Five key head-to-head battles for FA Cup final between Man Utd and Crystal Palace
Lee Gormley | May 18, 2016
Five key head-to-head battles for FA Cup final
This Saturday will see Manchester United and Crystal Palace battle it out at Wembley in the FA Cup final, a repeat of their 1990 meeting when the Red Devils prevailed, and they will once again look for success to end over a decade-long wait in this competition.
Louis van Gaal’s side will take to the pitch hoping to win the club’s first cup crown since 2004, having lost two finals in 2005 and 2007 since then, while Alan Pardew’s Eagles want to soar to an upset in only their second ever final appearance.
Ahead of this clash between Man Utd and Palace, who finished fifth and 15th respectively in the Premier League this season, Coral have outlined five key head-to-head battles that could potentially determine the fate of this latest instalment of the world’s oldest cup competition…
Wayne Rooney v Yohan Cabaye
Red Devils skipper Rooney is just four goals adrift of Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time club record and the England frontman would love to edge closer to another personal feat by striking on Wembley soil.
The all-time top Three Lions marksman is 5/1 to open proceedings in the final, but he potentially faces an intriguing match-up with Palace maestro Cabaye, if Van Gaal deploys his captain in midfield once again.
Rooney starred in the central areas against Bournemouth, netting his 100th goal at Old Trafford and setting up Ashley Young with a delightful pass, and his promising creative abilities from deep could see him selected in midfield once again.
France international Cabaye has become pivotal to any success the Eagles have secured this term, with his creative talents a huge boost to the likes of Connor Wickham up front and Yannick Bolasie on the wings, while his set-piece prowess could trouble Man Utd too.
If Rooney features in his now preferred midfield role, Cabaye will have to do an equally astute job in inspiring his respective side to some attacking threat, with the fate of this year’s trophy possibly resting on this key central tussle.
Anthony Martial v Yannick Bolasie
A big summer lies ahead for France international starlet Martial at Euro 2016, but the dynamic attacker can cap off a superb maiden campaign with Man Utd by helping end the club’s 12-year wait for an FA Cup triumph.
Martial was only eight years of age when the Red Devils last lifted this famous trophy and he could now be pivotal to them finally reclaiming against Palace, with the Frenchman having been a bright forward for Van Gaal in an otherwise dreary term.
The 20-year-old will likely take up his now familiar position on the left flank, while Bolasie will look to have an impact on the wings for Pardew’s men, with the wicked wideman having struck two in four recent outings.
He will look to continue that surge in form and aid Palace’s attack from the wide areas, while Van Gaal will hope his reliable French forward can produce the goods again and finally end his wait for silverware success.
Wilfried Zaha v Memphis Depay
Palace winger Zaha will have extra motivation when he takes to the Wembley turf against his former employers, having been limited to just four appearances for the Red Devils during a frustrating spell after becoming Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing before retiring.
The 23-year-old has revived his career with the Eagles and will aim to have an instrumental impact on proceedings this weekend, having played a starring role in this cup run when netting the winner against both Southampton and Stoke City earlier in the campaign.
Dutchman Memphis has seen his form drop dramatically this term, starting brightly but swiftly fading out, and the youngster could face a similar fate to Zaha at Old Trafford if form and fortunes don’t change, but what better platform to turn things around than Wembley?
The 22-year-old Netherlands winger came on as a late substitute in the win over Bournemouth, possibly an indication of a starting position on Saturday, and he will look to flourish on this massive stage to prove exactly why he was signed for £25m last summer.
Connor Wickham v Marcus Rashford
As well as Martial bursting onto the scene, clinical youth product Rashford has also emerged this year, rattling in goal after goal at just 18 years of age. Such instinctive form in the danger areas has given Van Gaal no choice but to play the starlet, and he keeps repaying that faith.
Striking the winner in the Manchester derby will have been his most memorable moment so far, but a deadly finish against the Cherries in midweek could be a sign of things to come at Wembley, where he is 5/4 to net anytime.
At the other end of the pitch, it’s fellow English forward Wickham that will lead Palace’s line, but while Rashford has been surging in form for the Red Devils, this Eagles attacker hasn’t enjoyed as prolific a campaign.
He has netted six times to date this season and, having bagged the winner against Watford in the semi-final, he could enter with full of confidence, which he’ll need in order to get the better of arguably the world’s best shot stopper David de Gea.
Chris Smalling v Scott Dann
England centre back Smalling has become Man Utd’s Mr Reliable in the heart of defence, and his impressive form will undoubtedly see him take up a place within his Roy Hodgson’s line-ups this summer in France.
Before then though, the towering defender will need to be at his composed best to help steer his club over the winning Wembley line, with the likes of Zaha and Bolasie, along with Cabaye, set to launch plenty of testing deliveries towards him.
Palace centre half Dann will be tasked with a similar job for his side, but will have to deal with an in-form Rashford and limit the starlet’s dangerous movement in the penalty area if the Eagles are to complete a famous victory.