This FA Cup final is a perfect game for the hate-filled neutral

The Magic of the Cup has died down over recent years. Where once it was like Harry Houdini, straight-jacketed and pulling rabbits from vanishing hats over a burning Grand Canyon, these days it seems more of a children’s entertainer and an squirting plastic flower.

We’ve undoubtedly lost some of the spectacle.

But this year is different. Something truly wondrous, something sublime, is happening for our wide-eyed amazement. This year’s final will showcase two teams that we, as a football community, can unite against and watch gleefully filled with pure, unadulterated hatred.

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There’s nothing better as a neutral than getting thoroughly riled up over the utterly contemptible sides you’re watching. It’s therapeutic in its nature and emblematic of all that’s good in our beloved sport.

Chelsea and Manchester United are historic giants in this game. They both ooze success, talent and history. Well, one oozes history, the other crammed it into the last 15 years.

Not since this fixture last played out in 2007, when Chelsea won the first Cup Final at the new Wembley, have we watched two teams play that we could collectively execrate with such intensity. Only this year it’s worse.

Added to the usual contempt we feel for both sides – both ranked in the top three most hated Premier League clubs for pretty much every poll ever conducted – this season has seen some especially dislikable features showcased to the world.

Manchester United have at times played some genuinely dour football and turned the city greyer than ever before. Jose Mourinho has improved their final league spot on recent seasons but at the cost of conservative, an ugly playing style and far too large a collection of sour-faced proclamations of foreboding misery.

When you’re leading Europe’s biggest club, admitting to losing out on the title race at Christmas isn’t the best sign. The Portuguese used to be an enigmatic mixture of charm and drama, but today he comes across worse than a funeral dirge on loop.

Individually, he’s made a fairly sh**e season notably fairly shi**er.

But consolation for Mourinho’s United winning some undeserved silverware can be found in the fact that it would stop Antonio Conte’s Chelsea from doing the same.

We can lambaste the Blues for their fans – the hooligans, coupled with the tourists – later on, but let’s think about the gaffer first.

Conte has willingly let Chelsea fall apart this year and has delivered one of the most miserable seasons at Stamford Bridge in recent memory. It’s got so bad that we even feel a slim slither of sympathy for Chelsea fans.

Then we remember that train incident in Paris. Never mind.

This season in isolation, without the slightest hint of an unjust personal vendetta, gives us reason alone to hurl abuse at our TV screens and hoist up the Red Devil and weird, broken-necked, fire-breathing lion who’s eating its own tail whilst holding a bubble wand kind of effigies.

When you add things like Stamford Bridge’s on-site hotels, United supposedly being supported by almost one in eleven people alive and players such as Jesse Lingard and the rest of the Dabtastic Krazy Krew, you concoct an even more pungent recipe for disdain.

And we don’t want to hear any pant-wetting defence from either sets of fans over this: we all have a right to find you prime targets for our vitriol. 93 trophies between the two makes up for the odd condemnation from us mere mortals.

If you’re going to glory hunt, United fans in London, Chelsea fans in Moscow, don’t expect us not to criticise.

So, yes, the FA Cup may have lost some of its magic over the years. We may even be more interested in a man and a woman marrying each other on live TV rather than watching the football season’s domestic climax, but do hold out faith.

This year, we’ve been blessed. We don’t need to favour a side or maintain our composure.

We can unite like never before and berate the contemptible Manchester United and Chelsea Football Club to our bitter hearts’ content.

If that’s not the spirit of the Cup, I don’t know what is.

But, a word of warning, switch off the box before the end. There’ll be far too many smiling corporate boxes on display. And that will really set you off.

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