This season’s FA Cup has already thrown up plenty of shocks and enjoyable football. For the first time in years, none of the current top four are bossing the standings, with Leicester being knocked out by Tottenham in the third round, Manchester City convincingly beaten in the fourth round, Tottenham eliminated by Crystal Palace in the fifth round, and Arsenal beaten by Watford in the quarter final.
For the first time in years, teams who have not been involved in a big final could be in the chance of walking out of that Wembley tunnel for the showpiece game. For sides such as Watford and Crystal Palace, this is the best chance in years to make history. For West Ham, Everton and Manchester United, this is an opportunity to end the season on a high, and get a quick route into European football. But who should win the FA Cup?
Well there is still a quarter final replay to take place, with West Ham hosting Manchester United in yet another fiery affair. After a 1-1 draw in the last round, goals from Dimitri Payet and Anthony Martial set up an exciting replay. The teams in fifth and sixth are currently level on points, are one point off fourth place Manchester City, and could still make the Champions League. For West Ham, this is the year they leave the Boleyn Ground, so European football and an FA Cup would be welcomed ahead of the Olympic Stadium move.
For Manchester United, this season has been one of frustration, with manager Louis Van Gaal not playing the United way, and the board and Ed Woodward not providing the right players to make the Theatre of Dreams a fortress again. With fans calling for his head, an FA Cup win would be the perfect middle finger up to fans for Van Gaal. Considering his spell at United has not bought any recognised trophies thus far, the team need a big win. The last FA Cup for the club came 11 years ago, and that is too long a wait for a club like United. Should they not go through and win the FA Cup, they will kick themselves as Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool have all been knocked out. This replay should provide the winner of the tournament.
However, whichever side that makes it through will still have to overcome Everton, who are a very inconsistent side this season. The Merseysiders have had a poor season, sitting 12th, but with the threat of losing big talents such as Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and John Stones, Goodison Park needs European football next season. This is their best way of achieving that, and if they turn up they could well win it. Yet with the side so inconsistent, it is hard to say if they can go the full distance.
Then there are Watford and Crystal Palace, who can shock any team on their day. Watford have defied expectations this season since being promoted from the Championship, currently sitting 14th after a poor string of results.
Palace sit 16th, dropping after such a bright start to the season, but under Alan Pardew, they have the experience of a manager who has been here himself. This match will be a hotly contested affair with not much difference between the two teams, and it could very rely on penalties to separate them. Though they are good, you feel that if they came up against any of Everton, West Ham or Manchester United that they would struggle.