Manchester United will take on Crystal Palace in the 135th final of the world’s oldest cup competition, the FA cup, at Wembley on Saturday. The FA cup win is worth much more than the 1.8 million pound prize money that it offers for both the teams. It would be a saving grace for both the managers, who are under scrutiny after disappointing campaigns in the Premier League.
Manchester United and Crystal Palace last met in the famous 1990 final which United won 1-0 in the replay after they played out a 3-3 draw in the 1st leg. That victory is said to have saved Sir Alex Ferguson from getting the sack and Van Gaal would be hoping of something similar to happen to his United career. Ironically, Alan Pardew was on the losing side that time and he would be looking to seek revenge as a manager after 26 years. Manchester United go into the final knowing that a victory can level them up on the FA cup count with Arsenal on 12. We look at both the team’s chances and how they might line up on Saturday.
Louis Van Gaal’s side have missed out on a top four spot in the league which should be a minimum requirement of a club like Manchester United. The FA cup victory would be their first after winning it way back in 2004 under Sir Alex and more importantly it would be United’s first trophy under Van Gaal. Manchester United have surprisingly 27 squad players fit for the match and it is likely to cause a few selection headaches for Van Gaal.
Wayne Rooney is likely to start in the midfield with the dynamic Marcus Rashford most likely taking up the striker’s role. They would again look to Martial to provide that cutting edge which has been missing from the rest of their squad. Van Gaal would be tempted to play Fellaini after his return from suspension, especially considering Palace’s set piece forte, ahead of Mata or Lingard. The Red Devils have found well organized teams hard to break down this season and have been severely criticized for their insipid displays.
The United full backs, most likely Valencia and Darmian would have their task cut out against the pacy Palace wingers. Though just an FA cup victory would not constitute a good season for Manchester United, it would provide the much needed emotional and psychological impetus ahead of next season and also ward off the 3 years worth of dust accumulated on their trophy cabinet.
Crystal Palace come into this fixture on the back of a terrible form in the second half of the season with just 2 wins in their last 21 Premier League matches. They had started the season really well under Alan Pardew but ultimately finished it just 4 points above the drop zone. The Eagles have some quality players but their lack of prowess in front of goal has hurt them as they scored just 38 goals in the Premier League this term.
They would be delighted to have reached this far in the competition and would give it their all, as it generally happens in the FA cup. They would try and play a really tight game at the back giving nothing away to Manchester United and try and hit them on the break with the pace of Zaha and Bolasie. Another avenue that Palace could most definitely hurt United is via set plays. The strong Delaney and Dann have scored 8 goals from set-pieces themselves and United’s suspect defending of set plays themselves could present Palace with a few opportunities.
Crystal Palace would be boosted with the comeback from injury of Yohann Cabaye, who had been instrumental in pulling the strings of Palace’s midfield during the first half of the season. Connor Wickham, who scored in the semi-final against Watford, has been declared fit for the big game as well. Alan Pardew famously said after their Premier League game at Palace “Stop Antony Martial and you will stop Manchester United” and the team would be looking to do just that in the final.
The last meeting between these two sides resulted in a comfortable 2-0 victory at Old Trafford for Manchester United. Even here the odds are 4/11 in favour of Manchester United with Palace priced at 2/1. But well you don’t look at these things before an FA cup final, do you! The FA cup boils down ultimately to heart, passion and how badly you want it. Well, Wigan won it against City the same year they were relegated to the Championship! Tactics, systems, roles, names do not matter when you walk onto the pitch. Anything can happen in the FA cup. As they call it the “Magic of the FA Cup”.