Manchester United dominated the lion’s share of possession in May’s FA Cup final but the Red Devils fell short against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. Jose Mourinho was left frustrated in the aftermath of that encounter; United were the better side and may have won on another day. But that is football – you have to defend well and take your chances in attack.
There is a different mood at Old Trafford these days. The United boss is under pressure after back-to-back defeats against Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur – a third loss in a row could be decisive. Mourinho was once regarded as the most pragmatic manager in world football but United fans are now split on whether he is the right man to take the club forward.
Finishing in the top four is an absolute must for a club of United’s prestige. The Red Devils cannot afford to drop out of the Champions League; the difference between Europe’s elite club competition and the Europa League is massive. Trying to convince the best players in the business to move to Old Trafford will be a lot easier with the lure of Champions League football.
However, it would be foolish to ignore the importance of the FA Cup. United fans have a close affinity with the world’s oldest club competition and you cannot beat a victorious day at Wembley. May’s defeat was sickening for the travelling faithful – that journey back to Manchester takes five times longer when you are going back without the trophy. That loss could spur United on in this particular competition in 2018/19.
As of August 31st, United still have a few months to wait until the third-round draw. The Red Devils will be focusing primarily on the Premier League and Champions League for now – though a League Cup tie at home to Derby County offers an ideal opportunity for United to build momentum in another cup tournament. Who knows, the Red Devils could be set for two Wembley finals if everything goes to plan…
United are priced at 8/1 in FA Cup betting odds to lift the famous trophy for a 13th time this campaign. Mourinho has always prioritised England’s most prestigious competition and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Red Devils go all out for a Wembley success. With a bit of luck in the draw, there is no reason why United cannot go on to prevail at the home of English football.
Would an FA Cup triumph save Mourinho’s job? Potentially but the Portuguese might not be at Old Trafford unless there is a significant improvement. Knockout football seems to suit this United side though – their record in cup competitions since Mourinho arrived at the helm is excellent. We could see the Red Devils lifting major honours this season, even if the Premier League title is out of reach.