Thursday 17 May 2018

One big job left in our record-equalling Cup final

The team have one big job left to finish the season on a high as Jose's United face his former side and under-pressure counterpart Antonio Conte in Saturday's FA Cup final. Having cemented our status as runners up in the league, our best post-SAF finish, attentions now turn to our record-equalling 20th final in English football's oldest and most prestigious competition and the chance to end the campaign with another piece of silverware to add to the Old Trafford cabinet. Granted it's not the league or European title that we may crave, but a trophy is a trophy, right?

Louis van Gaal ended his bizarre two-year reign with this cup in 2016, in a final fondly remembered for Jesse Lingard's coming of age winner deep into extra-time against Crystal Palace. That was followed by a Europa League and EFL Cup double during Jose's settling-in season, with United bidding for a fourth major trophy in three seasons. An impressive record for a side who we're constantly told are someway behind former glories. Only a league or Champions League title will ever truly sastify some legions of United's fanbase, and this has been a season of progress rather than success. We'll have nothing to show  for that improvement if we end up empty-handed, though, with Chelsea also in desperate need of a trophy to mask a very indifferent campaign for the under-fire Conte and his cohorts. Chelsea narrowly missed out on a rare league and cup double last season, pipped by Arsenal in the corresponding final. That win ensured that the Gunners moved ahead of United at the top of the all time FA Cup winners list, as they secured a 13th title in their history.

At times, the Reds have looked like Jekyll and Hyde United, with victories against all of the top six sides offset by shock defeats to all three promoted sides. If it's been an inconsistent season for our team, then the same can't be said for Chelsea - they have underperformed right from the get-go and that shock opening day loss to Burnley set the tone for what was to follow. Conte superbly steered his Blues to the title in a magnificent first season at the helm, but the deposed champions lost their way this time around and failed to even qualify for the Champions League, eleven points behind second placed United. After a fifth placed finish continued the recent trend of below-par title defences, Arsenal are surely not the only London club to be in the market for a new manager. It would be a major surprise if the firebrand Italian remains in charge for their Europa League season in 2018-19. Jose can claim a major part in Conte's downfall, with the Chelsea boss having never quite carried the same confident swagger since Mr Mourinho cut him down to size as tensions between the two men boiled over at the turn of the year. Conte has appeared a man at odds with himself - and those above him - all season and a parting of the ways now seems simply inevitable: a matter of when and not if, regardless of what happens here. Since our last FA Cup final meeting in 2007 - a cagey contest settled by Didier Drogba's extra-time winner - Chelsea have won the competition three times and boast an impressive recent record in the tournament.

We'll be keeping you across everything in the build-up to Saturday's final, with our full preview, thoughts from the squad and things to watch out for.


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