Saturday 23rd April – 17:15 – Wembley Stadium
The FA Cup is a chance for redemption for both Everton and Manchester United, with the two clubs enduring below-par seasons so far. The Toffees definitely more so though, with boss Roberto Martinez under increasing pressure with his side currently 11th in the Premier League after an embarrassing 4-0 defeat in the Merseyside derby in midweek means they haven’t won in the league since March 1st against relegated Aston Villa. But the cup, which Martinez won with Wigan in 2013 and Everton have won five times in their history (most recently 1995) has offered a welcome break. To get to Wembley, they have beaten Dagenham & Redbridge 2-0, Carlisle United 3-0, Bournemouth 2-0 and most recently Chelsea 2-0 in the quarter-final. That means they are yet to concede in this year’s competition. Meanwhile, Manchester United have reached Wembley by beating Sheffield United 1-0, Derby County 3-1, Shrewsbury Town 3-0 and West Ham United 2-1 in a replay after drawing the original game 1-1. The Red Devils have won the cup 11 times (only bettered by Arsenal), but not since 2004. There is still some hope in the league for Louis van Gaal’s side as they are just two points outside the top four, but a win in this competition and their first piece of silverware since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure would make this campaign a success regardless of league position I think.
- The Toffees have a paucity of defenders for their FA Cup tie, with the suspended Ramiro Funes Mori the latest absentee.
- Seamus Coleman is out with a hamstring injury, Phil Jagielka is struggling with a similar issue and Gareth Barry’s groin problem will also be assessed.
- However, they are optimistic John Stones will play despite being forced off in midweek with stomach cramps.
- The Red Devils have no new injuries, with Chris Smalling fit despite suffering a knock on Wednesday.
- Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee), Luke Shaw (leg) and Adnan Januzaj (lack of match fitness) are their only absentees for the trip to Wembley.
- Michael Carrick, linked with joining Everton, is likely to return after not even being in the squad to face Crystal Palace in midweek.
The Key Battle: Romelu Lukaku vs David de Gea
Two players linked with moves away from their Wembley competing clubs this summer could prove crucial in the clash under the famous arch.
Romelu Lukaku has scored 25 goals in all competitions this season, prompting rumours that his former club Chelsea, who sold him to Everton for £28 million in 2014, want him back. The Belgian scored twice against the Blues to knock them out of the cup in the quarter-final last month.
Lukaku has netted in each of his five FA Cup appearances for the Toffees (six goals in total), and has said this week that he wants to “put the club’s name up in lights” by winning the famous trophy.
Meanwhile, the rumours linking David de Gea to Real Madrid just won’t go away, and failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League might just see the shot stopper depart for his homeland.
His CV was enhanced even further this week as he was named in the PFA Team of the Season for the third time following 14 league clean sheets so far this campaign – no one else has more.
The 25 year old also played a crucial role in the quarter-final replay against West Ham, as he made critical saves in the dying seconds to keep United’s 2-1 lead.
Everton wins = 69 / Manchester United wins = 84 / Draws = 41
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Manchester United 1-0 Everton (3rd April 2016)
Earlier this month, Anthony Martial’s winning goal kept Manchester United in the chase for a Champions League place on the day they named a stand after Sir Bobby Charlton. Martial turned in Tim Fosu-Mensah’s cross from close range early in the second half to send Everton to a third straight Premier League defeat. Phil Jagielka headed against the bar for the visitors, and later had a snapshot saved by David De Gea. [Full BBC report]
Roberto Martinez: “We carry hurt and that’s normal after what happened in the last game, but clearly the focus is about the opportunity of being in the semi-final of the FA Cup. Since the quarter-final against Chelsea, results haven’t been good enough, and that’s something we’ll try to look into next week when we face the next league game. But at the moment everything is about the semi-final and everything is about taking our football club to Wembley with a really strong feeling of being together, of facing adversity in an exemplary way and being as good as we can in front of a very strong opposition.”
Louis van Gaal: “It it not for me to judge that [the importance of the game] – I have said that already in former press conferences. I do my utmost best and I have said that. We are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, we are still in the race for the fourth position in the Premier League and that was our aim.”
The Referee – Anthony Taylor
- Last FA Cup game: Reading 3-1 West Bromwich Albion (20th February 2016) – 1 yellow card, 0 red cards
- Last Everton game: Everton 2-3 West Ham United (5th March 2016) – 6 yellow cards, 1 red card
- Last Manchester United game: Derby County 1-3 Manchester United (29th January 2016 – 1 yellow card, 0 red cards
2015-16 Record: Games = 39 / Yellow Cards = 131 / Red Cards = 4 / Penalties = 6
Stat of the Match
Everton have reached the FA Cup semi-finals for the 26th time – a tally bettered only by Manchester United and Arsenal (both 28, excluding replays). Everton have gone on to reach the final 13 times, whilst the Red Devils have progressed 18 times.
Where Can I Watch It?
The semi-final is live on BBC One from 4:50pm on Saturday, with kick-off 25 minutes later.
My Prediction: Everton 1-2 Manchester United (AET)
Morale is severely low at Everton, even before the thrashing at the hands of Liverpool, and despite good cup form, I can’t see them winning at Wembley against a resurgent Manchester United side. That doesn’t mean to say I predict a Red Devils walkover, in fact quite the opposite as I think we could see extra time on Saturday evening. Wayne Rooney will give United the lead before Romelu Lukaku equalises to signal 30 more minutes, but it will be a Juan Mata goal that sends the 11 time champions to the final against either Crystal Palace or Watford.