Manchester United face Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday aiming to win their third major trophy under manager Jose Mourinho.
The Red Devils ended the Premier League campaign 19 points behind Manchester City, but Mourinho can still claim to have improved the club’s fortunes.
United finished 6th with 69 points last term, but this time around they ended the season as runners-up and with 12 points more. Whether you love him or hate him, it can’t be denied that Mourinho has moved things forward.
Last season’s successes in the Europa League and EFL Cup were a good foundation to build from and a victory over Chelsea would be a pleasing end to the manager’s second year in charge.
The growth in popularity of both the Premier League and Champions League has led to many people claiming that the FA Cup is an irrelevance, but while the competition trails behind in the financial stakes it still retains its widespread appeal.
Saturday’s game will generate a flurry of betting activity, with fans across the country taking advantage of bookmaker offers.
The final will also attract a huge global audience, with over half a billion people in more than 100 countries around the world tuning in to watch the game.
United’s desire to benefit from global sponsorship income can only be enhanced by that level of exposure, further highlighting the continued allure of the competition.
However, the FA Cup isn’t about money. The winners will pocket around £1.8 million and that is chicken feed for clubs like United.
Despite what some pundits and managers would have you believe, the 147-year-old competition is still firmly ingrained in the English game.
Its history, the underdog stories, the chance to lift the famous trophy ñ these are all things that matter. The FA Cup is magic and there’s nothing on earth quite like it.
No doubt Liverpool fans will argue that reaching the Champions League final is a bigger achievement, but if they lose to Real Madrid on May 26 they’ll have fourth place in the league and very little else to shout about.
The FA Cup is not just a benefit gig for the likes of United or Chelsea either – it can have a huge impact on smaller clubs too.
Ask any Wigan Athletic fan whether they would have swopped their success over City in 2013 for Premier League survival and you can pretty much guarantee they would all say no.
Fast forward to this season and Wigan were at it again in the fifth round with another 1-0 victory over City.
Pep Guardiola’s sour reaction to the defeat tells you all you need to know about the importance of the FA Cup.
United will head into Saturday’s game as slight favourites to lift the trophy, but Chelsea should not be underestimated.
With Blues’ boss Antonio Conte looking likely to leave the club this summer he’ll be eager to end on a high note, but United look a decent bet at 6/4 to win in 90 minutes and crown a pretty decent season.
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