In a season where Manchester United look likely to miss out on Champions League football for the second time in three seasons, some fans may take solace in their upcoming FA Cup final appearance against Crystal Palace at Wembley. A win for United would represent Louis van Gaal’s first piece of silverware at the club. However, whilst Wayne Rooney lifting a trophy high above his head may pacify a certain subset of Red Devils’ aficionados, many will still see domestic cup success as nothing more than ‘papering over the cracks’ of what has been a bitterly disappointing season.
In English football’s last two or three transfer windows, the 20-time Premier League champions really upped the ante where spending was concerned. With a squad that was left dilapidated following the departure of club legend Sir Alex Ferguson, the powers that be at United were quick to splash the cash in the hope that a clutch of marquee signings at even more marquee prices would be enough to arrest their progressive slide down the table.
Whilst the Manchester club, who are 4/5 favourites (inside 90 minutes) for their Wembley appearance on the 21st May, according to the Bet365 FA Cup betting odds, are guaranteed European football of some sort next season (barring the unthinkable), it beggars belief that an outfit of United’s stature and reputation should be fighting an uphill battle to qualify to compete against the continent’s elite in the Champions League rather than being contenders to win it.
There is also the very real possibility that United might actually lose the FA Cup final later this month. We’ve scarcely even mentioned Alan Pardew and his Crystal Palace outfit so far in this article, so let us just go on record and say that the South London club who reached this month’s final with a victory over Watford in April, are more than capable of beating United on their day.
After United’s recent loss to West Ham at the Hammers’ final game at Upton Park – a defeat which virtually put paid to any hopes of Champions League qualification for LVG – a net spend of £250 million since the Dutchman took charge of the club in 2014, has at this precise moment, garnered absolutely nothing of note apart from one top four finish last season. During the club’s latest campaign, after witnessing what many United fans believed were some green shoots of recovery, Van Gaal’s men proceeded to fall flat on their faces in the group stages of a competition for which they’d spent heavily simply in order to compete.
With another pivotal summer transfer window on the horizon for the now success-starved club (by their heady standards), we fear a season of tired football and unmet minimum expectations may force the powers that be to call time on LVG’s Manchester United tenure at the end of the season, FA Cup win or no FA Cup win.