Saturday 21st May – 17:30 – Wembley
In a repeat of the 1990 final, Crystal Palace face Manchester United under the Wembley arch for the right to lift this season’s FA Cup. The Red Devils won that tie 26 years ago, which was the closest that Palace have come to winning the famous trophy and this is their first final since then. Current Eagles manager Alan Pardew was part of the starting XI as the South London side were defeated after a replay. This season, after a strong start to the league campaign, his team dropped off dramatically and finished last weekend with a 4-1 loss to Southampton meaning they finished 15th. However Saturday could see them gain their first major trophy and secure European qualification for the first time in their history. United’s win in 1990 meanwhile effectively saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s job and was first of five FA Cup wins for the Scot. They may not have won the trophy since 2004, but victory this weekend would be their 12th overall, moving them level with Arsenal at the top of the all-time list. Like Fergie, Louis van Gaal’s job is on the line heading into the game, but even a win may not be enough to save him after United finished fifth in the Premier League, missing out on Champions League football next season. They have had two less days to prepare than Palace, as they didn’t play their final game of the season against Bournemouth (a 3-1 win) until Tuesday following the bomb scare at Old Trafford last Sunday. Will that effect them at Wembley?
- Formerly of Manchester United, Wilfried Zaha is expected to return after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury.
- Bakary Sako has also been passed fit for the Eagles, whose only absentee is midfielder Joe Ledley (leg).
- Emmanuel Adebayor is expected to start what could be his last match for the club from the bench.
- Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin and Marcos Rojo return after missing out in midweek against Bournemouth.
- Marouane Fellaini is back after a ban, but Adnan Januzaj (knock) and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are unlikely to be fit. Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee) and Luke Shaw (leg) are out.
- Memphis Depay and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have not been included in United’s 18 man squad so will play no part in the cup final.
The Key Battle: Scott Dann vs Marcus Rashford
Centre-back Scott Dann can pretty much sum up Crystal Palace’s season as he himself had an impressive start to the campaign, as some people even called for him to make England’s Euro 2016 squad.
However, the 29 year old has dipped in form massively since Christmas as the Eagles have plummeted down the table. In the FA Cup though, he has started all five games contributing to his side conceding just three goals in that time.
Dann was at Birmingham City when they beat Arsenal in the Carling Cup final in 2011, but he missed out on the Wembley final through injury. Can he get another medal but this time be on the pitch to earn it?
To do so, Dann will have to stop Marcus Rashford who could cap a phenomenal breakthrough campaign by lifting the FA cup.
An unheard of teenager at the start of the campaign, the young striker has eight goals in 17 starts in all competitions, including one against West Ham in the quarter-final replay.
In a week where he was named in England’s provisional Euro 2016 squad, Rashford could top it by winning the famous trophy just 86 days after his United debut. What’s more, if he nets at Wembley, at 18 years and 203 days old he would become the second youngest goalscorer in an FA Cup final after Norman Whiteside, who was 18 years and 19 days old when he netted for the Red Devils in the 1983 final.
Crystal Palace wins = 7 / Manchester United wins = 31 / Draws = 10
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace (20th April 2016)
Manchester United moved one point behind fourth-placed Arsenal with victory over Crystal Palace on a night when many fans chose to stay away from Old Trafford. Damien Delaney set United on their way when he inadvertently turned Matteo Darmian’s cross into his own net. Julian Speroni kept Palace in the game with a series of fine saves before Darmian doubled the lead by lashing home from 20 yards. Darmian’s first goal for United sealed a highly satisfactory win for Louis van Gaal’s side on a night thousands of United fans decided to stay away. [Full BBC report]
Route To The Final
- Round Three: 2-1 vs Southampton (A) – Ward, Zaha
- Round Four: 1-0 vs Stoke City (H) – Zaha
- Round Five: 1-0 vs Tottenham Hotspur (A) – Kelly
- Quarter-Final: 2-0 vs Reading (A) – Cabaye, Campbell
- Semi-Final: 2-1 vs Watford (N) – Bolasie, Wickham
- Round Three: 1-0 vs Sheffield United (H) – Rooney
- Round Four: 3-1 vs Derby County (A) – Rooney, Blind, Mata
- Round Five: 3-0 vs Shrewsbury Town (A) – Smalling, Mata, Lingard
- Quarter-Final: 1-1 vs West Ham United (H) – Martial
- Quarter-Final replay: 2-1 vs West Ham United (A) – Rashford, Fellaini
- Semi-Final: 2-1 vs Everton AET (N) – Fellaini, Martial
Alan Pardew: “They keep the ball really well. We’re going to have to be patient at times. We are going to be the side that needs to fight that bit harder to win, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. We have got areas of the pitch where I think we’re slightly superior and we’ve got to make those areas count.”
Pardew is hoping it will be third time lucky on Saturday because as well as losing the 1990 final as a player, his West Ham side lost in the 2006 final to Liverpool on penalties.
Louis van Gaal: “Always your starting point is to impress and perform well. That depends on a lot of factors, including your opponent. Then you get a fantastic match. Our starting point is to win well and score beautiful goals. But if we win 1-0 that is also enough. Winning is the most important thing in a final, otherwise you have nothing.”
van Gaal is aiming to win his first trophy as United manager in his perhaps his final game – he has previously lifted domestic cups in the Netherlands, Spain and Germany.
The Referee – Mark Clattenburg
- Last FA Cup game: Crystal Palace 1-0 Stoke (30th January 2016) – 3 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Crystal Palace game: West Ham United 2-2 Crystal Palace (2nd April 2016) – 4 yellow cards, 1 red card
- Last Manchester United game: Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United (17th January 2016) – 2 yellow cards, 0 red cards
2015-16 Record: Games = 45 / Yellow cards = 153 / Red cards = 6 / Penalties = 7
Stat of the Match
It has been 38 years since there were first-time champions in both the top flight of English football (Nottingham Forest) and the FA Cup (Ipswich), but after a season when Leicester have already upset the apple cart, who would bet against Palace following suit and winning a major trophy for the first time in their 110-year history? They would become the 44th different club to win the competition.
Where Can I Watch It?
You’ve got two options on Saturday afternoon. There’s the BBC, who have a whole day of FA Cup content on BBC One beginning at 12:10pm with Football Focus, followed by a Jimmy Hill documentary, the road to Wembley, a Question of Sport and Pointless before their coverage from Wembley begins at 4:15pm. Alternatively, the game is also being shown on BT Sport 2 from 4:45pm. Kick-off is 5:30pm, whilst the highlights are on BBC One at 10:55pm.
My Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-1 Manchester United
I don’t think Manchester United playing on Tuesday will effect the outcome of the game, as I still think that it will be the Red Devils lifting the trophy just after 7pm on Saturday. Anthony Martial will score the only goal of the game as United’s tight defence ensures Palace can’t get through in a none the less entertaining, close game. 1-0 is the same scoreline that United won by in the 1990 final replay.