Despite suffering two injuries (Rojo, Rashford) and a red card to Chris Smalling, Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 to win their 12th FA Cup title with a stunning goal from Jesse Lingard in extra time.
The match was a typical United game all season where Louis Van Gaal’s team were content to play the ball around and wait for the chances to present themselves. The most telling stat from the game saw United have more than 75% of the possession after the opening 20 minutes in first half.
However, it was Wilfried Zaha’s shot which was the first real chance in the game. United huffed and puffed but could only manage two shots on the goal post in the first hour of play. Marouane Fellaini and Anthony Martial were unlucky to see their shots come back after hitting the woodwork.
Those missed chances and Crystal Palace’s speed going forward always kept The Eagles in the contest. Alan Pardrew seized the moment and sent his trusted man Jason Puncheon to make the difference.
And within six minutes, Puncheon scored from a tight angle to send Palace in the lead. With only 9 minutes remaining in the game, United looked to be falling short at the final hurdle, however, Juan Mata had other ideas.
The Spaniard fired home United’s equalizer after Marouane Fellaini’s opportunistic chest-control. As the goal went in, Palace became desperate to take the game to extra time. Man United looked more likely to score in the dying moments, but Palace held on to take the game to 30 additional minutes.
On came Jesse Lingard and United had even more speed going forward which was a worrying sign for a tired a Palace side. However, Pardrew’s team had couple of chances of their own with Zaha looking the most likely danger man.
Former United winger broke free on couple of occasions, but he was once denied by David De Gea’s brilliance and once by Chris Smalling’s stupid foul on the half-line. Smalling was rightly booked for the second time and United were down to 10-man with over 15 minutes still left to play.
Odds were suddenly staked in Palace’s favor for a historic win, and had De Gea not been on his guard, they could have had the win as well. Having said that, United were not done trying their hand at scoring either.
Lingard popped up at the most perfect of times and produced one of the best FA Cup goals with a sweetly struck volley on 110′ minute mark and FA Cup was on its way back to Old Trafford after a 12-year gap.
United kept their cool and De Gea maintained his unbeatable stance in dying moments as Manchester United lifted their 12th FA Cup title to make sure Louis Van Gaal bows out in style.
Shortly after the win, leading media giants grew certain that Jose Mourinho will be in charge of the club in coming hours, with Van Gaal set to retire after tonight’s win. If that is the case, I cannot see a better way for Van Gaal to depart after being overly criticized during his stay at Old Trafford.
Having said that, the news is still not confirmed and Van Gaal by all means is still in charge of Manchester United and has won his first trophy in England. So for now, we can keep aside the rumours and congratulate Man United and the Dutchman on their FA Cup success.