Manchester United advanced to the last four of the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over Brighton and will take on Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley for a spot in the showpiece final in May. While lifting a single domestic trophy would constitute a great season for the majority of clubs, the Premier League and Champions League has traditionally been the barometer of success for United during the last 20 years.
The Red Devils are now certain to miss out on both of those major trophies after crashing out to Sevilla in the knockout stages of Europe’s elite club competition earlier this month. They also trail Manchester City by 16 points in the top flight, so securing second spot and a place in next season’s Champions League is the best that United and boss José Mourinho can hope for on that front in the coming weeks.
A failure to be a true force in either competition at the business end of the campaign is disappointing, though City have had a freak year, dropping just nine points. United also finished sixth in the league a year ago, so progress is being made in terms of overall results. However, Mourinho’s continued commitment to winning at all costs is not warming him to fans, who want to see their team play exciting, attacking football, especially at Old Trafford.
The defeat to Sevilla has cast a shadow over the season as United looked completely bereft of ideas in both legs, which is hard to take when so much money has been invested in the team during the last three years. The club will now focus its efforts on second spot in the EPL and the FA Cup, where they will face a strong Spurs side next month.
Spurs have been playing their home matches at Wembley this season, so it may feel like they have home advantage, though United’s considerable support could be a leveller. The form of Paul Pogba and new signing Alexis Sánchez is worrying at the moment, but Mourinho has a month to rally his charges before the big game. As ever, on the day, United will always have a great chance of coming out on top. Punters using sports betting sites will get good value on either Spurs or United ahead of the clash.
Would an FA Cup win save the season? Midfielder Nemanja Matić, who has been among the bright spots in an indifferent campaign, recently claimed that an FA Cup final win would be “good” but not enough for a club with the stature of United. He added: “You have four competitions in the season – if you win one for me it is not enough, but you always have to do your best.”
It must also be remembered that Louis van Gaal’s FA Cup win back in 2016 was quickly glossed over after Mourinho was appointed just days later. The Portuguese was brought in to do more than win domestic cups. The most likely outcome is that FA Cup success will go some way to making up for failure on other fronts, but that attention will quickly turn to what needs to be done to get the club competing with City and other elite teams in the Premier League and Champions League next season.