Monday 14 March 2016

Still in the hat but Hammers are now semi final favourites

Our FA Cup quarter-final with West Ham is still in the balance but the Hammers will now be considered slight favourites with an Upton Park replay on the horizon.

Sunday's match followed the familiar pattern of so many of others this term: plenty of possession, no cutting edge, not much luck and falling behind.

There were flashes of the 'old United'- the late rally, Anthony Martial's equaliser and terrific fighting spirit to rescue the game- but this was, largely, another frustrating outing. 

Smarting from the genius of Dimitri Payet's opener, Louis van Gaal's side showed their much-missed powers of recovery to rally.
Europa League success in unlikely but the silver polish might yet be needed this season. 

I think both sets of fans will agree that a draw and subsequent replay was the fairest outcome, but the fact that we only sparked into life when 1-0 down will leave some United fans with a feeling of what might have been. 

Whilst we're in the hat for the semi finals, you can't help but feel we've missed our opportunity ahead of the replay down at Upton Park with the Hammers home advantage the key factor in the right to seal a Wembley semi-final. 

Unusually, United and Van Gaal will find themselves in the position of underdogs ahead of the replay. 

There are many reasons why Slaven Bilic's side have to be considered favourites from here: our poor away form, their strong home record and the fact that it will be their last FA Cup tie at the Boleyn ahead of their impending move to the Olympic Stadium. 

That has undoubtedly had a sentimentally positive effect on fans and players alike as they bid farewell to their home of 112 years, desperate to mark the occasion with a fantastic season.

West Ham are unbeaten at Upton Park since August, in contrast we've only won eight away games all season- only three of which have come in 2016- and have often looked short of inspiration and confidence when we hit the road.

The Reds are vulnerable away from home, West Ham will have the bit between their teeth and the atmosphere will be at fever pitch when United come to town for the last hurrah. 

Yet United and Van Gaal have proved that we're capable of producing a result when it's least expected: the away games at Everton and Liverpool this season and we'll look to draw on that again in the East End. 

This is the most open FA Cup in years: Manchester City, Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal are all eliminated, with Palace, Watford and Everton already assured of a Wembley berth ahead of Monday's semi final draw. 

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