Wembley is where the action is at as Manchester United attempt to reach the final of the FA Cup as they square up against Tottenham on Saturday.
Manchester United bounced back from their defeat to West Brom with a nervy but clear 2-0 win over Bournemouth. But, the whole team dynamic still looked a little off, perhaps due to the wholesale number of changes made by Jose Mourinho, a fair number of which would be expected to return on Saturday.
Tottenham have been equally wobbly, if not worse, recently. The defeat to Manchester City was followed by a rather disappointing showing in a 1-1 draw against Brighton. Spurs will be at home at Wembley, something that United had protested but it was denied and the venue was not changed.
The home advantage though, is unlikely to be there, with acclimatisation with the pitch length, grass and other minute details the only things that Tottenham will have an edge on.
Their last meeting saw Tottenham win at Wembley with the scoreline of 2-0 and Manchester United fans would be hoping for a reversal in fortune come Saturday. Ahead of their latest encounter, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Sergio Romero remains the only player on the treatment table for Manchester United. Jose Mourinho challenged his players to prove their form against Bournemouth in order to earn starts on Saturday and the manager is likely to have seen enough from Paul Pogba to hand him a start in midfield against Tottenham.
Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic are likely to return to the lineup after the quartet was rested during the midweek. The questions though, remain on the centre-back pairing and the personnel on the wing. Chris Smalling looks set to be one of the two centre-backs while we could see Phil Jones start on the back of his display against Bournemouth.
Alexis Sanchez could very well be dropped again for Sunday, with Anthony Martial making a strong case for his inclusion. Jesse Lingard should start as well, rounding up the starting eleven, with David De Gea between the posts.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Young; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Lukaku, Martial
Kyle Walker-Peters, Danny Rose and Harry Winks are sure absentees for the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday. Michel Vorm has been the go-to keeper for Mauricio Pochettino in the FA Cup. But, the manager could drop him for captain Hugo Lloris, given the importance of the tie.
Dele Alli, Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Kieran Trippier should all find their way back into the starting lineup after being rested during the midweek. The form of Son Hueng-Min and Christian Eriksen is likely to put them in front of the likes of Eric Lamela and Lucas Moura to start against Manchester United.
Harry Kane will lead the line at Wembley and will be looking to lead the attack to glory and the FA Cup final.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembele; Eriksen, Alli, Son; Kane
1. Manchester United to qualify @ 2.20
2. Full Time Result – Manchester United or Draw @ 1.61
3. Both Teams to Score – NO @ 2.00
1. Manchester United to win @ 3.40
1. Manchester United and Tottenham have traded wins so far, with no team managing to win successive games in their last 6 encounters.
2. In another interesting statistic, despite all the attacking prowess at either side’s disposal, both the teams have been on the scoresheet in the same match in just one of those six occasions.
3. Ceremonial Semi-finalists – Tottenham have lost each of their last seven semi-final matches in the FA Cup – the longest run of any club in the competition’s history.
4. Manchester United have won their last 3 FA Cup encounters against Tottenham.
5. Cup Commander – Romelu Lukaku has scored in each round of the FA Cup this season so far for Manchester United, with 5 goals in total in the competition.
Player to Watch
All eyes will be on the Frenchman as Manchester United aim to reach the final of the FA Cup. People will be looking forward to which Paul Pogba turns up on Saturday – the one who destroyed Manchester City in the second-half or the one who was nowhere to be seen against West Brom.
There are reports flying around questioning Paul Pogba’s future at Manchester United. And the Frenchman will be looking to lay rest to any and all speculation with a resounding display against Tottenham.
Manchester United 2-0 Tottenham
The stage is set, the teams are ready, the managers are likely to have already handed out instructions on the training pitch as to the tactical style to be played out on Saturday. Both the teams go into the game not with the best form to show but a lot of quality on paper.
The game might just come down to experience, which is where Jose Mourinho will pip Mauricio Pochettino. Not to mention the woeful big-game record the Tottenham manager has in contrast to Jose Mourinho, who was once called the Special One for a reason. We expect a very cagey encounter, with United eking by with a goal or two to secure their place in the final.