By Abiodun Adewale.
There’s still more to come in England. The 2017/18 Premier League season ended a week ago but business isn’t over yet as the English FA Cup final takes centre stage this Saturday.
Wembley stadium will be smoking again as sleeping heroes Chelsea will do battle against their domestic cup arch rivals Manchester United.
Off the back of an indifferent campaign in the premier league, both United and Chelsea would want to cap off their respective seasons with a taste if silverware. The Blues in the just concluded season were more like what they were two years ago, surrendering the title to Pep Guardiola’s Man City without a fight and their manager, Antonio Conte has been the subject of sack or walking away as the case may be.
On the other side, United’s season was somewhat flat but the ending and their eventual position on the table was flattering. Jose Mourinho led the Red Devils to a second place finish on the table, their best standing in the league since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.
The marathon has surely ended but Chelsea and Manchester United have 90 minutes
or more between them to define their respective seasons. A game that could spell success of failure for either Antonio Conte or Jose Mourinho.
So who needs the FA Cup more between these two rivals? Who has got the best amoury to rob the other as well?
From the peak of it, United and Mou need a trophy and if they do triumph over Chelsea, they will set up an exciting derby against Manchester City for the curtain raiser of next season. That in itself is tantalizing. Besides, Mou will get the respect for delivering even with the most negative tactics.
Jose Mourinho is still sweating over the availability of Romelo Lukaku. If the big Belgian makes the team, it remains to be seen if he’ll possess the sharpness to cause problems for Chelsea’s probable three centre halves. It’s been up to twenty days since he last kicked a ball for United.
In the absence of Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez might be bankable as he’s shown signs of improvement in recent weeks. His show against Tottenham in the semi final was superb and if the Chilean could replicate that, he’ll be lifting the FA cup for a successive season after enjoying success with Arsenal last year – mind you, it was against same opponents; Chelsea.
How about Paul Pogba? Of course, the Frenchman on his day can be devastating. He could give you a reason to doubt his inclusion and still go on to dash the opponents hopes. The midfielder has come under criticism from fans and ex-unitd players, and his game hasn’t been too different from hot and cold. For instance against Manchester City and Tottenham, Pogba was in his elements as he lifted the team with a commanding display but most times too, when you expect him to be the difference, he just turns out to be for the wrong reason.
Pogba could again be the difference for Jose Mourinho but with Pogba, it’s a matter of “if”. On the definite side however is David DeGea who, outstandingly has been United’s best player in three seasons.
For Conte and Chelsea, the FA Cup triumph would be a soothing balm to their aching wounds. Their woes could get worse however, should they succumb to United. That means a back-to-back defeat in the domestic Cup final. An absolute definition of failure.
Conte hasn’t had it so rough in his club managerial career. Barely a year after leading the London club to a premier league success in his first spell, the Italian was fighting for a top four place and disappointedly missed out when it even seemed he was gaining momentum.
If result go either ways, he could probably walk away or get sacked. But whichever way, no one needs the cup more than Conte.
With three centre halves, Chelsea are definitely up to whatever Man United can defensively. Andrea Christensen has been a revelation and has grown well with Czar Azipilicueta and Antonio Rudiger. Up field, Ngolo Kante hasn’t waned and Cesc Fabregas has been decisive for the Blues in recent weeks.
Chelsea are really toothless upfront but with Willian and Hazard playing at the same time, that spells sharpness and problem for United and Olivier Giroud could flex and contest for anything that flies into the United box.
Conte didn’t loose the depth of his squad all season. What led them to the Europa league was majorly Alvaro Morata’s goal draught and perhaps the instability caused by Conte from the start of the campaign.
It’s been another season to forget for Chelsea but all the pains could be gone with a victory on Saturday. Manchester United will likely play with the handbrakes on and Jose Mourinho stands still as a master of his own games.
Ultimately, the most hungry manager will reign supreme at Wembley.