Mark O’Haire’s FA Cup Final Tips – C Palace v Man Utd
After missing out on Champions League football to neighbours Manchester City, Manchester United will be aiming to end a disappointing season on a high when they travel to Wembley to take on Crystal Palace in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Crystal Palace v Manchester United, Saturday 21 May 17.30, BBC1
It’s a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup final that saw the Red Devils clinch victory after a replay. And with a strong W15-D4-L1 head-to-head record across their last 20 meetings with the Eagles, United are understandable 4/11 favourites to lift the trophy again this weekend.
Victory would mark Man Utd’s first major piece of silverware since Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford as they contest the FA Cup final for the first time since 2007, attempting to add to their 11 previous glories in this competition.
The Red Devils have plundered their way through a rather unglamorous campaign but Louis Van Gaal’s side are finishing the season in decent nick. United saw off Bournemouth on Tuesday night with a strong XI to return W8-D1-L2 from their most recent 11 outings.
However, the low-intensity and often lethargic football has led to United scoring a record low tally of goals (49) in Premier League action this term. With Man Utd ponderous, could Palace upset the odds and claim their first major trophy?
Alan Pardew’s troops enjoyed a stupendous first half of the season, sitting as high as fifth and looking towards a possible European push. But the Eagles endured a disastrous 2016, winning just twice in the Premier League to plummet down the standings to 15th.
Whilst Palace were unable to stop the rot on league duty, the Eagles soared when switching attention to the FA Cup. Pardew’s posse won all five of their matches, including against Premier League opponents Southampton, Stoke, Spurs and Watford, without the need of a replay. The finalists shipped just two goals in those five fixtures.
Pardew left Yohan Cabaye, Wilfried Zaha and Connor Wickham out of the 4-1 reverse to Southampton last week due to knocks, preferring to focus attention towards this weekend’s match. So I’m expecting the south Londoners to provide United with a stern examination on Saturday evening.
The likes of Yannick Bolasie, Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon are all capable of catching United cold when possession is turned over but how much ball Palace enjoy remains to be seen. The underdogs only W1-D2-L9 against top-six teams in league action, scoring just five goals, with the capital club forced to feed off scraps.
Unlike Palace, United enjoyed a lenient run to Wembley, not facing Premier League opposition until the quarter-finals (West Ham). The Red Devils required a replay against the Hammers before a last-gasp winner from Anthony Martial saw off Everton in the semi-finals.
Martial has managed 17 goals and eight assists in a successful debut season for the Red Devils, including two goals and four assists in FA Cup action.
With Marcus Rashford netting eight goals from 14 shots-on-target since his debut in late February, United boast the firepower that’s most likely to prove decisive.
Looking at Man Utd’s record against bottom-half clubs that weren’t relegated, LVG’s group enjoyed W9-D1-L4, as well as seven clean sheets. Chuck in those firm foundations to the talented youngsters in attack and it’s easy to see why the bookmakers clearly favour United here.
But don’t expect a landslide victory. Arsenal’s triumph over Aston Villa last year was the first FA Cup final decided by more than a solitary goal since 2004/05 – so with that in mind, backing Man Utd to win by exactly one goal makes plenty of appeal at 23/10.
And considering Both Teams To Score has paid out just once in six showdowns since Palace returned to the Premier League in 2013, in only four of the most recent 14 FA Cup finals and once in Palace’s last four fixtures in the competition, opposing both sides scoring on Saturday is also advised at 4/6.
Manchester United to win by one goal @ 23/10
Both Teams To Score ‘No’ @ 4/6
*Prices correct at time of publication.