Cape Town - Ah, the magic of the FA
The oldest club competition in the world. Also now the only competition
where fans only start to care about their team’s progress after the
semi-finalists have been decided.
Liverpool were knocked
out in the fourth round (by West Brom!) but there fans couldn’t care less
because they are still in the Champions League and on track for qualification
next year by virtue of their league progress.
Manchester City? There
was no fall-out from their loss at the hands of Wigan Athletic (yes, Wigan
Athletic!) because they’ve just been crowned league champions.
Arsenal, the defending
champions, were dumped out in third round (the earliest exit by the holders in
seven seasons) by Nottingham Forest. But even the Wenger Out brigade didn’t
care, at that time they were more concerned by getting Wenger Out and trying to
qualify for the Champions League.
The romance of a lowly
third-tier outfit donning the clothes of David and smashing a few Goliaths has
been killed by money. The minnows simply don’t stand a chance. Wigan were sent
packing in the quarter-finals with seven of the last eight campaigning in the
billions league of England’s top-flight.
But now that we’ve
reached the top four (finally!) it is all systems go with Manchester United
taking on Spurs and Chelsea being tested by bottom dwellers Southampton. Each
of the final four has something to play for and something for their fans to
shout about, after all it is still a Major trophy, even if its lost its allure
of 10-20 years ago.
United’s players are
desperate to land silverware after crashing out of Europe while their visitors - who actually play their home games at Wembley this season - are as desperate
with the need to punctuate their league progress with some sort of trophy
(cancelling St Totteringham’s Day doesn’t actually count!).
Both sides rested key
players in midweek but both managers have a number of selection issues going
into the clash which despite the competition it’s being played in is setting up
as one of the season’s not to be missed encounters.
At 5.75/1 take draw/Manchester United
HT/FT and cash in while you watch this one unfold.
Chelsea’s season as
defending league champions has been dire but as they prepare to send Antonio
Conte off to the unemployment centre, they have a real chance of padding their
The Saints have bigger
things to worry about as the relegations looms and this plays sweetly into
Chelsea's hands. At 1/1 Eden Hazard to score
anytime seems like a solid option as does Southampton failing to score
at the same odds.
After the second
semi-final is concluded, two sets of fans will be filling social media with
thoughts the FA Cup doesn't matter much while for the finalists, the magic of
the FA Cup will be more alive than ever.