Crystal Palace v Manchester United
Sunday May 22, 2:30am
Both these sides have endured disappointing league campaigns and will be looking to compensate for that by picking up some silverware here. For Crystal Palace, it would be their first major trophy after they lost out to United themselves in the 1989/90 edition of this competition in a replay.
The Red Devils, meanwhile, are looking for their first trophy in what’s been a bleak post-Ferguson era thus far and should they fail to lift the trophy at Wembley, Louis Van Gaal will almost certainly be out of the job after missing out on Champions League qualification.
After the first half of the season, Palace were up in fifth and dreaming of European football, but they had a disastrous 2016 in the league, winning just twice to drop down to 15th.
In the Cup, however, they’ve been much more convincing as they’ve won all five of their matches, including beating Premier League opponents Southampton, Stoke, Spurs and Watford, leading at the break in four of these games while conceding just two goals.
In the league, Palace’s record at home and away against the top-six this term was W1-D2-L9, with their sole win coming against Southampton. They managed just five goals in these 12 games and trailed at the break in five of the six in 2016.
The bizarre incident at Old Trafford on the final day of the season coupled with Manchester City’s point at Swansea meant that United had the unwanted distraction of a fairly meaningless fixture against Bournemouth on Tuesday night, which they nonetheless negotiated safely to secure fifth.
In the Cup, United had a fairly lenient run until the Sixth Round when they met Premier League opposition for the first time in the shape of West Ham and they needed a replay to get past them, whilst they made it past Everton in the semi-finals thanks to a last gasp winner from Anthony Martial.
In the league against sides between 11th and 17th, United’s record this term was W9-D1-L4, with all four of these defeats coming on the road. These matches have tended to be tight affairs, with just the Bournemouth game seeing more than three goals as United managed seven clean sheets and conceded just twice in their six home wins against these teams.
United are some way clear of Palace according to our gradings and worryingly for Eagles’ fans, Wigan’s 2013 triumph over Man City was the only instance since 2001/02 when a lower ranked side managed to lift the trophy, though two sides with a greater disparity managed a draw in the 90 minutes, Hull against Arsenal in 2014 and West Ham against Liverpool back in 2006.
Despite the strong record of superior sides, Arsenal’s victory over Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa last season was the only time a team has won an FA Cup Final by more than one goal since 2004/05. As a result, dutching the draw and United to win by one goal looks a solid play in his one.