Silverware is on the line in the last game of the English football season this weekend, with Manchester United and Crystal Palace going head-to-head in the final of the FA Cup at Wembley (5.30pm Saturday, live on BBC1 and BT Sport 1). Here is our FA Cup Final preview, concluding with our advised betting tips.
For Man Utd manager Louis van Gaal, there could be more than just a trophy up for grabs at Wembley. Although the Dutchman still has 12 months remaining on his three-year contract, the Red Devils’ fifth-place finish in the Premier League this term has left him under significant pressure, and anything less than a victory on Saturday could leave him out of a job. Van Gaal remains confident that he will still be in charge at Old Trafford in 2016/17, but failing in United’s biggest game of the season would surely spell the end for the 64-year-old.
Man Utd’s FA Cup run did not get off to the best of starts, a narrow and unconvincing 1-0 win over Sheffield United in the third round provoking more questions than answers from those on the terraces. Derby County, Shrewsbury Town and West Ham United were then defeated in subsequent matches, before Anthony Martial’s dramatic late winner against Everton in the last four sent United through to the final.
Crystal Palace also endured an underwhelming year in the top flight, finishing in 15th place despite being on the cusp of the Champions League places at the midway point of the campaign. Alan Pardew’s (pictured) employment is not under direct threat in the same manner as Van Gaal’s, but the Eagles boss will be fully aware that claiming Palace’s first ever major trophy will help to cement his position in the Selhurst Park dugout despite overseeing only two wins in the south Londoners’ final 21 league games of 2015/16.
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Palace’s route to the showpiece event at Wembley involved ties against four Premier League clubs, with Stoke City, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford all beaten, as well as Championship outfit Reading. The club have only ever made one FA Cup final before this year, with Manchester United winning a replay in 1990 after the first match between the pair ended in a 3-3 draw.
Van Gaal will have to do without Luke Shaw (broken leg), Will Keane (groin) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee), although Matteo Darmian (ankle), Marcos Rojo (knock), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knock) and Adnan Januzaj (hamstring) could all be fit enough to feature. Marouane Fellaini is available again after suspension, while Morgan Schneiderlin is likely to return after recovering from illness.
Crystal Palace, meanwhile, will be unable to call upon the services of midfielder Joe Ledley (leg) and Marouane Chamakh (groin) but otherwise have a fully fit squad to choose from after Connor Wickham, Wilfried Zaha and Yohan Cabaye all recovered from various injury problems. Mile Jedinak could be used to counter the aerial threat of Fellaini, which would likely see James McArthur drop to the substitutes’ bench.
Our Preview’s FA Cup Final, Crystal Palace v Man Utd, Betting Tips Verdict
Despite their woes after another difficult Premier League season, our preview’s conclusion is that Man Utd should have enough to overcome Crystal Palace and win their first FA Cup since 2004. Pardew’s charges have not been the most prolific scorers this year, and United’s solidity at the back could form the basis for a Wembley victory.
The odds on a 2-0 scoreline look particularly temping, while Martial – who has found the back of the net on four occasions in his last four appearances in all competitions – is a good choice to get the game’s first goal. It could be a cagey affair at times on Saturday, particularly if the favourites do not strike early, but United’s superior quality should see them scoop their 12th FA Cup trophy.
- Betting Tip: Man Utd to beat Crystal Palace by the correct score margin of 2-0 @ a best price of 13/2 with Unibet, BetVictor, Paddy Power & William Hill.
- Betting Tip: Anthony Martial to score the first goal of the game @ best betting odds of 6/1 with SkyBet, BetVictor, William Hill, Ladbrokes or Betfair.
Greg Lea is a freelance sports writer. Read the articles that he has written at Just Bookies.