On course for silverware for a third consecutive season, Jose Mourinho insisted his Manchester United side have been given too little credit this season.
Having now come from behind to beat last year’s champions, this year’s newly crowned champions and dominated two of the league’s best and most attractive sides, Man United are sailing high on a wave of praise.
They were disciplined, dominant and impressive as they came from behind at Wembley to beat Tottenham Hotspur, who have made the national stadium their own in the last nine months.
It was a commanding second-half performance typical of a Mourinho side. His faith in stars Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez brought just reward, with two fine performances from two fine players.
For Mauricio Pochettino, he insisted an FA Cup win wouldn’t change the course of development of his side but it’s an eighth consecutive FA Cup semi-final defeat for Spurs. A team lambasted for bottling chances for glory did just that again. That’s despite starting in the style that has won them so many plaudits in Pochettino’s time in charge.
Ferocious start from Spurs
They were energised, confident and fiercely competitive in a frenetic first 25 minutes that looked to set them on their way to a Cup final. Dele Alli continued his unstoppable quest to hurt United, having first done so at MK Dons, with a difficult finish made to look easy.
Harry Kane was quietened throughout by Mourinho’s all-English central defensive partnership of Smalling and Jones. But Christian Eriksen always finds the space.
Paul Pogba was forced to cover for Ashley Young, one of two United full-backs made to look exactly what they are due to Spurs’ ferocious start; ageing, converted wingers. Davinson Sanchez exploited that, lofting a fantastic hall over Pogba to Eriksen, who took it down with Bergkamp-esque ease before teeing Alli to finish.
Pochettino’s side used that confidence, but the pace soon dropped and after a 24 minutes of enthralling football, United were level. Sanchez, the Spurs-type, was muscled off the ball by a determined Pogba, channelling his world-class qualities with such a tackle before a perfectly directed cross that landed between two towering Spurs defenders and on the head of Alexis Sanchez.
The Wembley-specialist headed home to level for United and take his record at the national stadium to eight in eight.
Pogba and Sanchez reward Mourinho faith
It was the inspired and dogged performances we have expected from the Chilean since January but rarely seen. Matched with a composed and controlled display from Pogba, United looked far more fluid and calm once they settled.
That’s not to say Mourinho was all smiles. The Portuguese ran the show from the touchline frequently, screaming at Pogba and Herrera for letting Eriksen evade their attention. That was a mistake not made again after half time.
And it was after halftime that United truly made Spurs to look like the Spurs many have mocked. It’s never a matter of giving up, but there seemed to be a sense of inevitability about the result.
That was certainly the case once Ander Herrera poked United in front, finishing crisply past Michel Vorm after fantastic work from Alexis Sanchez on the left.
United’s style has been criticised. Tottenham’s winning mentality has been slammed. Of the two, the attention is on Mourinho and United’s ability to reach a fourth major final in three years despite a bumpy ride, and on Spurs’ inability to reach a Cup final for over 25 years. Style? Not important in the Cup.