The FA Cup has been magnificent so far. There have been incredible upsets, Lincoln City’s dream run and even enough big teams advancing to keep things interesting, but we haven’t had a truly great heavyweight match-up. That changes in the quarterfinals.
The draw did us a huge favor and put Chelsea and Manchester United together for the round. That means the Blues vs. the Red Devils for a trip to Wembley, with Jose Mourinho back at Stamford Bridge. That’s about as good as it gets.
For Chelsea, it could be one of their biggest matches of the season. The Premier League title isn’t theirs yet, but they have one hand on the trophy and, with a comfortable lead, it’s possible that no one match defines their road to be champions. They don’t have any European soccer to worry about either. That leaves this: a clash against mighty Manchester United, led by their former boss, for a spot at Wembley.
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Things aren’t as simple for Manchester United, who are on the outside looking in for the top four and still in the Europa League. They’re going to have a slew of huge matches in the season’s final months, but that doesn’t make this one any less big. Mourinho would undoubtedly love to knock Chelsea out of the FA Cup and while any season that doesn’t see them qualify for the Champions League will be a disappointment, capturing a trophy would be a nice feather in their caps.
There was a time when this was the biggest clash in all of England. It didn’t have the history or vitriol of other match-ups, but they essentially spent years handing the Premier League trophy back and forth. It was something to behold, but they’ve both stumbled into inconsistency at a time when the top of England is better than it’s ever been. It’s not the match-up anymore. It hasn’t been for years. But when the FA Cup quarterfinals come around, it will be once more — like the good ol’ days, or the bad ol’ days, depending on who you support. But whether you tune in to cheer or jeer, you tune in.
And that’s without taking into account the players. You know, like David Luiz trying to keep tabs on Zlatan Ibrahimovic. David De Gea squaring off against Thibaut Courtois in a clash of two of England’s best backstops. Oh, and Paul Pogba vs. N’Golo Kante.
Sign. Us. Up.
Luckily, the FA Cup drew already did. And it’s going to be the match everyone watches. How could you not?