MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur can both claim to have had seasons of progress in the Premier League but the FA Cup, in which they meet in Saturday’s semi-final, remains their only chance of ending the campaign with silverware.
The sides meet at Wembley Stadium, which is nominally a neutral venue even if Spurs have been playing all their home games at the national stadium this season.
At the start of the season some questioned whether Spurs would ever feel at home at Wembley but with nearly a full campaign under their belt, defender Jan Vertonghen believes Spurs are certainly at ease in the arena.
“Wembley is definitely not a disadvantage,” said the Belgian.
“We’re used to it now, even if the atmosphere will be a bit different because United will bring more supporters than usual.
“We feel very comfortable at Wembley, we’ve shown that over the last couple of months. Hopefully we can have the same game as at the beginning of this year when we beat United in a very positive way,” Vertonghen said, referring to the 2-0 Premier League win in January.
Although Spurs have continued to play entertaining football and improve under Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino, they have yet to win a trophy in his time at the club but Vertonghen believes an FA Cup triumph could be a launch-pad for more success.
“This team and club deserves a trophy for all the work we’ve put in and we hope Saturday can be the next step. When I won my first trophy (at Ajax), the next couple followed at a very quick tempo. You just need that belief you can do it and then they will come. We’re full of confidence we can do it,” he said.
United bounced back from Sunday’s shock 1-0 home Premier League defeat by bottom club West Bromwich Albion with a convincing 2-0 win at Bournemouth on Wednesday to consolidate second place in the table.”The players we good,” United manager Jose Mourinho said. “It was a good professional performance with good effort and responsibility. There was desire to score and a desire to cope with the defensive responsibilities against a fast team.”
The other semi-final on Sunday pits Antonio Conte’s Chelsea against relegation-threatened Southampton.
Chelsea, fifth in the league, also have strong motivation to win the trophy given their title defence ended with them facing the possibility of missing out on Champions League football next season.
Mark Hughes’s Saints will take a welcome break from their dogfight against the drop as they seek their first appearance in the FA Cup final since their 2003 defeat by Arsenal.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond