A combination of Premier League and FA Cup fixtures took place this weekend with three of the top six still in the domestic competition.
Manchester City celebrated their deserved title with a 5-0 battering against Swansea at the Etihad, while Arsenal were slowly saying goodbye to their manager of 22 years.
Here are Liam Canning’s five moments from the weekend’s action:
Alexis Sánchez shows what he will bring next season
They said that Sánchez always turned up at Wembley. They highlighted his 100% scoring rate in games at England’s stadium. And, even though the Chilean has had a slow and steady start, he did just that.
When Manchester United needed him the most, Sánchez came alive and rescued United at a point in the game where they were under the cosh quite considerably. Thanks to Paul Pogba’s determination and creative ingenuity, he lifted the ball into the box for the Chilean to head across goal and into Michel Vorm’s net. It was a splendid finish.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for the former Gunner to integrate himself in the Red Devils’ team, to which he has admitted himself. However, with performances like he showed at Wembley give hope to the United fans and manager that next season will be a much happier and prolific Sánchez.
Without the World Cup to attend to, Sánchez will also be at liberty to undergo an important and much needed pre-season with Manchester United. An added rest, too, will always help, and so there is not anymore preparation that can be done for the Chilean in order to excel.
He has shown, in glimpses, what he’s capable of, and it will be very exciting to watch him next season providing he can emulate that on a more consistent basis.
Tottenham lose their eighth FA Cup semi final in a row
Another FA Cup semi final, another loss. Both for Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino, it has been bleak times when they come near the latter stages of a Cup competition.
It has been a common theme of Tottenham ‘bottling’ the big occasions and falling short when they are in desperate need of some silverware. Not to validate what the Argentinean manager has accomplished, because where they stand in the Premier League and in Europe shows how far the club have come, but for those players to seek affirmation that their long term plan has paid off.
The risk of not winning silverware, albeit not the major, major honours, is that players then start to doubt the process and whether they should set sail for pastures new. When that seed is planted, it then makes it very difficult to eradicate it.
Yes, Harry Kane appears to love Tottenham, but how long is he realistically going to wait at the club, in his prime years, without winning trophies? Nobody remembers the teams who came second – and Spurs haven’t even done that.
José Mourinho v Antonio Conte: Two managers who need the FA Cup
For different reasons, both these managers are in desperate pursuit of the FA Cup trophy.
The Italian will want it as his last swansong before he leaves Stamford Bridge for good come the end of the season. It is highly unlikely that the Italian will remain as Chelsea boss, who have already started vetting for new potential managers, due to his fractious relationship with the Board.
Although they only won the Premier League 12 months ago, a poor and unravelling domestic performance this season has left a bitter taste in the Chelsea fans’s mouths. However, an FA Cup win, especially against United and Mourinho, would allow the former Juventus manager to leave with his head held high.
Manchester United have had a tumultuous season with a lot of emotions shown, but winning the Cup and finishing second place in the Premier League is a major improvement and step in the right direction. It would ease the pressure of Mourinho’s back somewhat from the fans, too.
The Portuguese loves a bit occasion and this one reeks of it. He’s had a frosty exchange with Conte already this season, and so this encounter will be about who can keep their cool in the heat of the moment. It’s bound to be a spectacle.
Goodbye Arsène Wenger
Perhaps somewhat shocking to Arsenal fans, their manager decided to step away from his duties at the end of the season. Even for those calling for his head for the last few years were taken aback by the immediacy of what had just happened.
In truth, this is no ordinary manager. It is the last manager who was a dynasty builder. There will be none like Wenger, or Sir Alex Ferguson, again who build teams year after year for multiple decades long – and remain competitive!
While a considerable amount of Arsenal fans grew impatient with the stagnation of their beloved club, you can’t help but feel a great and emotional wave of sadness come over you to see the Frenchman leave a job he so clearly adores. And the fact that he was pushed, rather than, really, make the decision on his own accord, does add another layer to it.
But that’s football and there’s rarely any time for sentiment. The clocks keep ticking, the birds chirping and success needs to be delivered. While the next Arsenal manager doesn’t have quite the same job to emulate as David Moyes did when Ferguson stepped down, they will, however, have to try to step into a legend’s dugout.
Mohamed Salah is a relentless goalscoring machine
While Kevin De Bruyne came close, it wasn’t a contest in the end. Salah ran away with things since the turn of the year and was the rightful winner of the Premier League’s Player of the Year award.
The Egyptian is the bargain of the last decade and has been instrumental in Liverpool’s uprising this season. The Reds might not be challenging for titles just yet, they are in the Champions League semi finals against AS Roma, and will feel confident they can make it to Kyiv.
Scoring an immense 41 goals so far this season in all competitions, the former Roma wide forward has set the league alight, leaving nothing but pure destruction in his wake. With Harry Kane claiming every goal as his own to get close to the Egyptian in the race for the Golden Boot, Salah goes about his business as he does every weekend: unscathed and at a relentless pace.
Salah is now a world beater and Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool have some task on their hands in fending off interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Also published on Medium.