The 2018 Emirates FA Cup will be played at the Wembley Stadium, London today but the real battle for win bragging rights will be won and lost among Manchester United and Chelsea fans in Nigeria. Already, two of the biggest names in football punditry and very passionate supporters of both teams, Segun Agbede of Manchester United and Godwin Dudu Orumen of Chelsea are at each other’s throat about who will carry the day…
I’ve been a Manchester United fan since 1968, that’s some 50 years ago. As a child growing up in London, I used to support Manchester United and my favourite player was Nobby Stiles. Incidentally, I also loved Chelsea too because of players like Peter Osgood but it has always been United for me.
It’s been a less than stellar season for United but if we win the FA Cup it will make our season a good one. However if we don’t, then our season will just be merely okay. For what it is worth, Man City and us are the only two teams of the big six who actually finished better than they did last season. Even Liverpool, with their Mo Salah, finished fourth again with a point less than they did last season. So an FA Cup win will just make a good season much better for United.
Don’t mind Dudu Orumen. I hear he has been boasting that they will beat Manchester United. A Chelsea that cannot beat ‘ordinary’ Newcastle think they can threaten us? We’ll just crush them. I think Chelsea did not play to their true potential this past season probably because Antonio Conte tweaked the team too much or some players just didn’t live up to expectations. They also got it wrong in player selections most times. So we can finally nail their coffin in the final today.
We started the season like a house on fire, winning our first three or four games with big margins until the game against Liverpool and I reckon that was the point from which we never really recovered our early season form. We ended up losing to all the newly promoted teams and even lost to West Brom at home although, conversely, we also beat all the top teams.
I read Ruud Gullit where he said Antonio Conte should sit back and let Manchester United come at him so that he can hit us on a counter. That’s exactly what I think Mourinho will do. He’ll be cautious though sometimes he tends to be over-cautious which can be very annoying. Knowing Mourinho, he will sit back, test the patience of Chelsea and let them come at him then he will try to counter-attack. If we score first, United will definitely carry the day. Each time we scored first this past season we’d always gone on to win.
Mourinho plays a 4-3-3 formation but sometimes vary it to 4-2-3-1. I want to see Romelu Lukaku leading the attack and I must confess a lot of people have not been fair to him this season. I saw some stats that United created fewer chances, about 70% less than Manchester City, yet Lukaku was able to score as many goals as he did, so we should give him credit for that. I want to see Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingaard behind Lukaku. Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera should play in defensive midfield while I think an Eric Bailly/Phil Jones pairing in centre-back is ideal for us. Chris Smalling, for me, is erratic. Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia will be our full backs while the world’s best goalkeeper David De Gea will be in goal.
This Manchester United are a difficult side to break down and it is impossible to come back against us when we score first. Hopefully we’ll score first against Chelsea today and carry the day.
Undoubtedly, Sanchez will be the X-factor for United. He has the talent and desire to win. Pogba too, although he can sometimes flatter to deceive but his range of passing ability and decent shots especially when he gets in to the opposition half can make the difference for us.
Blue To Fear
Eden Hazard, undoubtedly. He’s their best player by a mile and even we don’t have a player like him. He’s quick and clever and has two very good legs. It’s surprising that their season panned out the way it did because Chelsea have a lot of quality in their ranks. Apart from Hazard, they have N’golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas, Marco Alonso and Antonio Rudiger who, in my opinion, was their buy-of-the-season. Tiemoue Bakayoko was one huge flop even though he was very good at Monaco.
Waving your banner
I’m watching this game alone in my house with curtains drawn. With United, you don’t know what to expect. If we win, and I expect us to win, then I will come out to celebrate with other fans but if we lose, I pray not, I will open my refrigerator and take a cold bottle of wine before going to bed. I know we’ll win anyway.
The two teams have had highs and lows this season. The Chelsea side that defeated Liverpool struggled against Huddersfield and on the last day, against Newcastle, they lost by 3-0. Like I said before, whoever scores first will likely carry the day but I predict a 2-1 win for us. Up United!
I became a Chelsea supporter in 1974 even though I’d been following English football for longer than that. We used to watch English football on television in the old Midwest and I followed Gordon banks, one of the best goalkeepers of his generation who played for Stoke City. I loved a player named Allan Hudson who was a very fine footballer but he was soon to move to Stoke City too. I automatically transferred my affection to the club. I love Chelsea not only because they were an English club but because they are also a very progressive team with players from all over the club. They signed players like Gialuigi Vialli, Gianfranco Zola, and a lot of other players. By the time our own Celestine Babayaro joined, I was already hooked.
We had a poor season by our own standards. Some players did not live up to expectations and the FA Cup will just compensate for our season.
Incidentally I’m a Mourinho fan but Manchester United do not have the players to truly inspire fear in anybody so we are not scared of their boasting. Mourinho is a big-game coach but Chelsea are motivated because player for player we are miles better than United. Even Segun Agbede knows this and it is that extra quality that will see us through today. Luck is also a big part of it and the team which has the rub of the green will carry the day so I hope that is Chelsea.
Mourinho is an open book so hopefully Antonio Conte can read him and beat him at his game. Like I said earlier, Mourinho lives for these big games so our hope is to allow him show his hand by taking the game to him from the blast of the whistle because we know he’s going to sit back and try to play counter-attack.
I favour a 4-2-3-1 formation with Olivier Giroud spearheading the attack. Alvaro Morata has not impressed in my opinion so he should start from the bench. Hazard will be the focal point of the three-man offensive behind Giroud and he can excel in a free role. If I were Conte, I will spring a surprise by playing Willy Caballero in goal instead of Thibault Courtois who has the tendency to go off in games. All the other regulars should start except for Gary Cahill who I want to see on the bench because he’s off pace. I expect to see our Victor Moses and Marco Alonso on either side of the defence too.
Chelsea’s strength lies in the individual ability of the players and that is one of the areas I have an issue with Conte. We don’t get to see enough teamwork from Chelsea as 80% of our goals have come from the individual efforts of our players. For United, about 85% of their goals are from team efforts and that’s what we should be looking to improve.
Giroud is the player to deliver the moment of magic. Hazard has not particularly lit up the league this season and, for me, he’s disappointing. However Giroud has the skills and physical presence to do the damage when you least expect and that’s why I’m banking on him to do it today. Don’t forget that even while at Arsenal he had the knack of scoring at crucial moments and he’s carried that form to Stamford Bridge.
Red To Fear
Seriously speaking, there is no particular player I would want us to pay special attention to. The strength of this Manchester United team is in their teamwork right from and their ability to waltz through the middle, where Chelsea are particularly vulnerable, can be worrying. Rashford is young and strong but he’s still got a lot to learn in the game. Alexis Sanchez appear to have left his best form at Arsenal and he’s not the same player he used to be. Pogba is terribly inconsistent too so, like I say, they are stronger as a group than as individual units.
Waving your banner
I will be watching the game at Sportshaq, the sports and relaxation bar which I established 21 years ago. It is the pioneer for all these viewing centres you see all around your neighbourhood. I will have my friends around like Chief Segun Odegbami and even Segun Agbede himself. I would have invited other Chelsea fans but some of them are angry with me for criticizing Conte.
My heart says Chelsea but my head tells me Manchester United. The scoreline will be 2-1 in favour of either side but I pray my heart wins today’s battle. Blues for life!