Our footy scribe previews the 5th round FA Cup encounter between Blackburn and Man United.
This year’s edition of the F.A Cup has the atmosphere of a fairytale already, with both non-league sides Lincoln City and Sutton United squirming their way into the final 16. Surely Owen Coyle’s side will take some solace from that, especially with their Championship form absolutely down the toilet. They are currently 23rd on the log and face the very real possibility of relegation to the first division.
Jose Mourinho has more first world problems on his hands, with a congested fixture list mounting that sees them involved in four competitions over the next two week. So this could offer an intriguing clash of two clubs with opposing sets of issues.
FA Cup, 5th Round | 19 February 2017 | Ewood Park | 18:15
To Win (90 Mins)
Blackburn 7/1 | Draw 38/10 | Manchester United 7/20
I actually feel sorry for Owen Coyle. He was never the guy the fans wanted and was really on a hiding to nothing taking this employ. The last time Blackburn played Manchester United was 2012, but recent historical evidence is still against them.
Man United have won five of their last seven matches, with Rovers only winning one. Blackburn will be without midfield general Hope Akpan, after he was ridiculously sent off against Sheffield Wednesday for pushing the ref. That pretty much sums up the growing sense of frustration that is enveloping the club.
One stat that may give Rovers fans some solace is the fact that they have fared pretty well against the top Championship sides this seasons. Their record read W2 D2 L2 against the top three sides, and they are the only side that has beaten table-topping Newcastle twice. So the big theatre obviously brings the best out of them.
Liam Feeney will come in for Akpan in midfield, while Blackburn's principle chance of getting anything through the match will be through the counterattack. Danny Graham and Sam Gallagher have each netted 11 times in the league, despite only having one between them in cup competitions. They do provide some focus and could catch the Red Devils off guard if they become too gung-ho in their attack. But what is there about Mourinho that says ‘gung ho’?
It’s quite hard to predict what side Man United are going to put out this weekend. They have a must-win home tie against St Etienne in the Europa League on Thursday night, so one suspects that he will persevere with his strongest eleven there. But don’t expect wholesale changes from Mourinho, who has generally persisted with 7 or 8 core players in all cup games.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will likely be given a break, which should see the exciting Marcus Rashford play through the middle. This game is tailor made for Wayne Rooney, especially as he will unlikely start against St Etienne. His pugnacious attitude could prove vital is these uglier domestic cup fixtures.
I would suspect that Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba may be on the bench, allowing Marouane Fellaini and Anthony Martial to step into the side. I also can see Ander Herrera starting on the bench, which should see Michael Carrick partner Fellaini.
Man United will probably dominate possession, so I expect the Red Devils to pick a fairly strong defensive line-up that won’t anticipate an over-abundance of work. Mourinho's side have comfortably disposed of lower level opposition in this tournament so far, beating Wigan and Reading 4-0.
Verdict: Halftime/Fulltime Double - Draw/Man United (28/10)
This is pretty much in keeping with the way Man United have generally gone about their business this season. They tend to start slowly and grow into matches. They may be a tad weary in the first half, allowing Rovers to frustrate them.
But as the game progresses, I expect United’s dominance to show, especially as they bring their big guns on in the second stanza. Get on the Halftime Draw / Fulltime Man United win at a valuable 28/10.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets