Sunday 22 May 2016

Manchester United Wins FA Cup

Jesse Lingard struck an extra-time winner as 10-man Manchester United won the FA Cup for the first time in 12 years with a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace at Wembley. In a repeat of the 1990 final, Jason Puncheon's strike put Palace to within 12 minutes of a maiden FA Cup triumph but Juan Mata levelled three minutes later to force extra time.

Chris Smalling's dismissal for two bookable offences at the end of the first added period swung the game in Palace's favour but, with penalties looming, Lingard's rasping drive won the trophy for United in stunning fashion. It's a result that eases some of the pressure on under-fire United boss Louis van Gaal, who brings the first trophy to Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

Alan Pardew made six alterations to the second-string XI fielded in Palace's final-day Premier League defeat against Southampton, while United welcomed back Marouane Fellaini following a three-game suspension and Marcos Rojo after he missed Tuesday's rearranged fixture with Bournemouth. The match kicked off late following a jazzed-up opening ceremony that did not run to time - or plan, with national anthem singer Karen Harding missing her cue, but United were on top early when the match finally got going.

Palace were frustrated by referee Mark Clattenburg twice more in the first half when Joel Ward was called back after shaking off the attention of Marcos Rojo and Wilfried Zaha was penalised for handball after he appeared to have been tripped in the area by Wayne Rooney. United were unable to take advantage of their fortune as Mata drew Wayne Hennessey into a smart save, Fellaini's glancing header deflected wide and Anthony Martial's goal-bound effort was stopped on the line by Joel Ward

Palace sought refuge at half-time but the United attack showed no sign of abating after the break as Fellaini's rasping drive rattled the frame of Hennessey's goal within eight minutes of the restart. The same went for  Martial's glancing header shortly after the hour, the Frenchman beating the Wales international stopper but seeing his effort strike the woodwork as Palace remained level.

There was a set-back for United when Rashford was forced off with a nasty-looking knee injury on 71 minutes, but a cagey affair burst into life when the first goal came on 78 minutes. Substitute Puncheon, six minutes after replacing Yohan Cabaye, remained onside to meet Damien Delaney's hopeful diagonal before lashing the ball high past De Gea from a tight angle. The Palace fans went wild and Pardew performed a jubilant dance on the touchline - but the celebrations were cut short as United responded immediately.

Captain Rooney danced his way into the area and floated the ball to Fellaini, who cushioned with his chest for Mata to drill into the back of the net with a sweet left-footed volley. That forced extra-time and Rooney curled an effort over seven minutes into the added period before Yannick Bolasie forced De Gea to tip his volley away shortly after. As half-time in extra-time approached, Smalling was shown a second yellow card for cynically halting Bolasie's counter inside his own half.

But despite playing the final 15 minutes with 10 men, it was to be United who struck the telling blow as Lingard rifled home the winner 10 minutes from time. The United academy graduate capitalised as Delaney's block fell to his feet just inside the area and he thundered in a soon-to-be-famous volley which left Hennessey stranded. When full-time came, the Palace players were strewn across the field before Rooney and Carrick lifted the trophy for United - but it remains to be seen if the victory will be enough to keep Van Gaal in his job.

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