George Pitts is backing Tottenham to get the better of Manchester United and reach the FA Cup final on Saturday evening.
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Manchester United v Tottenham (1715 BST, BBC One)
This season may be regarded as a disappointment for Manchester United, but they still have the chance to win a second FA Cup success in three seasons.
Jose Mourinho’s men won at Bournemouth in midweek to keep on course for a runners-up finish in the Premier League, with the Portuguese manager making seven changes in the aftermath of their home loss to West Brom.
He had suggested before the Vitality clash that places were up for grabs ahead of this weekend’s semi-final at Wembley, and the opportunity came calling for the likes of Matteo Darmian, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
They certainly impressed as Chris Smalling and substitute Romelu Lukaku were on target to see off Eddie Howe’s side and Mourinho knows they must be on their game against Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs.
The north Londoners have only lost twice in 2018 – to Juventus in the Champions League last-16 second leg and in the Premier League to title-winners Manchester City last week.
Part of their impressive domestic run includes a 2-0 win over Man United at Wembley in January – Christian Eriksen scoring after 11 seconds (above) before an own goal from Phil Jones doubled their advantage – and you can back a repeat scoreline this time at around 10s.
United are second in the Premier League, while fourth-placed Tottenham look on course to qualify for Champions League football next term as they have a healthy gap over Chelsea at the time of writing.
With all this considered, Spurs are still the favourites (5/4) in a massive game as both sides have one last chance of silverware this term, therefore they surely have to go for it and goals are a real possibility.
Tottenham to win and BTTS is good value at 7/2, while Tottenham/over 2.5 goals is 5/2.
- This will be Manchester United’s 29th appearance in the FA Cup semi-finals – equalling Arsenal’s record set last season.
- Tottenham have lost each of their last seven FA Cup semi-final ties – the longest such run in the competition’s history
- After a run of progressing from 13 straight FA Cup semi-finals, the Red Devils have been eliminated from two of their last three (2009 vs Everton and 2011 vs Man City).
- This will be the fourth occasion of the same two teams playing against each other at Wembley in different competitions within the same season. The others were Liverpool v West Ham in 1980-81, Arsenal v Sheffield Wednesday in 1992-93 and Tottenham v West Ham this season.
- Man Utd have won each of their last three FA Cup ties against Tottenham (1997, 2008 and 2009), last losing to them in a third round replay in January 1980.
- Spurs have won three of their last five meetings with Man Utd in all competitions (L2), as many as they had in their previous 36 against them.
- Tottenham are the highest scorers in this season’s FA Cup, netting 17 goals in their six games.
- Romelu Lukaku has scored in each round Man Utd have played in so far this season, netting five goals in total.
- Son Heung-min has had a hand in 14 goals in his 15 FA Cup appearances (9 goals, 5 assists) – more than any other player in the competition over the past three seasons.
- Alexis Sanchez has scored five goals in his four FA Cup games at Wembley Stadium, including the winning goals in both of his semi-final appearances.
Christian Eriksen – who scored twice in the previous round at Swansea – has netted five in his last five appearances. The Dane has won five out of 11 games against United, scoring two and assisting three, and you can back him in a score-and-win double at 9/2, 19/5 anytime and around 9s to open the scoring while top scorer Harry Kane is 7/2 to score the game's last goal.
Alternatively, if you fancy United to edge it, you can back them at 12/5. The midweek victory meant David de Gea has now kept more clean sheets (all competitions) for the Red Devils in 2017/18 than he has in any other season for the club - you can back them 5/1 to win this match in 90 minutes with a clean sheet.
This should be an entertaining clash with both sides set to finish in the top four and they will both be desperate to end the campaign with a trophy.
Mourinho usually has his sides set up well, especially for the big games, but despite the talent in his side he has been unable to get the best out of the likes of Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku on a consistent basis. Spurs should be well up for this though, they know the pitch at Wembley well and they are well worth backing to come out on top.
Score prediction: Manchester United 1-3 Tottenham (Sky Bet odds: 16/1) (George Pitts)
Best bet: Tottenham to win in 90 minutes and both teams to score at 7/2
Alternative bet: Half-time/full-time - Draw/Tottenham at 49/10