Everton have gambled their season on the FA Cup after a league campaign that has occasionally excited, generally disappointed and recently become utterly forgettable. They’ll have to get past a Man Utd side that are enjoying something of a Springtime revival though, with the Red Devils having won five of their last six matches following a midweek win over fellow semi-finalists Crystal Palace.
At the same time as United were easing past Palace, Everton were being thrashed by local rivals Liverpool. The display was lacklustre from the Toffees and they were lucky to hold off as long as they did in the opening 45.
Everton have reached this stage without conceding as they recorded 2-0 and 3-0 wins over lower league opposition before a pair of wins over Bournemouth and then, most impressively, Chelsea when Romelu Lukaku was at his bullying best with a double against him former employers. It’s a third semi-final for the Toffees since 2009, and they progressed to the Final in 2009 after getting past these opponents on penalties and fell short in 2012 to their big rivals Liverpool. Their recent form is terrible as they’ve failed to win since the last round and that included a 1-0 defeat against United.
Man Utd needed a replay to get past West Ham in the previous round having previously benefitted from a draw that pitted them against three lower league sides. It’s five years since their last semi-final and, just like Everton’s last trip to this stage, that ended in a defeat to their closest neighbours, as Man City showed they’d truly arrived as a threat. That was a decidedly rare event though as you have to go back to that most historic of years in English football, 1966, to find the last time United lost an FA Cup semi at the first time of asking. The opponents that day? Everton.
No team in the division has such a contrast between home and away form as Man Utd. They have picked up more home points (37 from 17 games) than any other but are ranked just 10th (W6-D4-L7) on the road so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare on a neutral footing. Since 2000, the team we had ranked higher has won 18 of 32 FA Cup semi-finals in normal time (W18-D6-L8) and progressed in 22. However, when we narrow that sample to the 21 all-Premier League ties then the higher ranked side has gone through on just 12 occasions with a W11-D3-L7 record in normal time. 13 of these 21 matches have seen at least three goals though, as opposed to half of the full 32 game sample.
Everton have gone W0-D4-L7 in the league this season against the current top six (Leicester are the only side they are yet to play twice). That includes defeats in both games against Louis van Gaal’s side while it was 1-1 in meetings last term. Three of those four combined matches had at least three goals though, while since 2012/13 United have kept just one clean sheet in 12 FA Cup games against fellow Premier League sides as nine of the matches had at least three goals and 10 saw both teams score. Furthermore, in their last 17 games away from Old Trafford United have kept just three clean sheets and while form can go out the window in these big cup games we like the look of goals here.
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