Merson Says: Man Utd need game of their lives to win FA Cup

In the latest Merson Says, Paul Merson says that Man Utd would need “the game of their lives” to lift the FA Cup, explains why Erik ten Hag will already know his future and why Rodri was wrong to criticise Arsenal’s mentality in the title race.

Man Utd play their local rivals at Wembley in England’s domestic showpiece game for the second season in succession, having almost missed out on penalties against Championship side Coventry in the semi-finals.

Read on to find out why Merson would be shocked by anything other than a Man City double, why Erik ten Hag will already know his future – whether he’s been told it or not – and why Rodri’s “harsh” comments will help to motivate Arsenal next season…

Man Utd will need the game of their lives

I can’t see anything but a Man City win in the FA Cup final. They’re head and shoulders above Man Utd.

People will say Wigan beat Man City in the FA Cup, but this side’s a lot different. This is a one-off game, it depends how Man Utd play.

If you turn up and play 10 behind the ball, and try to counter-attack, then get beaten 1-0 or 2-0, don’t have a shot like we did at Aston Villa vs Chelsea [in 2000], you come away and think, why didn’t we have a go? The manager set us up to make sure we didn’t get beaten.

Man Utd have got to go and have a go. You do get your chances against Man City if you pick the right pass – don’t get me wrong, you get opened up a lot too – but you do get your chances.

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Manchester City’s celebrations didn’t stop on the field as they continued to sing and dance in the changing room!

They need their players to really have the games of their lives to win this football match.

Pace is Utd’s best bet to beat City

Hitting City on the break has been their best thing, even when Marcus Rashford scored a worldie at the Etihad, they had another couple of chances and should’ve scored. That’s their only way in.

But it’s hard, you don’t want to go toe-to-toe with Man City, but it’s where they’re vulnerable, at the back. Get past their midfield and pick the right pass, a lot of teams don’t pick the right pass. If they can, Man Utd have got a lot of top international footballers.

But on a hot summer’s day, that pitch is huge and it gets even bigger when you go 1-0 down. I don’t see anything but Man City doing the double.

If Casemiro starts at the back again, don’t worry about tactics, don’t worry about counter-attacking football, don’t worry about anything – they’ll be destroyed.

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Erik ten Hag admitted Man Utd’s season had not been good enough – but that they were looking forward to the opportunity to win the FA Cup against Man City

He cannot play there, he’s not a centre-back, especially against one of the best in the business – that’s an absolute no-go. They need to get someone fit, or come up with a different plan. With that plan, there’s only one outcome.

He’s a midfielder, he’s been a top-top midfielder, but don’t ask him to go up against Erling Haaland. He’s got no chance.

Ten Hag already knows his future

I think it’ll come down to how he loses the game; there’s ways of losing football matches. I know it’s a cup final, and there’s only one way, that’s if you lose, that’s it, but if they go out and give a good account of themselves, they’ve had injuries this season, I know a lot of teams have but when you’re a top team, it does hurt you even more sometimes.

I don’t know how it’ll stand with Ten Hag, but I think he knows already. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t. Whether he’s been told or not, he’ll know. That’ll be because they haven’t come and seen him, which means see you later.

Otherwise they have and told him they sympathise with the injuries, they know there’s a lot to be done at the club, and as they walk out of the room say, ‘Well there’s not a lot around anyway, so we might as well keep you.’

Players would follow Pep out of Man City

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Pep Guardiola admits he is finding it difficult to motivate himself at Manchester City following all his success with the club.

It’s hard to keep on doing what you’re doing like he has. It takes a lot of hard work, believe me. He gets superstars working their socks off, week in, week out. That’s hard. Believe me, that’s hard.

As a manager, you don’t just turn up, let them play, do what they want. Like anyone, give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. He has to be on top of it all the time.

He reminds me so much of the Mourinho era the first time round at Chelsea. You never got players moaning when they weren’t in the team.

When he goes, like Klopp leaving Liverpool, it’s a massive, massive, massive hole. Don’t let anyone sit at home, watching the telly, saying they’d win everything with Man City with the players he’s got.

Nah. Absolutely not. What he does to get those players to give their all, you don’t see it at Man Utd too often do you? You need a top manager, and he’ll be sorely missed.

I think a lot of players go too, if he leaves.

Why did Rodri say that about Arsenal?

Rodri celebrates with the Premier League trophy
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Man City midfielder Rodri accused Arsenal of lacking the mentality to win this season’s Premier League

Rodri’s comments will only help Arsenal. You come back and they’ll say, ‘We’ll show you’. I thought it was wrong, because Arsenal did nothing wrong. One game, one game against Villa, they’re a good team who can catch you on the counter. It wasn’t like last year where it was West Ham, Southampton, teams like that.

For me, that’ll be on the dressing room door the first day in pre-season. There’s no doubt about that, I don’t know why he said it – it’s a bit harsh.

They came back after New Year, they brushed themselves down and it’s one game that’s cost them. Just phenomenal. But one hundred per cent will that comment be in Mikel Arteta’s team talk when they come back.

The other thing though, it’s the fixture list. You end up getting Man Utd away, Liverpool home, Chelsea away in the first few games, you get one point out of those three and you’re out of the title race already. You are, that’s what they do to you.

Look how many teams were out of it within three months? Loads of them. It was a three-horse race. You can’t have back-to-back defeats, and those ones all the way back in December are what hurt Arsenal.

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