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Three talking points from the weekend as Man United and Chelsea book FA Cup final spots

After two massive semi-finals at Wembley, Chelsea and Man United will meet in the FA Cup decider on 19 May.

Disgruntled Antonio Conte can leave Chelsea on a high

ANTONIO CONTE’S TIME in the Chelsea hotseat started off with joy and immediate success, but has been ending with a prevailing sense of tragedy and disappointment throughout this season.

The Italian secured the Premier League title on his very first attempt in his debut campaign at Stamford Bridge, but those days seem light-years away now.

Burnley v Chelsea - Premier League Chelsea have struggled under Conte in the Premier League this year. Source: Chris Brunskill Ltd

Chelsea finished on 93 points a year ago, but now require a small miracle combined with a Spurs and/or Liverpool collapse to simply secure a Champions League spot.

For months the sense has been that Conte will leave London at the end of this season, with the 48-year-old cutting the figure of a man looking to make a swift escape.

But despite the current negative vibes surrounding the club amid his rumoured departure, Conte can still end his mixed time at Chelsea on a high, should he leave this summer.

It has been a campaign of ups and downs for his side, and one which has lived in the shadow of their title win last year.

“If you eat caviar every day it is difficult to return to sausages,” Arsene Wenger once famously said, and this sentiment seems to apply to their London neighbours this year.

Sunday’s 2-0 win against Southampton sets up an exciting FA Cup final against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, meaning the Blues’ disappointing campaign can still end draped in silverware.

The Wembley decider will pit two frustrated managers maligned by large swathes of their club’s supporters against one another, with both bosses looking to end the season on a high in a year dogged by deflating lows.

Jose keen to prove critics wrong with another trophy

True to character, Jose Mourinho cut a disgruntled figure after his side’s exciting FA Cup semi-final victory this weekend.

Ander Herrera’s excellent second-half strike put Tottenham to the sword at Wembley, but the Portuguese reflected that critics had yet again unfairly targeted his team.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - The Emirates FA Cup Semi Final Ander Herrera scored the winning goal for United on Saturday. Source: NurPhoto via Getty Images

“We should ask ourselves why there is too many critics on all of us?”, the Portuguese said after watching United come from behind to see off Spurs on Saturday.

“We can finish second with six more points. To do that with all the fantastic teams we play against will be an achievement for a club that couldn’t do it for a few years now.

“And it will be a fourth final in three years. So, maybe too much criticism.”

Landmark defeats in the Premier League and in Europe, combined with a style of football which has alienated large pockets of United fans — all in the shadow of Manchester City’s title win — has seen many assess Mourinho’s season as a disappointment.

However, a runners’-up finish in the Premier League having placed sixth last year, on top of a possible FA Cup triumph would certainly add more leverage to the manager’s credibility.

United finished on 64 points in David Moyes’ first season back in 2013/14, on 70 the next, 66 the following year and ended last season with 69.

This season has been their highest points total since the departure of Alex Ferguson, with 74 accumulated and 12 points still on offer with four games remaining.

Like Conte, who he will face in their upcoming Wembley decider on 19 May, Mourinho will be keen to end this season on a high with an FA Cup winners’ medal.

A second-placed finish combined with a trophy could be enough to argue his season has not been the complete, abject failure many have deemed it to be.

Lose the FA Cup, and his season takes on a completely different complexion entirely.

Tottenham’s barren spell without silverware continues

It had been 3,710 days since Tottenham last lifted a trophy when Harry Kane led his team out onto the Wembley surface for their FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United on Saturday.

The club were desperate to finally end the barren spell and reward all their recent success and progression with a piece of silverware they could point to.

949656240 Tottenham exited the FA Cup yesterday and have failed to win a trophy since 2008. Source: Shaun Botterill

Repeated top four finishes, stylish football, a modern and in-demand manager, the Premier League’s best striker and big nights in European football have all shown Tottenham to be a club going in the right direction in the last number of seasons.

But a trophy has been constantly elusive, and continued to be with Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Man United.

Dele Alli gave Mauricio Pochettino’s side an early lead at Wembley with a close-range finish from Christian Eriksen’s cross, but thereafter the team seemed to shrink.

Alexis Sanchez pulled the visitors to London level, before Ander Herrera provided the killer punch with a powerful low shot fired underneath Michel Vorm in the second half.

Alli said afterwards that Tottenham “can not keep doing this” in passing up chances to claim silverware, with the club’s supporters and neutrals alike forced to watch on in disbelief at how, yet again, Spurs would not be rewarded for all their good work.

Arguments can be made on both sides as to whether or not a manager needs trophies in order to be called successful.

Pochettino is one of the modern game’s elite managers having built Tottenham into a team capable of beating defending Champions League winners Real Madrid, but is yet to lift a single trophy in close to a decade in management.

He, like his team, will be ruefully upset that they have failed to get over the line again in order to break Spurs’ decade-long absence without a piece of silverware.

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Chelsea will face Man United in the FA Cup final after defeating Southampton

Mourinho claims ‘too much criticism’ of Man United after booking FA Cup final date

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Aaron Gallagher

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