Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has predicted that his side, following their 3-0 replay victory over Cambridge United, will lift the FA Cup this season.
The Dutchman has made a case for his side following their progression through to the fifth round this week but is that a mistake and will it place undue pressure on his players or, alternatively, inspire them to glory?
Their inconsistent performances in both the league and cup this season do not necessarily point towards United lifting the trophy in May, especially considering how they limped to a replay victory over Cambridge and were unconvincing against Yeovil in the third round.
Van Gaal challenging his players
United were knocked out of the Capital One Cup after being humiliated 4-0 at the MK Dons earlier in the season.
Perhaps Van Gaal is playing mind games with his players? This is his way of challenging players and he is not concerned that what he has said will bring pressure on himself. After all he is used to pressure.
Has he now laid down the gauntlet to his players to go and prove him right and is he trying to find out which of his players will stand up and be counted? He will certainly not be shy in showing players the door if they do not prove themselves.
United favourites to lift FA Cup?
In theory United should now be favourites to land the trophy as they are the highest placed Premier League team left in the competition after Chelsea and Manchester City were defeated in the fourth round.
However, there are still sides left in the cup that will also fancy their chances. The likes of holders Arsenal, and Liverpool, are also looking at the cup as their best, possibly only, way of achieving a trophy this season.
Yes United have the players and resources to win a trophy but do they yet have the consistency to go through a cup tournament unbeaten. Van Gaal is still trying to find a winning formula and the players are still coming to terms with his style of management so should they be expected to achieve silverware straight away?
This is Manchester United though and the players, particularly the new arrivals, will need to be aware of the expectations made of them when they play in any competition they enter.
It is not arrogance, as some may perceive it, it is just the way Manchester United operate. They have very high standards. They will be happy that they are on course to regain a Champions League place for next season but United will now want that as a minimum.
Preston, who Manchester United play in the next round of the FA Cup, will undoubtedly give their all against the Premier League big boys and will be no pushovers so if Manchester United are to win the FA Cup, as predicted by Van Gaal, they will need to do it the hard way.
Van Gaal, and Manchester United’s supporters, will hope that the Dutchman’s prediction will come true and, if so, United and Van Gaal can consider their first season a success if they can also achieve a Champions League spot.