Manchester United’s 12-year wait to win the FA Cup is over after Louis van Gaal’s men came from behind to secure a dramatic and exhilarating extra-time victory over Crystal Palace.
Jason Puncheon opened the scoring late in the second half, but the Reds mustered a display of fighting spirit and drew level just three minutes later through Juan Mata. After Chris Smalling was sent off in extra time, Academy graduate Jesse Lingard hit a stunning winner that will be remembered for countless years to come.
Although it has been a disappointing season in the Barclays Premier League, after finishing fifth and missing out on Champions League qualification, success in the FA Cup has provided genuine cause for celebration among everybody associated with United. Particularly for the fans, who have craved this trophy in the dozen years since the club’s last success in 2004 when Millwall were beaten in Cardiff.
United and Palace famously met in the 1990 FA Cup final and the two managers from that time, Sir Alex Ferguson and Steve Coppell, carried the trophy onto the pitch ahead of what was eventually a delayed kick-off at Wembley. That was due to a lavish and eclectic pre-match ceremony in which Tinie Tempah performed alongside a full brass band and choir, with members of the British military around them, while a huge firework display sent clouds of smoke billowing around the stadium.
Many pundits had predicted United would dominate the possession with Palace being happy to sit back, and that was exactly how the match began as the Reds controlled the opening exchanges, forging shots at target through Marcus Rashford, the recalled Marouane Fellaini and Wayne Rooney.