FA Cup: Why Tottenham need FA Cup win more than Man Utd

Match of the Day

You can watch the Manchester United v Tottenham FA Cup semi-final at 17:15 BST on Saturday live on BBC One and the BBC Sport website.

Winning the FA Cup would just be a consolation for Manchester United, but for Tottenham it would mean much, much more.

Saturday's semi-final is hugely important for both clubs and their managers because this competition is their last chance of silverware this season, but their aspirations and ambitions are very different.

Whether they go through to the final or not, United do not base success on winning FA Cups. That comes from how they do in the Premier League and the Champions League.

Yes, their fans would love a day out at the cup final, but winning the FA Cup did not help Louis van Gaal, did it?

He lifted it with United in 2016 but was sacked two days later and that is the mark of the club and shows what really matters for them.

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United are hardly starved of winning trophies either because they won two more under Jose Mourinho last season, but Tottenham have only managed two League Cups since 1991. Winning the FA Cup would be an amazing thing for them, and their fans would be ecstatic.

It would be a reward for the progress they have made under Mauricio Pochettino and also a monkey off their back.

Personally, I do not judge Pochettino or what he has done at Spurs in terms of trophies but, if you do, there is always going to be a question mark over him until he wins one.

Man Utd manager Jose Mourinho and Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino
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.

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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.

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino
Tottenham have finished fifth, third and second in Pochettino's three full seasons in charge. They need eight points from their final four games of the campaign to be certain of another top-four finish but his side have only once gone beyond the semi-finals of a domestic cup, when they lost the 2015 League Cup final to Chelsea. They also lost to the Blues in the semi-finals of last year's FA Cup.

'No negatives if Spurs don't win a trophy'

Tottenham went from an average team to competing for the title in two years with Pochettino in charge, and that was because of him - because of his coaching, and because of his ability to set up a team that is well balanced and has a great work ethic.

When you consider that he has done it on a budget that is far more modest than any of the other big clubs, then he has already done everything and more that was asked of him when he took charge in 2014.

I think the majority of Spurs fans enjoy watching their side play and think their manager is top quality in terms of the work he has done with the team and individuals.

Premier League snapshot - top of the table: Man City 1st, Man Utd 2nd, Liverpool 3rd, Tottenham in 4th, Chelsea in 5th and Arsenal 6th

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.

Ticket stubs from Tottenham's seven straight FA Cup semi-final defeats
Tottenham are the only team ever to lose seven FA Cup semi-finals in a row - 1993, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2010, 2012, 2017. Their last semi-final success came in 1991, when they went on to lift the trophy.

'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.

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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.

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'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.

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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.

Graphic showing Paul Pogba touches v Tottenham
Pogba was substituted after 63 minutes of United's 2-0 defeat by Tottenham at Wembley

What will decide it? Brilliance, a big decision, or luck

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.

Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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