And then there were two….
Manchester United and Crystal Palace will contest the 2016 FA Cup final in a repeat of the 1990 showpiece.
For Palace, a chance to win the first major trophy in their clubs history, and for Manchester United an opportunity to end a 11 year drought of lifting the famous trophy since their last triumph against Millwall in 2004.
Hard to believe that the likes of Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick have never lifted the FA Cup. They will be keen to complete their domestic trophy collections.
Crystal Palace’s form in 2016 has been disastrous, but for the distractions of this cup run, and Alan Pardew will be desperate for his side to pick up one more scalp and land him the trophy he has narrowly missed as both player and manger, notably as West Ham boss in 2006.
His counterpart Louis Van Gaal will view this as an opportunity to answer his critics in England and protect his CV with a trophy. Although his staunchest critics will not consider a win here enough to warrant retaining his job, there’s no doubt the Dutchman would love the consolation of capturing United’s first major trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford.
Although United will be clear favourites for the final, Palace certainly possess the weapons to cause trouble on the break, they’ve failed to score against United in the twice they’ve met this season, but that shouldn’t be a concern. Pardew has made no secret of his intention to play on the break in the Final, and tactically you can understand why. Their biggest threat is on the counter from the pacey trio of Puncheon, Bolasie and United flop Zaha, and dropping deep would seem to be the approach required to nullify the oppositions biggest threat of in form Martial getting in behind.
One thing we’ve seen consistently from LVG this season is that he’s drilled his side not to be in a hurry, I don’t see them falling into the trap too soon of over committing players into the attack, so I’m expecting a slow burner with plenty of United pressure, but I’m not going to brace myself for fireworks
I wouldn’t rule out Wayne Rooney stealing the headlines in a season where so many have been ready to write him off. It would be ironic if the trusty old guard outshines the young rising star Rashford, who will no doubt steal a lot of the pre match airtime. It’s always interesting how a young star copes on the biggest stage, and despite everything that has gone before, this is the first real test of the lads character.
Jack Grealish you may recall struggled massively last year under the spotlight, and whilst this is a slightly easier assignment on paper than playing for a lesser side against Arsenal, there can be no guarantees at all how he will perform against what will be a typically rigid defence.
It’s a strange situation that the key players in a cup final are the full backs but this is where this one maybe decided. How Valencia and Rojo / young Fosu-Mensah cope against the Palace Trio, versus how Joel Ward supports with the shackling of Martial.
On paper and weighing everything up, United should be able get the job done, but there’s something about United this season that just doesn’t feel right. Everytime you think they may have turned a corner there is a setback. When you started to think they were going to steal a top 4 slot it slipped away when even a draw against West Ham would have done two late goals were conceded. I’ve got a feeling for Palace and really think they could upset the odds finally giving Pardew the piece of silver that has cruelly eluded him in the past.
After the season we’ve had in England, anything less that a Leicester-Palace community shield just doesn’t feel like a fitting end.
I’m predicting not a classic game necessarily but there may be a classic result.
Fun Bet: Palace to win in extra time @ 16/1