Manchester United academy graduate Jesse Lingard’s extra time volley was enough to ensure that 10-man United won the FA Cup after a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace at Wembley.
Jason Puncheon had the Palace fans believing of a potential cup triumph 12 minutes from time after his strike put them in front, but party pooper Juan Mata found the next just three minutes later, forcing extra time.
United defender Chris Smalling saw red for his second bookable offence of the game at the end of the first period of extra-time as Palace pushed for a winner. However, Manchester born Lingard showed superb reactions to produce a volley well worthy of winning the FA Cup with just 10 minutes left.
The result sees United win the competition for the first time in 12 years and it is the club’s first major trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
As expected, Alan Pardew named a side seeing the return of their top players who were rested in Palace’s defeat to Southampton on the last day of the league campaign with six alterations in total. United made only two changes from their win over Bournemouth in the form of Marcus Rojo and Marouane Fellaini.
The game kicked off with a tense feeling around the stadium although it was Fellaini who came closest first; his header glancing just wide.
The game soon sprung into life with a moment of controversy. In the 17th minute striker Conor Wickham got the better of Smalling and finished well, only for Referee Mark Clattenburg to pull play back and award Palace a free kick for a foul by Smalling. With many bemused by the decision, Smalling received his first yellow card.
Clattenburg was soon centre-stage again with Joel Ward being called back after shaking off Rojo’s attention and Wilfired Zaha was penalised for handball after appearing to have been tripped in the area by Wayne Rooney.
United, as expected, started to take control and create more chances with Juan Mata making Wayne Hennessey work and young starlet Anthony Mattial’s goal-bound effort being stopped on the line by Joel Ward.
For all of Palace’s efforts they struggled to get a foothold in the game as United started to up the ante after half-time. Fellaini came closest for United with a ferocious strike cannoning back off the woodwork just after the restart.
However United were dealt a huge blow when Marcus Rashford was forced off with a knee injury after 70 minutes and the game reverted back to a tense and cagey affair.
An inspired Palace substitution did the trick for Alan Pardew as Jason Puncheon kept himself onside to meet a diagonal Damien Delaney pass, before smashing the ball high past David De Gea from a relatively tight angle.
United replied quickly when captain Wayne Rooney dribbled into the box and floated a delightful ball to Fellaini who cushioned with his chest for Mata to hit it past Wayne Hennessey.
A few chances here and there for both sides in extra-time made it look like penalties were on the horizon, but the game took a twist when Chris Smalling was sent off for a cynical challenge on Yannick Bolasie. Aware that the Palace winger would likely be clear as he made the turn, Smalling made a tackle similar to that being made in the Aviva Premiership semi-finals which also took place on Saturday. A second yellow was certainly the correct solution.
But despite playing the rest of extra time with 10 men, United struck next after Lingard rifled the ball home with just 10 minutes to go.
Lingard pounced as Delaney’s block fell to him just inside the box and he lashed the ball past Hennessey with a controlled volley.
The full-time whistle soon came, the Palace players falling to their knees as they looked on at the United players collecting the trophy. United captain Wayne Rooney and the possibly soon-to-be departing Michael Carrick lifted the famous old trophy – a fitting way for the Englishman to cap off a trophy-laiden career with the Red Devils.
The win sees uncertainty at United continue as it remains to be seen if the victory is enough for Van Gaal to keep his job. Reports emerging this evening seem to suggest that Jose Mourinho will be unveiled very soon as the third manager in four seasons since the relative stability of Sir Alex. Will he give United the results they so desperately crave?
Image Credit: flickr.com/geetarchurchy