As speculation mounts over the future of Louis Van Gaal at Old Trafford, victory in this weekend’s FA Cup final against Crystal Palace may be his only saving grace.
A fifth place finish in the Premier League means that Manchester United will not be playing Champions League football next season, however if they win at Wembley it will be the club’s first silverware since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club in 2013 and their first FA Cup triumph since 2004.
Surely a defeat will be unthinkable for the Dutchman who will most certainly be out of the Manchester United exit door if he fails to win. Ex-Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho continues to be linked with the job and there is no doubt that the pressure is on for Van Gaal to clinch silverware this weekend.
There is also no denying that a victory could be Van Gaal’s final act as United boss. There has been plenty of fan discontent after another underwhelming domestic campaign, which was evident on Tuesday night in their final home match against Bournemouth. Boos and jeers could be heard echoing around a sparsely populated Old Trafford when Van Gaal addressed the crowd on the famous pitch at the end of the game when many fans had already headed for the exits. There is also no doubt that Van Gaal declaring that the United fans ‘expect too much’ from their team will not sit well with the Manchester United faithful.
However, this could well be Van Gaal’s moment. The manager has been under increasing pressure for the majority of the season, but there is no doubt that they have improved recently have only two defeats in their previous thirteen league and cup matches.
At Wembley, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford look set to start together in attack with Wayne Rooney playing in a slightly deeper midfield role which was so effective against Bournemouth in the week.
Rooney managed to score one and made two assists in the 3-1 victory and looks rejuvenated in midfield. The key battle will be between him and Crystal Palace’s Yohan Cabaye, who like Rooney, is more than capable of turning a game on its head with his flair and range of passing.
United’s opponents, Crystal Palace, had a superb start to the season but have been on a terrible run since the New Year where they have only won two top-flight matches, staying in the league by five points. Alan Pardew’s men have thrown all their eggs in one basket and a poor domestic season will be forgotten about if they can win the FA Cup for the first time in their history.
United old boy, Wilfried Zaha will also have a point to prove against his former club and he and he will be a key man at Wembley as they look to use his and Yannick Bolasie’s pace on the wings.
Eagles boss, Alan Pardew will be hoping it is third time lucky for him in the FA Cup. Pardew was a Crystal Palace player in 1990 when Manchester United beat them in the final, he then came close to lifting the trophy as a manager when his West Ham United side were beaten on penalties by Liverpool in 2006.
Manchester United will go into this one as favourites, however shocks do happen in the magic of the FA Cup and a Crystal Palace victory would emulate Wimbledon’s famous triumph over Liverpool in 1988.
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