Can Manchester United Salvage Something From Their Season Or Will The FA Cup Stay In London?

Posted: March 18, 2018 in Arsenal, Chelsea, Football, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion, The FA Cup, Tottenham Hotspur
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The headline assumes, rather arrogantly from the point of view of the clubs concerned, that only Chelsea, United and Tottenham Hotspur have a chance of winning it.

It is safe to say that Brighton, Leicester City, Southampton, Swansea City and Wigan will all have fancied their chances before the quarter finals kicked off.

Here we take a brief look at the ties, both played and unplayed, in reverse chronological order.

Sunday’s games

Wigan Athletic v Southampton

Mark Hughes – In the normal pose for a journeyman manager now thought of in the same light as Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis

Wigan have to be considered the extreme outsiders as they are playing their football two divisions below the rest but they cannot be ruled out having already beaten West Ham United and Manchester City on their way to this game against Southampton.

The Saints have just appointed Mark Hughes as manager so he is in a win-win situation. If he can take the team to the semi-finals he will be accepted by more of the fans. If he doesn’t then he will be forgiven because it is his first game in charge.

If the latter is the case it will still be a source of embarrassment for the club as they should be beating a team so far below them in the league.

Leicester City v Chelsea

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Lionel Messi – The difference between Barcelona and most other teams

Leicester appear to be finding their feet a little under Claude Puel but are still blowing hot and cold. They have the players with the talent to win this one and, with no replays, will have the chance to do it all at home with extra time and penalties if required.

Chelsea are also playing quite well at the moment despite the one terrible performance at Manchester City. They ran Barcelona a lot closer than the final score suggested and could maybe have pulled off a shock had some of their chances been put away. As is the case with many sides, they lost because Barcelona have Lionel Messi!

Even though this game is at the Kingpower Stadium Chelsea will be too good for Leicester and the fact that this is Antonio Conte’s teams only chance of a trophy will drive them on to victory.

Saturday’s games

Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur

Eric Lamela – Scoring the second for Spurs in a comfortable win against Swansea

It is difficult to work out where Mauricio Pochettino considers his priorities to be. In saying that a cup win is not proof that you are the best team does he think only a Premier League title will elevate him to his preferred status?

The Spurs fans would, no doubt, beg to differ. Whilst what he is saying is quite true it should not be used as an excuse either for losing a cup game or belittling the tournament.

Depite all his reservations about knockout competition he still played a strong team against Swansea and this was the reason they came away with a win which was far more comfortable than even the 0-3 scoreline suggests.

Swansea, for their part, never really competed and will probably be quietly pleased that they can now concentrate 100% on staying in the Premier League.

Manchester United v Brighton

Romelu Lukaku -Scoring United’s first goal against Brighton

Manchester United were expected to bounce back following their Champion’s League exit to Sevilla.

José Mourinho had defended himself and his record for 12 minutes in Friday’s press conference but, more interestingly, didn’t defend any of his players other than Matić and Lukaku and, even then, he praised them for their efforts rather than any achievements during the game.

This game was also a must-win affair after Tuesday’s debacle so it was interesting to see whether or not Mourinho would set his team up to defend a 0-0.

He started with a more attacking looking formation but Brighton, despite being the away team, were still allowed far too much of the ball. It was a very tame half with honours being just about equal when Lukaku scored from a Matić cross meaning United led 1-0 at half-time.

The second half also provided nothing of note so much so that the commentator was moved to mention that VAR was in use but hadn’t been needed. Of course, when absolutely nothing happens in a game, confirmation of that fact by technology is hardly going to be required.

It was in the 83rd minute that Manchester United registered their first attempt on goal of the second half. A free-kick was floated in by Ashley Young and Nemanja Matić headed United’s second.

It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t particularly good but José Mourinho will point to the fact that it was a win and takes United to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

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