Chelsea, Man United gear up for battle

English champions Manchester United and Chelsea, the team they deposed, square off in a much-anticipated FA Cup Final on Saturday at the new Wembley Stadium, as both teams look to end their season on a domestic high having fallen agonisingly short in Europe.

United clinched their first Premiership title since 2003 after a superb season, while Chelsea, who won the Carling Cup in March, will be hoping to double their trophy count.

While some may see Saturday’s final as a Champions League third-place play-off—after both teams exited Europe’s top club competition at the semifinal stage—United and Chelsea will each still be going for their second title of the season.

There is a nice symmetry to United and Chelsea meeting in the first final at the new Wembley as they faced each other in the last FA Cup final there, in 2000.

On that occasion, Chelsea won, but this time, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes the omens are with his side.

“Knowing our history and record in the FA Cup, we’re going to win it,” he said. “You wouldn’t expect us to go into it thinking we’ve got the Premier League, that’s enough. It doesn’t work that way.”

United will be without injury victims Gary Neville and Louis Saha, among others, while Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack will be missing for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side.

“I think that 14 or 15 players have been carrying us right through the whole of March and April and the beginning of May,” Ferguson said.

One man who will be there is veteran winger Ryan Giggs, who will lead the side out as he chases his fifth FA Cup winner’s medal.

“Ryan will be captain and I think it does complete a remarkable season for the lad, winning his ninth championship,” Ferguson said.

“For the last 15 or 16 years he has been tramping up and down that left wing; no player has done that in the history of the Premier League.
It’s fantastic.”

Mourinho said leading the side out in an FA Cup final at Wembley fulfilled a childhood dream.

“I’m not English but it’s a special final because it’s the new Wembley and it means a lot,” Mourinho said.

“For me, it means remembering my youth, when I was a young fan and in love with the game. There were a few trophies I always dreamed of winning, a few matches I always dreamed of participating in, and the FA Cup Final was one of those.

Mourinho said he hoped the final would be an exciting match.

“I will be very sad and disappointed if the final is not a good event, a fair event, without problems, with a good winner and proud loser. I want to win but Man United want to win.

“Chelsea gave a good example of how to behave when we lost the Premiership crown. I would be disappointed if some of the players were diving or trying to get others red-carded, I would be very disappointed with that.

“It is up to us all to make it a sporting event to remember. If both teams can have an attacking and positive spirit, we can make the game a real final—a final the new Wembley deserves.”—Sapa-dpa

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