This week The Faithful was lucky enough to have a cup of tea, a chat and some biscuits with United defensive legend Gary Pallister. Pally delivered a little bit of cup magic ahead of the weekend when he brought The FA Cup trophy to the greatest city on earth… Manchester! ..courtesy of sponsors E.ON and their Energy Fit campaign. All season E.ON has been helping customers, businesses and even amateur football clubs to save energy and money. Plus, they are also offering some fantastic FA Cup prizes like the chance to walk out as Wembley as a mascot and tickets for The FA Cup Final, not to mention providing the tickets for our brilliant competition for die hard Reds to go and support our team at the semi final this weekend! We had a chat about United’s up coming battle with City at Wembley and about his own thoughts on the oldest and most famous of all cup knockout tournaments.
TF: As the banner at Old Trafford exclaims, its now been well over three decades since Manchester City won their last trophy. How big an opportunity is this for them to break their duck, and at the same time get one over on us?
GP: It will be a huge opportunity for Man City to win their first trophy in over 30 years as once you are in a semi final anything can happen. Unfortunately for City it looks like Tevez will be missing from the starting line up and as we all know he has been the talisman for City this season and he will be greatly missed, but it is set up to be an intriguing game given the rivalry that has now intensified since the new owners arrived.
TF: With Rooney suspended, how do you think Sir Alex will approach the match? Who will he select and how do you think he will set the team up?
GP: Very difficult to second guess what team Sir Alex will put out. His two strikers Berbatov and Hernandez are both in great goal scoring form so the dilemma is whether to play in a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 or play both in a 4-4-2 and release both players to do the damage. I don’t think there will be too many surprises to the United side… he will field his strongest team possible.
TF: As you’ve said it appears that Tevez will now be out injured for Saturday. How big a loss is this for them and which players will need to step up?
GP: Tevez being out is a hug loss. He brings goals and energy to the City team and is a leader on the pitch. City are probably looking at Balotelli and Dzeko to step up to the mark and bring the energy that Tevez brings to the side. Whether he decided to play both together or one up on his own will be the dilemma for Mancini.
TF: Well you never know…Tev may miraculously recover! Many say United have been “very average” this season. So how do you think we’ve managed to stay in all the major competitions to this late point of the season?
GP: There has been a lot of disparaging remarks about this United team this season and maybe they have lacked the fluency at times of recent United sides but this group of players has got a lot of faith in each other and have shown great resilience to rescue games and points in the late stages of matches. This is something Sir Alex talks about time and time again, the trust that they have in each other and the manager has in them. This United team still has individuals that are capable of changing a game on their own and with the likes of Valenica coming back into the squad at this important time has given them a huge boost.
TF: The FA Cup is the most famous knock out trophy in club football. As a three time winner of the trophy, what makes the tournament so special?
GP: I can only speak from personal experience and say that as I grew up a child the FA Cup final day was the biggest day in the footballing calendar. Memories are still etched in my mind of thrilling FA Cup finals and watching teams walk out onto the hallowed turf under the Twin Towers and thinking to myself how must that feel to be able to tread into their footsteps. The FA Cup is still watched the world over and I am sure the youngsters today still look at it and dream of one day being able to play a part in it.
TF: Finally, Sir Alex is now considered the greatest manager of them all. As a player, how did he motivate you day to day? What would he do to get you ready for the big matches?
GP: Motivation comes from Sir Alex’s great determination to be successful. I think that comes across in every team talk he gives and every hairdryer he delivers, or his every day presence around the club. He never tires of winning trophies and he never will. That character will see him go on until his health dictates otherwise. To get ready for the big matches he would make sure the preparation was all done correctly and times of rest and training would be planned out meticulously, and players would know all about strengths and weaknesses for the side that they are to face but ultimately a few words from the manager would all you would need to stoke the fires for a big game.
And with that, Pally grabbed the FA Cup and ran off into the sunny streets of Manchester, sprinting to Old Trafford to watch United beat Chelsea, just as I did! Many thanks to Gary for his time and for E.On who approached me to do the interview.
To understand how E.ON’s Energy Fit campaign can help you save money and more about the FA Cup prizes on offer visit the site here. They have also produced a great FA Cup Blogzine. Want to know who has got the best chance this weekend? Check out all the best FA Cup stats ahead of the weekend’s games at magicofthefacup.com