Cape Town - Ah, the magic of the FA Cup.
The oldest club competition in the world. Also now the only competition where fans only start to care about their team’s progress after the semi-finalists have been decided.
Liverpool were knocked out in the fourth round (by West Brom!) but there fans couldn’t care less because they are still in the Champions League and on track for qualification next year by virtue of their league progress.
Manchester City? There was no fall-out from their loss at the hands of Wigan Athletic (yes, Wigan Athletic!) because they’ve just been crowned league champions.
Arsenal, the defending champions, were dumped out in third round (the earliest exit by the holders in seven seasons) by Nottingham Forest. But even the Wenger Out brigade didn’t care, at that time they were more concerned by getting Wenger Out and trying to qualify for the Champions League.
The romance of a lowly third-tier outfit donning the clothes of David and smashing a few Goliaths has been killed by money. The minnows simply don’t stand a chance. Wigan were sent packing in the quarter-finals with seven of the last eight campaigning in the billions league of England’s top-flight.
But now that we’ve reached the top four (finally!) it is all systems go with Manchester United taking on Spurs and Chelsea being tested by bottom dwellers Southampton. Each of the final four has something to play for and something for their fans to shout about, after all it is still a Major trophy, even if its lost its allure of 10-20 years ago.
United’s players are desperate to land silverware after crashing out of Europe while their visitors - who actually play their home games at Wembley this season - are as desperate with the need to punctuate their league progress with some sort of trophy (cancelling St Totteringham’s Day doesn’t actually count!).
Both sides rested key players in midweek but both managers have a number of selection issues going into the clash which despite the competition it’s being played in is setting up as one of the season’s not to be missed encounters.
At 5.75/1 take draw/Manchester United HT/FT and cash in while you watch this one unfold.
Chelsea’s season as defending league champions has been dire but as they prepare to send Antonio Conte off to the unemployment centre, they have a real chance of padding their trophy count.
The Saints have bigger things to worry about as the relegations looms and this plays sweetly into Chelsea's hands. At 1/1 Eden Hazard to score anytime seems like a solid option as does Southampton failing to score at the same odds.
After the second
semi-final is concluded, two sets of fans will be filling social media with
thoughts the FA Cup doesn't matter much while for the finalists, the magic of
the FA Cup will be more alive than ever.