Big Match Focus: Manchester United v Tottenham

Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will aim to keep their hopes of silverware alive when they meet each other in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium.

FA Cup
Date: 21 April 2018
Kick-off: 17:15 local time/23:15 HKT
Venue: Wembley Stadium

Referee: A. Taylor
Assistants: G. Beswick, A. Nunn
Fourth official: K. Friend

Head-to-head summary

Man United 158 82 39 37
Spurs 158 37 39 82

Previous encounter

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Manchester United (31 January 2018) Premier League

Spurs scorers: C. Eriksen (1′), P. Jones (OG) (28′)

Players to watch

Nemanja Matic has had a solid but unspectacular season in terms of form. He is 26th in the English top flight where he completes 87.2% of his passes, but has just a single assist to his name. On the defensive side of things he remains busy in the centre of the park where he averages 1.9 tackles per game as well as 1.8 interceptions. Yet, his influence in the final third is less productive in terms of creating and scoring goals though he does occupy a deeper position to the more advanced Paul Pogba. Nonetheless, he could have a big role in trying to control the flow of possession on Saturday in the English capital.

Dele Alli has had a quieter season in front of goal as it seems sides have begun to watch for his late runs into the box, more so than they did in the last campaign. However, while his goal-count has dropped from 22 strikes in all competitions to just 12 in 2017/18, his number of assists has increased to 14. With the prolific Harry Kane likely to be ahead of him while Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen find space in good areas, the 22-year-old could be a real threat for the Lilywhites.

Team form and manager quotes

Man United come into the contest with four wins out of five matches though an awful home defeat to West Bromwich Albion certainly may have rattled confidence in some quarters. With that said, a routine 2-0 victory over Bournemouth in their last time out means the club come into the game feeling good about themselves.

In addition, manager Jose Mourinho feels Spurs have no advantage at playing at their home venue of Wembley Stadium. He said: “I don’t think it’s an advantage [for Spurs] at all. I played one cup final in Roma’s stadium against Roma and I won.

“I played a cup final in my stadium and I lost. So I think when you go to these big moments with these big decisions, semi-finals, finals, I don’t think it’s an advantage.

“In some countries the cup semi-final is played home and away, not (in a) neutral ground, like in England. That’s just football.

“Sometimes it’s at home, sometimes it’s away. This time it’s away, but I don’t see any advantage. For me it’s the same as playing at Old Trafford.”

Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino men have lost to Man City and drawn with Brighton & Hove Albion in their last two encounters and are still feeling a little bit of pressure from Chelsea to ensure they lockdown a top four spot.

Yet, Pochettino takes the view that winning the FA Cup is not a massive priority as other major competitions can raise the standing of his side around the world.

He said: “I promise you the club is not going to change if you win or don’t win the FA Cup or the League Cup. It would be fantastic to add that trophy to the club but what would put us to a different level would be to win the Premier League or Champions League.

“That is going to put you in a different level. Here, people love to talk about perception and changing perceptions. Good Champions League group stage – you beat Dortmund, Real Madrid and you compete very well against Juventus and the dimension of the club around the world changes completely.”

Team news

Antonio Valencia, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku are all set to be recalled to the starting line-up after being rested in the victory over Bournemouth in midweek.

Defenders Phil Jones and Daley Blind have both returned from injury and may feature in the clash.

For Spurs, Dele Alli is expected to start after sitting out of the side’s 1-1 draw with Brighton the last time out. Danny Rose (calf) and Harry Winks (ankle) are both absentees with their respective injuries.