Both FA Cup semi finals take place this weekend, the first of which sees Everton take on Manchester United in a mouth-watering Wembley clash. It’s a strange quirk that the managers of both sides are under extreme pressure after unimpressive seasons, yet they could still end up with some silverware in the trophy cabinet from this competition.
Louis van Gaal has never quite got the fans onside during his reign at Old Trafford and there were plenty of empty seats at the home game against Palace in midweek. Despite reservations about his style of football, United are still in contention for a top four spot and it’s all to play for in both cup and league. There are less excuses for Roberto Martinez with Everton languishing in 11th place with just 41 points, and such is the brutal nature of Premier League management that his job may rest on this very game.
Martinez in Trouble
There has been a growing discontent among Everton fans throughout the season, and Leighton Baines critical comments (which he later withdrew) suggest all is not 100% well with the players either. The open and expansive football that Martinez tries to play is a joy to watch when it’s working, but his teams simply leave too much space for the opposition and can be picked apart too easily. That was never more evident than in the midweek 4-0 derby defeat to Liverpool, when Everton were poor.
Funes Mori was sent off for a dire challenge on Liverpool’s Origi, and will miss this semi final as a result. However, Liverpool were already two to the good by that point and over the course of the game completely outclassed a lacklustre Everton side. It was the worst of both world’s for Martinez as he played a full-strength side rather than rest players for the weekend, but still saw them suffer a heavy beating.
Everton are winless in six games (lost 3, drawn 3), and they’ve only kept three clean sheets in the last 10 matches. They’ve been beaten twice by Manchester United this season – 3-0 at home and 1-0 away – and they will struggle to stop the Red Devils’ young guns from finding the net at Wembley.
United Back in Form
Louis van Gaal has led his team to five wins in the last six games, in which they’ve kept four clean sheets. Marcus Rashford has been a revelation this season, showing maturity beyond his years and who would bet against him scoring again on Saturday evening? Wayne Rooney has returned to the fold and started the 2-0 win against Crystal Palace in midweek, and while it’s been a disappointing season overall, the mood is certainly improving.
Van Gaal chose to play a strong side to ensure they got the points on Wednesday night, but the task was made all the easier because opposite number Alan Pardew chose to rest several of his first team players to keep them fresh for his own semi final against Watford on Sunday. United cantered to a comfortable 2-0 win which was in stark contrast to the drubbing that Everton took at the hands of Liverpool.
United’s ability to keep clean sheets may well be the difference in this match, and the likes of Lingard and Martial could be the danger men in wide positions. Everton tend to push their full backs perilously high up the pitch, and the space in behind is an area which United will look to exploit. Everton will be looking for a reaction from their players after the midweek result, but if Lukaku isn’t finding the net it’s hard to see where the goals will come from. The Big Belgian hasn’t scored in six games since his brace against Chelsea in the quarter final, and rumours are circulating that he will move to Borussia Dortmund in the summer. If United can keep him quiet they should win this game and book a place in the final.
Manchester United to beat Everton
Saturday 23rd April, 17:15 GMT