Man United 11/10
Everton and Manchester United will lock horns at Wembley Stadium on Saturday in the FA Cup semi-final. The Red Devils have won the last two meetings against the Toffees and will be hoping to make it three in a row, whilst a victory for Everton would produce another instalment of FA Cup shocks.
Failure to hold on to another lead saw Everton draw 1-1 at home to Southampton last Saturday and extend their abject tally to 18 points dropped from winning positions this season. Their lacklustre team performance and latest winless home game was all too much for one disgruntled supporter, who ran on to the pitch to confront under-pressure manager Roberto Martinez. With no win in six matches and only four in the previous 20 at the time of writing, Everton enter the FA Cup semi-final in wretched shape. Martinez’s side will be underdogs and certainly, everything points to a difficult evening out at Wembley Stadium. The Blues have beaten only five Premier League teams since November. They’ve taken just three points from their last six top-flight games at the time of writing. The injuries have come at a wrong time for Everton. So too has the return to fitness of several of United’s key men, and something resembling decent form having won four of their last five games. Throw in the fact Everton will face a team well above them in the table who they’ve already lost to twice this season, there’s little to indicate anything other than a triumph for the Old Trafford side this weekend. For all the disappointment in Everton’s season, the one huge bright spot has been Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker’s 17 league goals are behind only Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, and Sergio Aguero. After a few good seasons, Lukaku took the leap this year and has had a great season. If Everton are going to win the semi-final, they’ll need their big Belgian to show up with a big performance. He once scored a hat-trick against United, on loan at West Brom, and he should cause the likes of Chris Smalling and Daley Blind all kinds of problems. Everton will have Aaron Lennon and Leighton Baines back from injury with the hope of Phil Jagielka returning from a hamstring strain. But what they desperately require is a return of some belief, passion and unity – all of which were lacking from the drab draw against Southampton and have seeped out of the team in recent weeks.
There is no question that it has been a disappointing season for Man United, but if Louis van Gaal can secure a top-four finish and deliver the FA Cup, it can be seen as progress. A first FA Cup win since 2004 and a day out at Wembley would be a respectable way for van Gaal to leave United after a distinctly underwhelming two years. But that is all it should be; a parting gift for winning the trophy would prove nothing and should not be allowed to prolong van Gaal’s time at Old Trafford. United have failed to win a trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson’s time with the club, but now they have a genuine chance of lifting silverware. With the Premier League giants all out of the competition, should Manchester United get past Everton, they would just need to beat the winner of Crystal Palace/Watford, who they have excellent records against. The Red Devils have won the FA Cup on 11 occasions – a feat bettered only by Arsenal’s record of 12 triumphs – and have appeared in the final 18 times in total. However, they have not won the trophy for 12 years and the United faithful will be hoping that changes this year. Van Gaal has led United to the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 2011 after beating West Ham in the quarter-final replay at Upton Park. Goals from Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini put Manchester United two goals up, before James Tomkins pulled one back for West Ham. Then they followed the cup triumph with a 1-0 league victory over doomed Aston Villa at Old Trafford last weekend, again inspired by Rashford. The 18-year-old has scored seven goals in his 12 appearances for Manchester United so far, despite only 10 shots on target. Wayne Rooney returned from his long injury layoff against Villa, looking lively in his 65 minutes on the field. He will be relishing the opportunity to face his old club and fire his team into the FA Cup final.
Robles; Coleman, Stones, Funes Mori, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Lennon, Barkley, Deulofeu; Lukaku.
Manchester United: 4-5-1
De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Fellaini, Mata, Rooney, Martial; Rashford
Prediction: Manchester United (12/10)
Everton are winless in five matches with two defeats at the time of writing. Manchester United, on the other hand, have won four of their last five games, including two on the bounce. Van Gaal’s side have won the last two meetings against the Toffees and are tipped to win the match in 90 minutes.