Manchester United v Everton. FA Cup semi-final.
Hopefully, come Saturday evening it will be third time lucky for Manchester United after they face Everton in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
The previous two meetings between the clubs at this stage came in 1966 and 2009 and on both occasions the Merseysiders came out on top to reach the final.
In a season that has once again fallen below the expectations of United and their fans the oldest club cup competition is the last chance of silverware for the Red Devils. Standing in their way of reaching the final for the 19th time is an Everton side who has also had a turbulent season.
Both Louis van Gaal and Roberto Martinez have come in for severe criticism from the fans for their management styles in a campaign that has left the sides unable to mount a challenge for the title and is left to concentrate on the cup to salvage some pride.
United will go into the match as favourites after the latest round of matches which saw the Reds defeat Crystal Palace without too much effort, but saw Everton succumb to a demoralising 4-0 defeat to Liverpool.
Having said that league form goes out of the window when it comes to the cup so we can expect a match that will probably be a tight affair but with the pace up front in United’s young attack the majority of chances should fall the way of United.
In Martial and Rashford United have two forwards who have the skill, pace and capability to change the course of a game in an instant add to that their all round commitment and desire to win then the Everton defence will not relish coming up against them.
The midfield will be the area where the game will be of great interest and who van Gaal will deploy to try and control the middle will be intriguing, to say the least.
Schneiderlin should be a shoe in after his recent displays, but who will partner him? Carrick has been performing below par of late and in the recent clash against Everton he came off second best against Barkley. Former blue Fellaini could get the nod against his former club, but again, he has not exactly set the world alight this season. So it looks possible that Mata and a deeper lying Rooney will be called upon as they were against Palace.
Van Gaal seems to prefer Lingard to Herrera in the advanced role and the youngster has not let his side down. Herrera would also be a good choice as he has more experience and his partnership with Mata could suit this type of game in which fast passing moves to keep up the attacking momentum will be crucial.
At the back, Smalling and Blind will have their hands full with Lukaku but should prevail as they have built up a decent partnership over a season which has seen the defence keep seventeen clean sheets in the League.
The full backs chosen from Fosu-Mensah, Darmian, Valencia and Rojo have to beware of the threat of the forward runs of Baines and the skills of Spanish winger Deulofeu.
If Everton does get through the Red defence then they will still have to get past the best keeper in the world, David De Gea. He has saved his side on numerous occasions this campaign with stops that have been truly world class and which he makes consistently week in week out. It wasn’t a surprise that he was the only United player to be named in the PFA team of the year this week.
In the end, United should have the firepower to outscore Everton and reach their first final since losing to Chelsea in 2007 and in doing so go some way to repay the faithful that have gotten behind the team even through the difficult times.
As a footnote the sooner the FA revert back to using neutral grounds for the semi-finals the better. It used to be the icing on the cake at the end of a long season for both fans and players alike to make their way to Wembley for the end of season Final. However, that special feeling has been taken away, and for two teams from the north-west to have to travel to the capital does not make geographical or financial sense.
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