Friday 18 May 2018

FA Cup final preview: United v Chelsea

 At the end of a season that started nine months ago in the Macedonian capital of Skopje in August with the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid, it all comes down to this - the 56th final and decisive match of another up and down season with silverware - a trophy that would represent Jose's third in his two years at the helm - on the line. United take on fellow Premier League heavyweights Chelsea in the 13th domestic showpiece at the capital's cathedral of football at Wembley. It's Jose second FA Cup final and first since 2007, whilst Chelsea are in the domestic showpiece for a second year in a row having lost 2-1 to Arsenal to miss out on a rare double 12 months ago.
United bring down the curtain on a season of progress with a bid to win our fourth major trophy in three seasons and reclaim our hold on a cup we won in 2015-16 under Louis van Gaal. In our record equalling 20th FA Cup final, a win would move the team level with Arsenal as 13 time winners of English football's oldest and most prestigious competition, as Jose Mourinho faces former side Chelsea and managerial foe Antonio Conte in what looks set to be the fiery Italian's last game in charge of the Stamford Bridge side. It's been a hugely dissapointing season for Chelsea, who limped home in fifth place and out of the Champions League next season, having stormed to the title is superbly swashbuckling style last campaign. For both sides, this represents a shot at silverware salvation as United aim to continue an impressive recent cup final record after a season in which we've failed to build on plenty of early promise.

Anthony Martial is fit and in contention to feature in the cup final side, but a late decision will be made on the fitness of Romelu Lukaku, with the Belgian in a fight for fitness having been forced off against Arsenal last month. Marouane Fellaini has missed the last two games but travelled with the squad, but Michael Carrick will not be involved.  Conte kept his selection cards close to his chest but Brazilian-born Italian Emerson Palmieri is thought to be Chelsea's only absentee.

Mourinho puts a potential cup win into perspective, and said: "Of course it makes a difference, but it's one thing to have a difference and the other is to consider the season good or bad because of one match. I analyse the work I do, the effort I put in, and everything we did at the club, I'm not going to analyse this because of one - very important - match.
"I know what my players did, I know what I put in, what effort, the positive things - I know the negative things and I'm not going to change my analysis of the season because of the result of one match. Not at all."

United have overcome Derby, Yeovil, Huddersfield, Brighton and Tottenham - scoring 12 goals in the process - to set up this clash with the Blues, who needed a penalty shootout to squeeze past Norwich before convincing wins over divisional rivals Newcastle, Championship side Hull to reach the quarter finals. There, an extra-time win over Leicester sent them to the semis and another victory over a Premier League side in Southampton.

In a fitting tribute to the late Ray Wilkins, who represented both clubs with distinction, his widow Jackie will present the medals and the FA Cup world champions of the universe to the winners.

Come on, United!

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