Everton - Manchester United FA Cup semi-final preview: Toffees look to salvage their season under the famous arch

The build-up to a semi-final and a trip to Wembley should be something to savour, but that is not the case for the Blues after their humiliating Merseyside derby defeat.

Everton - Manchester United FA Cup semi-final preview: Toffees look to salvage their season under the famous arch
Everton take on Manchester United under the famous arch this weekend. (Image: Liverpool Echo)

Everton and Manchester United will be desperate to secure a place in the FA Cup final next month as they look to salvage their season, with Roberto Martinez under particular pressure due to his side's poor performance in the Premier League.

The Toffees are currently in the bottom half of the table and 18 points behind Louis van Gaal's side in fifth, with both teams failing to meet expectations this season they will be aiming to keep their FA Cup hopes alive in the semi-final stage.

Head-to-head

Everton have progressed from six of their last seven semi-finals in this competition, the exception being their last appearance at this stage in 2012, but their record is not great against their semi-final opponents.

The last match between the pair ended 1-0 to Manchester United earlier this month, with Anthony Martial's goal settling the game 10 minutes into the second-half at Old Trafford.

Merseyside derby humiliation increases stakes on semi-final

Everton supporters displayed their frustration and anger at Vicarage Road earlier this month. | Photo: Getty Images
Everton supporters displayed their frustration and anger at Vicarage Road earlier this month. | Photo: Getty Images

The build up to a big semi-final and a trip to Wembley should be something to savour, but that is not the case for Everton after their midweek defeat at Anfield. Roberto Martinez described this week as a "defining" week for him and his side, but part one - the Toffees' Merseyside derby humiliation - was nothing short of disastrous and his side must respond in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday.

It was exactly the sort of night that Everton and Martinez would have wanted to avoid and only further increased the growing pressure on the Blues boss to the point that the semi-final is arguably Martinez's biggest match as a manager since winning the FA Cup with Wigan Athletic in 2013.

The cup provides the best hope to Everton for salvaging something from what has been an underwhelming and frustrating campaign for everyone associated with the club. The 4-0 defeat to Liverpool left the Blues languishing in the bottom half of the table and without a win in their last six league games. Supporters have expressed their frustration and anger towards Martinez in recent weeks, through banners at Watford earlier this month and chants at Anfield on Wednesday.

However, Everton's cup form has offered solace this term having already reached the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup, before losing to Manchester City over two legs. In this season's FA Cup the Toffees have scored nine times in four matches, while not conceding a goal. Everton also did not concede a single goal in the rounds prior to the semi-finals in 1966, before beating United in the last four and a dramatic triumph over Sheffield Wednesday in the final.

Winning the FA Cup would at the very least provide supporters with something to celebrate, especially considering the Toffees have not won a major trophy since lifting the cup in 1995, beating Manchester United on that occasion, and could prove to be a saving grace for Roberto Martinez.

Martinez's semi-final selection headache

Everton's and Roberto Martinez's task has not been made any easier by the absence of key players. The Toffees will be without Ramiro Funes Mori for the semi-final after the Argentine defender saw red in Wednesday's Merseyside derby, while Seamus Coleman is also likely to be unavailable after missing Wednesday's game with a hamstring problem.

Phil Jagielka, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, and John Stones and Gareth Barry, who were both substituted at Anfield, are to be given late fitness tests ahead of the visit to Wembley.

Midfielders James McCarthy and Muhamed Besic formed a makeshift centre-back partnership for the majority of the second-half against Liverpool, while 21-year-old Matthew Pennington has been recalled from his loan spell at League One Walsall and the defender could be called upon if required.

There is some good news for the Blues as Leighton Baines, Aaron Lennon and Tom Cleverley reported no problems after returning from injuries against Liverpool.

Everton will be without Ramiro Funes Mori for the semi-final after the defender's red card against Liverpool. | Photo: Getty Images
Everton will be without Ramiro Funes Mori for the semi-final after the defender's red card against Liverpool. | Photo: Getty Images

The opposition

Louis van Gaal has been under pressure for most of the season with plenty of questions over the Dutchman's future still unanswered ahead of the semi-final, but a strong end to the season - including an FA Cup win - could see Van Gaal given a chance to see out the third and final year of his contract.

The Red Devils arrive at Wembley following one defeat in their last eight games in all competitions and back-to-back league wins in the past week that has kept their hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League alive. There is still a cause for concern for supporters that have become tired of the Dutchman's style of play, while a recent 3-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur highlight the difference between Van Gaal's side and the current pacesetters of the top-flight.

However, it has been 12 years since United last lifted the FA Cup and nine years since they even contested the final, where they lost 1-0 to Chelsea. They have reached the semi-final stage on two occasions since, slipping-up against Everton in 2009 and Manchester City in 2011 in their most recent visit. The Toffees will be hoping they will make it three successive Wembley visits for United without success.

Unlike Roberto Martinez's selection headache, Manchester United will be boosted by the news that defender Chris Smalling will be available on Saturday despite picking up a knock during their midweek victory over Crystal PalaceBastian Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw and Adnan Zanuzaj are United's only absentees.