Three key areas in which the FA Cup Final could be won or lost for Manchester United

With so many upsets in the FA Cup over the last few years, it is sure to be a close encounter in which any key battle anywhere on the pitch could be a deciding factor.

Three key areas in which the FA Cup Final could be won or lost for Manchester United
Anthony Martial has been United's stand out attacking performer throughout the course of the 2015/16 season | Photo: SkySports

Manchester United and Crystal Palace are two teams whose fans will be disappointed with their final position in the Premier League this season. With United finishing outside the top 4, and Palace having a late fall down the table to eventually only finish five points above the relegation zone, having earlier in the season been pushing for a Europa League position, it is without a doubt that an FA Cup win for either side would be a saving grace.

With both teams desperate to lift the trophy in front of a packed Wembley Stadium on Saturday evening, here are some of they key on-pitch battles in which the highly anticipated game could be won or lost.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson or Marco Rojo - Wilfried Zaha

With  Marcos Rojo still both doubtful to return in time for Saturday's Cup Final, United will most likely look to their youth team graduate and Under 21's player of the year Cameron Borthwick-Jackson to try and deal with the in-form Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

Zaha has been seen by many Palace fans as the reason for them reaching this stage of the competition. The Crystal Palace player of the year has revived his career since leaving United and heading back to the Eagles, and has now won the club's player of the year award for his efforts. The right flank of Palace is certainly an area that United boss Louis van Gaal will be keeping a close eye on.

Zaha has 7 goals in all competitions for Palace this season | Photo: PremierLeague.com
Zaha has 7 goals in all competitions for Palace this season | Photo: PremierLeague.com

Borthwick-Jackson will undoubtedly be favourite to win any aerial battles against Palace's number 11. However, he will certainly have to watch the pace of the ex-United winger, who is clearly much quicker than Borthwick-Jackson. If Marcos Rojo starts over Borthwick-Jackson, as rumoured, he may struggle for pace too. Rojo's aerial ability has come into question frequently over the past few matches, losing out on set pieces on multiple occasions.

Anthony Martial - Joel Ward

Anthony Martial has, without a doubt, been United's star performer in their attacking line this season. Netting 17 times and providing eight assists for his teammates will certainly leave him as one of the main worries for Alan Pardew.

Joel Ward is the player most likely to start up against United's French number nine. Having stopped Martial from scoring or assisting in both Premier League meetings this season, Ward may fancy his chances. However, Martial has been sensational as of late, getting United to the final with a last-minute winner in the semi-final against Everton.

Martial celebrates his late winner against Everton at Wembley | Photo: Tom Purslow/Manchester United
Martial celebrates his late winner against Everton at Wembley | Photo: Tom Purslow/Manchester United

Joel Ward is also often seen by many as an attacking threat down the right flank of Palace, and with Wilfried Zaha could leave United in trouble with Martial sometimes unreliable in tracking back and helping out his full back, this could be an area Palace could exploit?

The midfield battle

Mile Jedinak and Yohan Cabaye have started the majority of Palace's games together in the centre of midfield, often doing a very capable job of bossing the midfield battle. However, with Marouane Fellaini back from suspension and tipped by many to start this huge game, will Palace be able to deal with the aggression and size of the Belgian?

As well as a physical battle, it could also be an interesting mental battle between Michael Carrick and Mile Jedinak, both players are in the later stages of their careers and therefore have a lot of experience in big games to try and encourage their separate teams to keep fighting until the very last whistle.

Michael Carrick celebrates at full-time in the semi-final | Photo: Tom Purslow/Manchester United
Michael Carrick celebrates at full-time in the semi-final | Photo: Tom Purslow/Manchester United

FA Cup Finals are very close contests the majority of the time, and of these areas could prove pivotal for either club the become triumphant at Wembley.