Manchester United need FA Cup victory the most
As the FA Cup semi-finals get underway, all four clubs fear a trophy-less season with primary objectives not met. It is the Red Devils who are in most pressing need.
The landscape in English football has the potential to change quickly.
It was only last season that Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur were the nation’s best two sides, while it has been less than 24 months since Leicester City won the league by double figures.
This season, Manchester City – with only a League Cup in their trophy cabinet between 2014 and this year – have blown away the domestic competition.
However, their shock exit to League One Wigan was the result of the season and showed that, despite its growing number of critics, this competition can still provide the memorable moments.
Now it provides the final hope of silverware for four clubs, three of whom will be left heavily disappointed if their trophy cabinet is not extended this season.
When analysing which team ‘needs’ the victory the most, or who it would matter most to, it either comprehensively is or is not Southampton, depending on your take.
The Saints have not won a major trophy since their triumph in the competition 42 years ago and undoubtedly their fans would savour it more than their three remaining rivals.
But in the context of their top-flight status being in major peril and the relative lack of expectation surrounding the club to deliver a trophy, they can be discounted.
The chasing pack
Chelsea’s season has been comprehensively underwhelming. Not only did their title defence dissipate almost as soon as it began, their hopes of a top-four finish have faded away over the past month.
Antonio Conte looks almost certain to leave at the end of the season regardless of remaining results and again, it is hard to see a trophy having too much bearing going forwards.
Of course, the Italian will want to end the somewhat surprising stat that he has never won a knockout competition as a coach while Chelsea fans would love to win a competition they have not lifted in six years.
That said, it is hard to make a strong argument for the ‘need’ to deliver it or indeed any significance it may have.
For Spurs, the significance would be clear. It would be a first managerial trophy for Mauricio Pochettino and the club’s first silverware since the 2008 League Cup.
However, the Argentine has reiterated this season he does not place significant value on either domestic cup and, whilst this is a separate point, it is clear that such an apathy would place any trophy win in context.
Saving a season
The same could not be said for Manchester United, who enter every season wanting to win every trophy available to them – a quality that is personified by boss Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese may have faults but he cannot be accused of devaluing cup competitions, and that is welcome. However, Manchester United are starring down the barrel of their third trophyless season in five since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
They won the trophy in 2016 under Louis Van Gaal – for the first time in 12 seasons – and victory this season would see them draw level with Arsenal as the competition’s most frequent victors.
Above that, Mourinho still needs vindication with a large section of Manchester United’s support following two seasons without a sustained title challenge. He firmly believes that success in cups breeds further victories in the league and in Europe.
Failure to do so would make this season one of undoubted progress but also of deep frustration and further questions regarding the sustainability of his project.
The former Porto, Inter and Real Madrid boss would not be axed this summer, but ending their season with a trophy puts a total complexion on their campaign and would provide a massive lift at precisely the right time.
Who needs to win the FA Cup most out of the semifinalists? Let us know by commenting below.