Jose Mourinho has a formidable record in cup finals; he has won 12 of the 14 he has competed in, only losing the other two in extra time, and will be looking to carry that on when he faces his old club Chelsea in an FA Cup Wembley showdown on Saturday.
Extra motivation will come from the prospect of getting one over on Antonio Conte, whom Mourinho has sparred with at times this season, and essentially putting the final nail in the coffin of the Italian’s Chelsea reign.
An added dimension comes from the array of players who boast proud Wembley records; January arrivals Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud bring impressive experience of playing, scoring and winning at the National Stadium from their time at Arsenal while Jesse Lingard hit United’s winner in the 2015/16 final as well as bagging in the EFL Cup finale against Southampton last term.
That is quite the melting pot, which throws up some testing questions for Jose Mourinho to answer ahead of the match and Football FanCast have taken a closer look at some of the most pressing…
United’s big-game record has improved since the turn of the year but comebacks have been required to see off Manchester City, Tottenham in the semi-final and Chelsea in the sides’ most recent league meeting.
While it shows impressive resilience to come from behind to win against some of the best sides in the country, it is a huge ask to do so in a showpiece final.
Mourinho’s side have a much better record when they score first and while the Portuguese has showed impressive nous to turn the side of the aforementioned matches – in particular the Spurs semi-final – he must find a way to ensure that his side are at the races from the off.
Mourinho revealed earlier this month that Bailly had not been playing much in the closing stages of the season because he wanted to give more gametime to players who could make it to the World Cup.
However, with the fate of Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling all sealed before the Wembley showpiece – and Marcos Rojo already included in Argentina’s 35-man squad – Mourinho might be tempted to turn to Bailly.
Mourinho has thrown the Ivorian in from the cold before this season – notably in crucial wins against Manchester City and Liverpool – and he may well be tempted to do the same here. Bailly remains United’s best defender.
Romelu Lukaku limped off in United’s 2-1 win over Arsenal at the end of April and has not played since, making him a doubt for the final against his old club.
Mourinho has been cagey about the fitness of the Belgian who has been United’s top scorer this season; perhaps he is trying to keep Chelsea guessing or perhaps Lukaku really is battling the clock to be fit.
Lukaku is a player who can lack touch and guile even on his best form, so fielding him when he isn’t fully fit could lead to a sub-par performance but having his top marksman available would also be a boost.
This is a huge call that could shape the final.
Owing to Arsenal’s persistent recent success in the FA Cup, Olivier Giroud has never been beaten in ten competitive games at Wembley and even jokingly called the stadium his ‘garden’ ahead of the semi-final clash against Southampton.
The Frenchman – valued at £18m by Transfermarkt – is Chelsea’s most confident striker right now and brings winning experience to a Blues side who will also be looking to avenge last season’s final defeat at the hands of Giroud and Arsenal.
In what is likely to be a tight game, a striker like Giroud who possesses great aerial strength, finishing and link play could well flourish.
Mourinho obsesses over Eden Hazard when detailing his team to stifle Chelsea but Giroud’s Wembley record demands similar attention.