On Saturday evening Manchester United and Everton will face off at Wembley in the FA Cup semi final, looking for passage into the competition’s final on May 21st.
The competition will somewhat act as redemption for two managers who have endured seasons well below what was expected.
United fans expected to see their side compete for the title after returning to Champions League following a year hiatus, but an early exit in the group stages, elimination from the Europa League by rivals Liverpool and dwindling in 5th place, United fans are calling for Louis Van Gaal’s dismissal.
It’s just as bad on the blue half of Liverpool with a talented Everton side spectacularly underachieving. A 5th place finish in 2014 raised expectations at Goodison Park but last term they slid to 11th and now sat in the same position with 4 games to play, a place in Europe looks unlikely.
Demolished by rivals Liverpool on Wednesday, the pressure is firmly on Roberto Martinez who it is claimed will be sacked if he loses the game and it comes as the worst possible time too with Everton’s defence depleted; Funes Mori misses the game through suspension, Jagielka out injured and Stones is touch and go after stomach cramps forced him off during the Liverpool game.
With United holding 2 wins over Everton already this season, they will be the favourites going into the game but Football Fanzone’s Jason Cundy feels that on their day Everton can hold their own with any side but whatever the outcome, both manager will know they have failed in their objectives this season:
Everton are in bad shape going into it the game, and will have the city on their back after Wednesday night’s defeat.
Roberto Martinez could have fielded a weakened team like Moyes did a few years ago and it would have had less impact if they lost, but instead he went for it and Everton got hammered. It was the worst game possible for them to have lost.
They are under huge pressure but can take heart from the fact that on their day they can beat anyone. If Romelu Lukaku, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley have good games, United will be in for a bumpy ride.
I’ve spoken of how highly I rate him before and the situation remains the same, Lukaku is Everton’s danger man, take his goals away from Everton this season and they are Wigan. Had he been injured for a month or 6 weeks over the Christmas period and where would they be. He’s a match winner and they will need him to be at it on Saturday, ready to turn nothing into something.
He may not have got any joy a few weeks ago but I’d stick him on Daley Blind again and see what he can get out of the stand in central defender.
Both manager know their seasons are near over, Everton need the FA Cup to salvage some pride whilst Louis Van Gaal may still get the even if he lifts the trophy as the top 4 looks possible but unlikely.
It feels like reality hasn’t hit United fans yet – defeat and no top 4 and their season will have been a disaster. The fact that there is still hope means the season continues for Van Gaal’s side but an FA Cup with no top 4 football will not be enough to satisfy fans already baying for the manager’s blood.
Whatever happens on Saturday there will be a story as both managers will have to face up to a season of underachievement in defeat.