Saturday afternoon. Wembley beckons. As Roberto Martinez and Louis van Gaal lead their respective teams out to the middle of the iconic stadium to face each other in the FA Cup semi-final, fans of both teams will witness their teams battle it out for a place in the grand finale with nervous energy.
The players are well aware that in such competitions, the form book goes out of the window and it is the performance on the day which matters the most. This tie is of paramount significance to both teams – for Everton, it is Martinez’s last hope of clinging on to his job, while for United, it is their only hope of ending the season with some silverware. Not to mention Louis van Gaal’s future as the Red Devils’ boss. Which team will erupt in joy on one side of Wembley when the final whistle is blown?
Kick-Off and Live Telecast
Kick-Off: Saturday, 23rd April 2016 – 2145 IST (1715 BST)
Venue: Wembley, London
Everton face a severe shortage at the back – Ramiro Funes Mori is suspended following his red card at Anfield, meanwhile right-back Seamus Coleman and centre-back Phil Jagielka are nursing hamstring injuries. John Stones was forced off with stomach cramps in midweek with midfielder Gareth Barry also looking doubtful after a groin issue.
Manchester United have no new injury concerns, with Luke Shaw, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Adnan Januzaj the only three senior-squad players ruled out of the tie.
Everton’s season is going from bad to worse. They looked clueless at the back against Liverpool and finished the game with 10 players. A large proportion of the blame unfortunately, goes down to Roberto Martinez, whose decision to rest key players for the weekend game against Southampton and then see his first-team get battered and bruised in the Merseyside Derby less than 72 hours before this game have angered the already annoyed Toffees’ fans.
To compound Everton’s misery, they face a scarcity in the department where they have struggled the most – defence. Martinez’s crisis grows even wider as he faces a massive challenge of picking his back four. He could well be on his way out of Goodison Park is he loses this game, but can he engineer some sort of a miracle and get his side out a rut they currently find themselves in?
Last 5 games (All Competitions) : L-D-D-D-L (Most Recent: Liverpool 4-0 Everton)
Manchester United have a much serene form guide at the moment. Two solid home wins in a row – both with clean sheets – suits them perfectly going into this massive cup tie. In addition to that, Van Gaal also has a full-strength squad at his disposal.
Wayne Rooney looks dangerous in a number 10 role, the defending – apart from that 6-minute breakdown against Spurs – has been solid and Marcus Rashford shows no signs of withering away after his dream start to life at the top. With this competition and final chance of ending a three-season silverware drought, can they gel as a unit and get the result they need at Wembley to return there a month later for the final?
Last 5 games (All Competitions) : W-W-W-L-W (Most Recent: Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace)
Predicted Starting Line-Ups
1. The last FA Cup clash between these two sides was also a semi-final back in 2009, when the Toffees were victorious on penalties.
2. Manchester United have beaten Everton in both league fixtures this season – without conceding a goal.
1. Everton’s last competitive victory came in the FA Cup Quarter-Final – a 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Goodison Park on March 12. They have failed to win in 6 league games since.
- They have not conceded a goal in any of their FA Cup fixtures this season. (F:9, A:0)
- Romelu Lukaku has found the back of the net every time he has appeared for Everton in the FA Cup (6 goals in 5 games)
1. This is United’s 28th appearance in an FA Cup semi-final, a joint-record with Arsenal.
- However, they have lost in each of their last 2 semi-finals – against Manchester City in 2011 and Everton in 2009.
- The Red Devils have not won in the FA Cup at Wembley since defeating Newcastle to lift the trophy in their treble-winning 1998-99 season.
Romelu Lukaku vs Chris Smalling
So far this season, it has been Chris Smalling 2, Romelu Lukaku 0. Can the Englishman keep the big and pacy Belgian striker quiet for the third game running?
Bryan Oviedo vs Anthony Martial
With regular fullback Seamus Coleman most probably out of this fixture, it is Bryan Oviedo’s turn to be on the receiving end of the Anthony Martial show. Can he somehow neutralize the Frenchman’s threat via. his fleet-footed dribbling and pace towards the byline?
Everton were humiliated against their Merseyside rivals and are short of defenders at the moment. It looks very difficult to visualize an Everton victory with their weakened back-line and the speculation surrounding the manager’s position at the club. United have no such immediate problems and should run out comfortable winners to advance to the final.
Everton 0-2 Manchester UnitedPublished 23 Apr 2016, 12:06 IST