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Man Utd and Tottenham ready to make history in FA Cup final

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 11 May 2024

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Manchester United and Tottenham are both looking to win their first-ever Women’s FA Cup title when they meet in the final at a sold-out Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

For the first time in 11 years, the trophy will not be lifted by Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City, adding an extra level of excitement to an already historic final.

United beat Chelsea 2-1 in the semi-final, earning their first-ever victory over the Blues, while Spurs came from behind to beat Leicester City 2-1 in extra time thanks to Martha Thomas’ 118th-minute goal.

It promises to be a tight contest, with very little to separate the sides in the WSL this season – United are fifth in the table, only seven points ahead of Spurs, who sit below them in sixth.

The two sides have met 10 times in the WSL since 2019-20 and the Red Devils have come out on top, having never lost to Spurs (W8 D2), although their most recent encounter ended 2-2 in April.

Second time lucky for United?

Manchester United are featuring in the FA Cup final for the second consecutive year, having not reached this stage before 2023, and they will certainly go into this tie as the favourites.

They lost 1-0 to Chelsea last season – the last side to lose their first two finals were Bristol City in 2011 and 2013, and the Red Devils will be looking to avoid matching that piece of history.

Whoever lifts the trophy will be the 18th different winner of the Women’s FA Cup. It will be the first time since Manchester City beat Birmingham City in 2017 that there has been a new winner in the competition.

Marc Skinner would love to bring the title to the red side of Manchester and told the reporters ahead of the game that his side are unfazed by the favourites tag.

“We have to go into this game and make it very business-related. But enjoy the moment, of course, enjoy. We’ve got to Wembley,” said Skinner.

“We’re playing against a team that will be buoyed by that. You get an energy when it’s your first final, so you’re going to get an energy for that. I think there are ways that you can counteract that, and we have to try and do that.

“But I’m not expecting this is an equal playing field going into it. And we cannot and we won’t underestimate it. We know the job we’ve got to do.”

Skinner has a strong record in the FA Cup with United, winning nine of their 11 matches, and scoring 30 goals (2.7 per game). Their only two defeats came against Man City in the fifth round in 2021-22 and in last season’s final against Chelsea.

However, Skinner believes defeat will only motivate his side to do better this time.

He added: “We have to use it as ‘remember, remember’, bring back those feelings and give more and give more and give more. There’s nobody guaranteed to win this final. Let me be very clear on that.

“But what we have to do is give everything in order to make sure the performance is worthy of it. And if we do that and use those experiences, the feelings of it to drive us forward, then, you know, hopefully, that will give us a little edge, and that’s what you need to win the game.”

Spurs a Maiden adventure

Tottenham were promoted to the WSL just five years ago and, since then, have been building and growing.

Their best-ever league standing came in the 2021-22 season when they finished in fifth. Robert Vilahamn took over as manager in July 2023, with Spurs hoping he could bring the success that he had at BK Hacken to the North London side.

Vilahamn is no stranger to a Cup final and in his time at the Swedish club, he led them to back-to-back Cup finals. Andy Rogers, Spurs Women’s managing director, praised the manager’s ability when he brought him into the club, saying: “He has a track record of developing players to international level and competing for both domestic trophies and in the Champions League, demonstrating his ability to match our own ambitions and philosophy.”

Spurs will feel vindicated in their choice of manager; the Swede has already improved on last season’s league position of ninth – their lowest since promotion in 2019 – while also reaching the FA Cup final for the first time.

Speaking ahead of the game, Vilahamn praised his side’s progress, saying: “We all, at a big club like Tottenham Hotspur, want to be winning trophies and competing in these kind of games.

“To get there, you have to be there and practice these things in life. Now we get a good chance in my first year to play in a final, instead of speaking about playing in a final in the future.

“Now we get that experience. The players will learn how to do it. I’m learning how to coach at Wembley. Our staff members, our social media team, everybody is learning by doing right now. I think that’s a brilliant way to develop.

“For us to be here, it’s not only luck. It’s because we have made some really good choices this year, and last year when they started this renewal of the women’s team. Everything is proof we are doing good stuff. We are already in a final, and hopefully, we’re going to win a trophy already this year.”

With a new team in line to win, he also spoke on the strength of women’s football in England, adding: “And if you look at the final and your winner, Tottenham or Man United, I think it’s a good thing for this country to get more teams in the league to compete for the trophies because you want to have a competitive league, especially in women’s football.

“There are not so many leagues out there that have so many teams that can win a league or a trophy, and that’s why most of the players in Europe want to play in England and not other countries. That’s why the coaches want to come here instead of other countries, so it’s a big thing.”

Ones to Watch

Both teams will have dangerous players in this tie and none more so than the Tottenham captain Bethany England, who is Spurs’ top scorer in the FA Cup this season with three goals.

The striker has netted seven goals in her last nine appearances in the competition, including her spell at Chelsea. She featured in three previous finals for the Blues, ending on the losing side in 2016 but winning in 2021 and 2022.

Rachel Williams has scored four goals in four FA Cup appearances this season for United and is averaging a goal every 33 minutes.

She won the FA Cup with Birmingham back in 2012, scoring a 90th-minute equaliser to take the game to extra-time and, despite missing her spot-kick during the shootout, they won on penalties to lift the trophy after a 2-2 draw.

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