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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Pat Nevin's Wembley verdict
pat nevin
By Pat Nevin
Former Chelsea and Scotland star

The FA Cup final between Manchester United and Chelsea is perfect for the first showpiece game at the new Wembley Stadium.

And one of the biggest things is that it is an encounter that will demonstrate that the FA Cup means something again after a period when it was devalued.

There are lots of reasons for this.

We have the top two teams in the country playing against each other in the new home of English football and every player on that pitch will want to be a member of the first team up the steps to collect the trophy.

The eyes of the world will be on the game - and there will be many key issues that will shape the final.

RICARDO CARVALHO'S ABSENCE

The fact that Carvalho is missing could be a huge loss for Chelsea - in fact his absence could be the difference that makes Manchester United favourites to win.

It has a dual effect on Chelsea in that to replace Carvalho, they have to pull an outstanding midfield player in Michael Essien back into defence.

jose mourinho
Mourinho may be tempted to pair Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge on the left to nullify Cristiano Ronaldo

Pat Nevin on Chelsea's FA Cup final game plan

Essien's partnership with John Terry means you still have a great central defence, but it takes something away from midfield.

Carvalho missing out does not tilt the balance of who will win - it's too close to call in my opinion - but to my mind it tilts the balance of who will be favourites.

When Chelsea have Carvalho and Terry, with Petr Cech behind him and Claude Makelele in front of them, they take some breaking down - indeed we can actually use the phrase "unbeatable" when it comes to their form at Stamford Bridge.

Carvalho is just such a talented player and a key part of the unit that I think he will be missed.

HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE RONALDO?

Chelsea's shortage of options in midfield may actually present them with an opportunity to adapt a system that might help subdue the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Jose Mourinho has options on the flanks, but it would not surprise me if Ashley Cole played at left-back and Wayne Bridge played just in front of him.

Sir Alex Ferguson
Another league and FA Cup double would cap a fantastic season for Sir Alex Ferguson

Pat Nevin on Manchester United's master manager

I think this could be a real temptation because both are strong in defence and very good going forward. It will also cut the space for Ronaldo because one-on-one he is a threat to anyone.

Cole and Bridge could double up, and this could be a way to nullify Ronaldo.

Ronaldo has been outstanding this season, adding a stunning end product to all the other aspects of his game.

I interviewed Sir Alex Ferguson about this and he believes the last thing all good players who play in wide positions learn is when to release the ball and when to stop over-indulging.

Ronaldo may still have the capacity to do that, but his end product this season has been superb.

THE DANGER OF DROGBA

Didier Drogba will be a huge danger to Manchester United. He has been fantastic this season and has deservedly won the Golden Boot as the Premiership's leading goalscorer.

United did not have Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic playing against West Ham, and that may well have been because they did not want to risk injury to those two, knowing they had to cope with Drogba at Wembley.

He may be supported by Salomon Kalou early on, but Chelsea have options with Arjen Robben fit again and with Joe Cole coming back to full fitness.

Shaun Wright-Phillips will be involved at some stage I'm sure, and these wide options are perfect for Chelsea.

I think if they probe a weakness for United it will be in the flanks defensively.

I am a huge fan of Gabriel Heinze - I actually think he is an even better central defender than left-back - but he has struggled a little recently.

Patrice Evra has been good, but he likes to get forward a lot and Gary Neville's ability and experience will be missed.

If you are going to attack Manchester United, that is where you would want to try and attack them and Chelsea have players capable of doing it.

PRAGMATIC MOURINHO V POSITIVE FERGUSON?

I think there is a misconception about Mourinho being a pragmatic or negative manager.

Mourinho's original team selection may be made on the premise of a solid base, but I think he regards the game as something organic and will adapt as it develops.

He is very adept at this and is very good at making substitutions.

You only have to look at the way he and Chelsea approached the second half at Arsenal when they needed to win to stay in the title race. They only drew, but they were breathtaking in attack.

I don't think Manchester United or Sir Alex Ferguson really care who they are playing. They just go for it and it makes them a wonderful sight going forward, with players like Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

What I will say is that they are not phenomenal away from Old Trafford, so maybe Chelsea can draw encouragement from the fact they are away from that environment.

COULD IT BE A WEMBLEY CLASSIC?

I think it depends on one thing - an early goal.

If one side or the other gets an early goal, then I think we have a real chance of getting a fantastic, open game, but if there is no breakthrough in the first 20 minutes then I can see one goal settling it - or even penalties.

The game means so much to both teams, who are attempting to be the only teams in England to end the season with two pieces of silverware.

There may be a bit more pressure on Chelsea because they won the Carling Cup as opposed to the title, but both managers will be desperate for victory.

If Sir Alex Ferguson won, it would add another league and FA Cup double to his CV, which is a truly fantastic achievement.

It would also amount to another outstanding season, irrespective of the disappointment of missing out at the semi-final stage in the Champions League.

For Mourinho, it would complete his domestic set of trophies and he has already spoken about how he is aware of the tradition of the FA Cup and how he used to watch the final when he was younger.

It is desperately close to call and I would not predict a winner - but Carvalho's absence could yet be a major factor.



SEE ALSO
Chelsea v Manchester United
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Ferguson v Mourinho
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The new Wembley Stadium
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Where are they now?
17 May 07 |  FA Cup
Owen Hargreaves column
16 May 07 |  Football
FA Cup final select XI
16 May 07 |  FA Cup
Road to Wembley photos
17 May 07 |  Football
FA Cup final Ten to Tackle
17 May 07 |  Fun and Games


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