped into the body language of the players as the Italian struggled to get the consistency out of his players that won him the Premier League in the previous season. There are rumours of the manager leaving and in the case of Chelsea that has most often been the outcome in these situations, but Antonio Conte could really make a case for him by winning his second trophy with the West London club by beating one of their biggest adversaries in the country.
On paper alone, United have definitely had a good season. Mourinho’s side finished second in the league, behind a record-breaking Manchester City team – accruing an impressive 81 points, their highest in the post-Ferguson era. After ending up a lowly 6th last campaign, in 2017/18, Manchester United finished 4 points above Spurs, 6 points above Liverpool and 11 points above Chelsea – and enjoyed a much-improved record in the top six mini-league beating all the other 5 sides at least once in the season.
But needless to say, there have been areas where Man United struggled to maintain their level in the Premier League – especially in the lesser games where they lost more games and points than they probably should have. They went out to Spanish side Sevilla in the Champions League Quarter-finals in an unexpected yet fully deserved defeat at Old Trafford.
In the FA Cup, however, United have a good chance to win another piece of silverware on top of the two they won last season under Jose Mourinho – making his two-year stint so far, a largely positive one.
The news is that both Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial have travelled to London with the squad meaning they should feature on the match-day squad in some capacity. It remains to be seen whether Marouane Fellaini is fit enough to make the bench on Saturday.
The Blues are only expected to be without two first-team players for Saturday’s final. Former United midfielder Danny Drinkwater is ruled out with a calf strain, while versatile Brazilian defender David Luiz has a knee injury.
- This will be Chelsea’s 13th FA Cup final.
- A win for Manchester United would see them equal Arsenal’s current record of 13 FA Cup titles.
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Unlike Sanchez, the Belgian play-maker has never won the FA Cup with Chelsea in his long career with the Blues. He is their best player and on his day he can be unplayable which is no secret. He is relishing the contest like any top player would – as he said in the pre-match interview:
“If I win The FA Cup, I’ve won everything here, so for me it’s a big target but we know the Final will not be easy. We play against Manchester United, with a manager, [Jose] Mourinho, who is used to winning a lot of finals, so we know to be ready for a game. So I hope it will be a good match and, at the end of it, I hope the trophy will be waiting for Chelsea.”
His link-up play with Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud in the latter stages of the game when more defensive mistakes generally surface – will be key for the Blues to come away with the trophy on Saturday – and Eden could complete the domestic set.
Alexis Sanchez – Manchester United
When it comes down to it, no player at Manchester United is more important than the Chilean for the final. Sanchez has been there and done it in his previous club, knows what it takes to win a cup final against Chelsea having won the FA Cup in a dramatic finale last season when the odds were stacked against them.
Now with Manchester United going into the game as slight favourites, it is important that the 29-year old delivers like he did in the semi-final when he put in his best display in dragging United out from the cold against Spurs to delirium. United could do with a repeat of that on Saturday.
It is hard to call this fixture – let alone this being an FA Cup final at a crucial juncture for both managers and clubs.
But historically, Chelsea have always been the bogey team of United and a cup final is not an exception.
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United