Manchester United go into today’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea knowing that there is an even more important game in three days’ time against West Ham at Old Trafford.
Avoiding the exhausting eventuality of extra time and penalties is arguably more important than winning or losing today’s game, given the fact that West Ham already have two extra days’ recovery time before the match than United.
Unless Spurs are 3-0 up at half-time against Leicester in this afternoon’s 4pm kick-off, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t know whether his side could afford to lose against West Ham and still be in the running for a top four finish – but even if they could, they would not want to do so and risk having to take three points against Leicester at the King Power Stadium in a week’s time.
Solskjaer could, of course, decide to make wholesale changes for today’s game and potentially sacrifice the FA Cup in order to rest his best players ahead of Wednesday. However, his team selection policy to date and his constant message in press conferences that he will take one game at a time suggest he is unlikely to do that.
Chelsea’s Frank Lampard is in a similar position, having to recover in time for a tough away game at champions Liverpool on Wednesday before a tricky home tie against Europa League-chasing Wolves on Sunday.
He will not want extra time any more than Solskjaer.
Semi-finals are usually tense and edgy affairs, with neither team wanting to make a mistake that could cost them a place in the final. But given the exceptional circumstances in this case, we can expect both managers to throw caution to the wind and do everything to win the game within 90 minutes.
This may result in end-to-end attacking football, especially in the last 20 minutes of the game.
With United’s forward line on fire at the moment, this should play into Solskjaer’s hands and win or lose, we should expect plenty of action and goals galore at Wembley this evening.
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