Winning the FA Cup would have been a comfort to Manchester United, but for Tottenham, it would have meant much more.
Semi-final on Saturday is very important for clubs and their managers, because this competition is the last chance for silverware this season, but their aspirations and ambitions are very different.
Regardless of whether they reach the final or not, United do not base success on winning the FA Cup. It comes from how they act in the Premier League and the Champions League.
Yes, their fans would have love the day in the Cup final, but the victory in the FA Cup did not help Louis van Gaal, right?
He lifted it with United in 2016, but was fired two days later, and that’s the sign of the club and shows what is really important to them.
United are unlikely to starve because of winning trophies, or because last season they won two more under Jose Mourinho, but since 1991, Tottenham have run two League Cups. Winning the FA Cup would be an amazing thing for them, and their fans would be thrilled.
This would be a reward for the progress they have made with Mauricio Pochettino, as well as the monkey off their back.
Personally, I do not judge Pochettino or what he did in Spurs in terms of trophies, but if you do, there will always be a question mark over him until he wins one.
Mourinho and Pochettino have met as managers on 14 occasions in Spain and England and Mourinho has won 10 of them. Pochettino has won three of their past five matches, however, including Tottenham’s 2-0 win at Wembley in January. In terms of trophies won as managers – Mourinho, 55, has collected 25 major trophies and Pochettino, 46, has none.
‘The progress under Pochettino is already obvious’
Of course I understand the argument that Pochettino – and Spurs – really need a trophy because of what it would mean to them.
I remember being at Liverpool when we won the 2001 League Cup and stumbled over the line against Birmingham on penalties in the final.
There was a relief at the club that you could feel and some of the pressure came off with it. It was almost a case that we had one in the bag and it became easier trying to chase others – and we went on to win two more that season.
One of the other things that silverware does, as well as keeping the fans happy, is give the players a sense that the club is moving forward – and that is important when you want to keep them.
But I think the progress they have made under Pochettino is already obvious, and it is remarkable in that it has happened much quicker than anyone ever thought it would.
The squad is getting better, they are going to finish in the top four again and, on top of that, the new stadium is on the way.
That’s why I don’t feel there is anything negative about their season if they don’t win the FA Cup – and it is an ‘if’ because I think they can – and I don’t think it would be question time for Pochettino after four years without a trophy either.
‘Best of the rest is not good enough for United’
For United, it is different. If they win the Premier League or the Champions League, or they are close to both, then that is what their fans expect and they are happy.
If that does not happen, and at the same time they have not played brilliant football – which has sometimes been the case this season – then they are going to start getting some criticism.
Going out to Sevilla in the last 16 of the Champions League was a massive disappointment for them and, although it was better than what they have done in previous years, it was still a let-down.
In the Premier League they did not challenge for the title but if they finish second they can say they are the next best team after City, and the ones who are closest to them.
A lot of people are arguing that is Liverpool, but that is hypothetical – it is United at the moment. Their problem is that their standards are so high they have not just got to be the best of the rest, they have to win the title.
The cup will keep them going of course, and obviously I am not saying they don’t want to win it.
They will be desperate to, because Mourinho is all about trophies and I like that about him. He usually gets the job done too.
‘Both teams are wounded after a mixed week’
As well as both being desperate for silverware, United and Spurs have had a similar build-up to Saturday.
Both teams are wounded after a mixed week, and both of them have a reason to prove a point.
In terms of preparing for this game, I actually think it was a good thing for United to lose to West Brom last weekend because it was a massive kick up the backside for them.
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if i was playing for Spurs I would have been watching that game and thinking ‘please do not lose’ because you know they are going to be up for what comes next.
Players naturally want to respond to criticism after a result and performance like that and we have already seen a reaction in United’s win over Bournemouth on Wednesday.
You could argue the same for Spurs in some respects because, although they got beaten by a great side in City, they had been on a long unbeaten run [of 20 games in domestic competition] and maybe they were just starting to think they were better than they are.
Yes you could look at it differently and some people might think it will knock Tottenham’s confidence, but I don’t agree with that because of the quality they have got in their squad.
‘Mourinho will learn lesson from January defeat’
It is hard to make a call on who will come out on top on Saturday but for me Tottenham are favourites – just – because they are in effect playing at their home ground.
The support will be split 50-50 so there will be far more United fans there than the allocation away teams get for Premier League games, but Spurs will still have the familiarity you get from playing at the same place all the time – and it is a definite advantage.
I am still expecting a tight game, though, because there is so much at stake.
I hope it is a classic and there are loads of chances at either end, but I just cannot see it being an open affair at all because they are both so good defensively.
Mourinho in particular will have a plan to keep Tottenham quiet, especially because of what happened when they met at Wembley in the league, which was a lesson of what not to do against Spurs.
By that I mean putting players in positions where they are not right for that particular role – like using Paul Pogba in a holding role when he does not really want to play there.
Against a team as good as Tottenham, if you have one or two people in the team who are not switched on defensively then Spurs will find the gaps, because that is what they do – and they punished United at Wembley when Pogba wandered out wide.
This time Mourinho could play two defensive midfielders in Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic and let Pogba have a free role, or he might do something unusual and come up with a different plan.
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Tottenham are a bit more predictable but, whichever formation they play, they are going to get players in attacking areas and press the ball – they are not going to sit back.
United might let them come on to them and try to play on the break, which might not make it a brilliant spectacle for the neutral.
But it is going to be a fascinating tactical battle and I think it will be a game that will be won and lost on the finer details – it could be decided by a moment of brilliance, a big refereeing decision, or even a bit of luck.