FA Cup test for managers' futures
THREE of the four managers leading their teams out at Wembley for this weekend's FA Cup semi-finals will do so knowing that defeat could have serious ramifications for their short-term future.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has been dealing with "must-win" games throughout a troubled season and tomorrow night's clash with Everton falls into that category.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, has fallen out of favour with a large section of the club's fans who have seen no tangible progress this season.
Crystal Palace's woeful form since Christmas has turned up the heat on Alan Pardew too, although a semi-final against Watford represents an opportunity for redemption.
Watford manager Quique Florez is perhaps the odd man out.
The Spaniard has made an impressive impact in his first season at the club who were promoted last season, guaranteeing survival with plenty to spare.
Dutchman van Gaal has faced a ceaseless debate about his Old Trafford future after crashing out of the Champions League group stages and serving up some turgid football earlier in the season when United fell out of the title race.
He has soldiered on, however, and a silver lining is on the horizon with United favourites to lift the trophy for the first time since 2004. They beat West Ham 2-1 in a quarter-final replay last week with their best display of the season.
"I have said for the club it is much more important that we are finishing in the first four positions... But a trophy is, of course, fantastic, especially the FA Cup as it is a lot of years that we didn't win it," he said.
Martinez won the FA Cup with modest Wigan Athletic in 2013 when they beat Manchester City in the final a few weeks before being relegated, securing his move to Everton.
"If we win the games, everything will be fine; if we lose, everything will be my fault," he said.
Pardew was part of the Palace side who reached the 1990 final. His return to the club as manager in January last year turned them from relegation candidates to contenders for Europe midway through the current campaign.
Palace have stalled since, however, and Pardew hopes the FA Cup can reignite his squad.
"For us and Watford, one of us is going to hurt and one's really going to come alive.
"So we really want to be that team that comes alive."
Fa Cup S-finals
Everton v Man Utd
Crystal Palace v Watford