Both these sides have endured disappointing league campaigns and will be looking to compensate for that by picking up some silverware here. For Palace, it would be their first major trophy after they lost out to United themselves in the 1990 edition in a replay. The Red Devils, meanwhile, are looking for their first trophy in what’s been a fairly bleak post-Ferguson era and should they fail to lift the trophy at Wembley, Van Gaal will almost certainly be out of the job after missing out on Champions League qualification.
After the first half of the season, Palace were up in 5th and dreaming of European football, but they had a disastrous 2016 in the league, winning just twice to drop down to 15th. In the Cup, however, they’ve been much more convincing as they’ve won all five of their matches, including against Premier League opponents Southampton, Stoke, Spurs and Watford, leading at the break in four of these games while only conceding twice. In the league, Palace’s record at home and away against the top-six this term was W1-D2-L9, with their sole win coming against Southampton. They managed just five goals in these 12 games and trailed at the break in five of the six that were this year.
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The bizarre incident at Old Trafford on the final day of the season together with City’s point at Swansea meant that United had the unwanted distraction of a fairly meaningless fixture against Bournemouth on Tuesday night, which they nonetheless negotiated safely to secure 5th. In the Cup, United had a fairly lenient run until the 6th Round when they met Premier League opposition for the first time in the shape of West Ham and they needed a replay to get past them, whilst they made it past Everton in the semi-finals thanks to a last gasp winner from Anthony Martial. In the league against sides between 11th and 17th, United’s record this term was W9-D1-L4, with all four of these defeats coming on the road. These matches have tended to be tight affairs, with just the Bournemouth game seeing more than three goals as United managed seven clean sheets and conceded just twice in their six home wins against these teams.
United are some way clear of Palace according to our gradings and worryingly for Eagles’ fans, Wigan’s 2013 triumph over Man City was the only instance since 2001/02 when a lower ranked side managed to lift the trophy, though two final featuring a greater disparity between the teams finished level after 90 minutes; Hull against Arsenal in 2014 and West Ham against Liverpool back in 2006. Despite the strong record of superior sides, Arsenal’s victory over Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa last season was the only time a team has won an FA Cup Final by more than one goal since 2004/05. As a result, backing United to win by one goal looks a solid play in his one, though you might want to cover the draw as well at 3.65.
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