Manchester United’s embarrassing Champions League exit to Sevilla has attracted the most stinging criticism due to manager Jose Mourinho’s overly cautious approach
Manchester United have little time to lick their wounds from an embarrassing Champions League exit as Brighton’s visit to Old Trafford in Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final represents their last realistic hope of winning a trophy this season.
However, United aren’t alone in seeing the Cup as a last chance for silverware as Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea travel to Swansea and Leicester also needing to win a Wembley final on May 19 to salvage their season.
All three crashed out at the last 16 stage of the Champions League, but it is United’s exit to Sevilla that has attracted the most stinging criticism due to manager Jose Mourinho’s overly cautious approach.
Chants of “attack, attack, attack” rained down from frustrated United fans at Old Trafford on Tuesday as doubts over Mourinho’s suitability to lead a club made famous for attacking sides under European Cup winning managers Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson grow.
Despite sitting second in the Premier League, United trail local rivals Manchester City by 16 points and could even suffer the indignity of seeing City crowned champions when the sides met early next month.
In that context, victory over Brighton is a must to maintain the impression that progress is being made under Mourinho, who was handed a contract extension to 2020 as recently as January.
“We have one trophy to chase and that is the FA Cup,” said United striker Romelu Lukaku, who was one of few players to emerge with any credit from the Sevilla defeat after netting his 24th goal of the season.
“We wanted to go far in the Champions League, that is what a club like Manchester United needs to do and we didn’t do it so we are disappointed.”
Mourinho’s decisions on whether to start under-performing star duo Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez will be heavily scrutinised.
Sanchez has been an ever-present since signing from Arsenal last month despite a string a poor performances and a meagre return of one goal in 10 appearances.
Pogba was only introduced for the final half hour on Tuesday, but did little to justify a return to the starting line-up.
Son to shine for Kane-less Spurs?
Tottenham will have to get used to life without talismanic striker Harry Kane with an ankle ligament injury ruling him out until next month.
However, the form of Son Heung-min means the England international might not be as badly missed as feared.
Kane hobbled off with Mauricio Pochettino’s men trailing 1-0 at Bournemouth last weekend, but Son inspired an emphatic response by scoring twice in a 4-1 victory to take his tally to seven goals in his last four games.
Chelsea also have little time to recover from a European hangover after being swept aside by two goals and an assist from Lionel Messi to lose 3-0 to Barcelona on Wednesday.
Unlike United, the English champions could at least say they went down with a fight as they hit the woodwork twice and looked a more potent attacking threat with Olivier Giroud acting as a focal point rather than Eden Hazard playing as an auxiliary centre-forward.
The Frenchman is expected to keep his place on Sunday against a dangerous Leicester side who have the luxury of prioritising the Cup as they lie eighth in the Premier League, outside the race for Europe or against relegation.
In the other quarter-final Mark Hughes takes charge of Southampton for the first time hoping to avoid becoming the third-tier Wigan Athletic’s fourth Premier League scalp of an amazing Cup run.
Swansea v Tottenham (1215)
Manchester United v Brighton (1945)
Wigan v Southampton (1330)
Leicester v Chelsea (1630)