Manchester United will face Chelsea in the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening. It will be the fourth time this season that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side has met Frank Lampard’s side with the Norwegian doing the double over Chelsea in the league, which was a great achievement, also knocking them out of the Carabao Cup, winning twice at Stamford Bridge, an achievement in itself.
United will get a break from the Premier League this weekend with two matches still to play and a place in the top four up for grabs. Beating Chelsea and setting up an FA Cup final will be what Solskjaer would like to do, however, achieving UEFA Champions League football will be the more important task this season. Perhaps Solskjaer will try to do both, also having the chance of another trophy – the UEFA Europa League.
How United have faired against Chelsea in the Emirates FA Cup, plus their recent form in the Premier League and the Carabao Cup.
United and Chelsea have played 16 times in the FA Cup with United winning nine, drawing twice and losing five times. United have scored 25 goals conceding 13. United have kept seven clean sheets with Chelsea keeping six. Three of the past FA Cup matches have been finals with United winning one against Chelsea, a 4-0 victory in 1994, losing twice by 1-0 scorelines in 2007 and 2018.
This season, United have beaten Chelsea three times already winning 4-0 at Old Trafford at the start of the season with Rashford scoring a brace with Martial and James on the scoresheet also. In the Carabao Cup, United won 2-1 at Stamford Bridge with Rashford scoring both goals then in the second Premier League match, played at Stamford Bridge, United won 2-0 with Martial and Maguire scoring the goals. Here’s to a fourth victory.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Chelsea in the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Normally, I would think Solskjaer would rest David De Gea in cup competitions but against Chelsea, it makes me think that he would play him, no matter the fact that United will need to be rested enough to face West Ham United on Wednesday evening in the final Premier League match at Old Trafford this season. Sergio Romero has been a good back up goalkeeper this season, but something makes me think that he’s probably likely to remain on the bench, possibly getting a run out against West Ham or even Leicester – probably in the UEFA Europa League next month too, especially in the round of 16 second leg against LASK.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams
In defence, I think we are likely to see as strong a back four as possible. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will keep his place, possible for the first half, giving him a break before the visit of the Hammers next week. Brandon Williams seems the most likely to recover, out of him and Luke Shaw, so the left-back position will be his. If not, Tim Fosu-Mensah could be drafted in as he did well against Crystal Palace. Victor Lindelof and the captain, Harry Maguire will keep their places too. Both will need to be at the best of their ability as this season looks to get longer.
Midfield: Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba
United’s midfield does need some reinforcement. Scott McTominay did not look at his best against Crystal Palace and Nemanja Matic needed to come on to strengthen it with Paul Pogba unable to stabilise it himself. Solskjaer will have seen this and the fact that after Matic, Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, the ability remaining is pretty questionable. As Solskjaer says, Wembley will give anyone energy, so that is a clear indication that his best team will start and this is not something that is debatable, his first choice XI includes these two in the centre of midfield.
Attacking Midfield: Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood
United have been playing some spectacular football of late but in the past two matches, the magic seems to have burnt out and needs that spark to reignite is once again. This attacking trio with Mason Greenwood on the right, Bruno Fernandes in the middle and Marcus Rashford on the left is the best creativity in the squad right now – hopefully with Solskjaer seeking to bring in quality additions to his squad this summer so rotation will be an option without quality lacking. There are 46 goals and and 24 assists in this area alone this season, so goals are not something that United should struggle with these three on the pitch. Wembley should bring the life out of them as they could play again there this season if they send Chelsea packing.
Striker: Anthony Martial
The Frenchman as scored 22 goals and eight assists this season – 30 goal contributions. It is his best season at the club, by far and he looks set to continue his run of form, which is great to see. It is clear that his talent was never an issue but his application was, which could have been down to the manager more than anything else. That said. Solskjaer seems to have brought out the very best of Anthony Martial this season, seeking to continue his form into next season, albeit after a little break, after the UEFA Europa League, of course. United should be fired into the FA Cup final this season, where they will either face Manchester City or Arsenal.
Substitutes: Sergio Romero; Eric Bailly, Tim Fosu-Mensah; Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Daniel James, Scott McTominay; Odion Ighalo
Solskjaer has five substitutes to use for the remainder of the season, and into next season. There are three opportunities within a match to make the substitutes, not including the half time break. Solskjaer might need these to keep his team fresh, pushing for the kill early in the match, like they did in the opening match of the season, beating Chelsea 4-0. Sergio Romero will likely be on the bench, if needed. I defence, Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah could be brought it, if needed. In midfield, the experience of Juan Mata could be needed with Andreas Pereira, Fred, Daniel James and Scott McTominay could be utilised. In attack, Odion Ighalo could add a different type of forward, if required/
Written by John Walker