United have a core of players to build around, says Gary Lim
A victory like this suggests United can move on with optimism
CRYSTAL PALACE 1
(Jason Puncheon 78)
MAN UNITED 2
(Juan Mata 81, Jesse Lingard 110)
- After extra time. Full time: 1-1.
Twenty-six years ago, the FA Cup saved Sir Alex Ferguson's job at Manchester United.
At least that is the legendary tale many associate with the greatest managerial reign in football club history.
Yesterday morning (Singapore time), the under-fire Louis van Gaal delivered the same trophy when his side beat Crystal Palace - also the team vanquished by Ferguson's outfit in 1990 - 2-1 after extra time.
It remains to be seen whether the triumph can save the Dutchman's skin.
What is clear, however, after a gallant United performance at Wembley, is that there is still fire in the belly of these Red Devils.
They weathered a storm against Palace.
They fought with gusto and it would have made Fergie proud.
Over 120 minutes, United showed there is a silver lining amid all the negativity that has enveloped the club this season.
Besides talent, the win took guts, desire and character and whoever the manager is next season, this could be the springboard for a challenge of major honours once again.
The Cup final certainly didn't go as planned.
A defiant Palace side rode their luck on numerous occasions and then somehow, against the run of play, took the lead when substitute Jason Puncheon beat goalkeeper David de Gea at his near post.
With only 12 minutes left, the Red Devils were staring at defeat in the face. But they fought back with a vengeance.
Wayne Rooney refused to have his confidence drained even as fatigue set in.
He epitomised the resolve of the side, charging forward, slaloming past four Palace guards before somehow digging out a cross from the right.
Marouane Fellaini chested the ball, then left it for Juan Mata to hammer home the equaliser to take the match into extra time.
However, disaster was to strike once more, when United defender Chris Smalling was sent off for a second booking in the 105th minute.
With 10 men on the field and energy levels down, it looked like a lost cause for United.
But, like Fergie's sides, they refused to cave in, instead finding strength in adversity.
When Palace defender Damien Delaney could only half-clear the ball in the 110th minute, substitute Jesse Lingard pounced and unleashed a thundering volley to send United into dreamland.
This was a sweet end to an otherwise frustrating 2015/16 campaign for the Red Devils and provided some much-needed optimism for the future.
The battling display by the players was a reminder of the drive and quality that still exists within the squad.
Rooney led by example, dishing out a true captain's performance in his midfield role to suggest that there is much life left in his legs.
Fellaini's back-alley antics may not sit well with some, but his ferocious appetite yesterday proved that he can still be an asset.
Throughout the match, he hassled Palace's defence and could have scored the opening goal in the second half had he not been denied by the woodwork.
Mata may be still trying to recapture his sterling form from his Chelsea days, but his goal is evidence that he can be counted on the big occasions.
The future of United had their say, too.
Lingard, one of the young United stars to emerge this term, channelled all the frustration at being denied a starting spot into a match-winning display.
De Gea's outstanding saves, especially in extra time, reinforced his reputation as one of the world's finest goalkeepers.
Anthony Martial, with yet another energetic outing - he was also denied a goal by the post - continues to add to a growing belief that he can become a world-class attacking force.
And Marcus Rashford, still only 18, showed just why he is in England manager Roy Hodgson's provisional Euro 2016 squad ahead of more established names.
Van Gaal may or may not be around next season to continue with the project.
But whoever holds the reins of Manchester United will have a tremendous core of players to build a team around.
There are some reasons to be cheerful for United fans looking ahead to next season. Their youngsters have been a big part of the success... Jesse Lingard scored with such a sweet strike... Marcus Rashford was impressive without getting a goal.
— BBC pundit and former England captain Alan Shearer
- CRYSTAL PALACE: Wayne Hennessey, Joel Ward, Scott Dann (Adrian Mariappa 90+3), Damien Delaney, Pape Souare, Yohan Cabaye (Jason Puncheon 71), Mile Jedinak, Wilfried Zaha, James McArthur, Yannick Bolasie, Connor Wickham (Dwight Gayle 85)
- MAN UNITED: David de Gea, Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo (Matteo Darmian 65), Michael Carrick, Juan Mata (Jesse Lingard 89), Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford (Ashley Young 71)
Pardew praises fallen Eagles
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew praised his players for handling defeat with dignity after their FA Cup final loss to Manchester United.
Said Pardew (below): "I thought our fans were terrific. They showed the world that when they fill any stadium, they will not get outsung.
"All the players conducted themselves well and we are trying to take the defeat with dignity. We wish Man United well in the Europa League."
Pardew's involvement in this final is unlikely to be forgotten after he danced on the touchline following Jason Puncheon's strike.
Clips of the Pardew jig went viral on the Internet via social media.
He said: "I enjoyed that moment. In a cup final, as a manager, it is difficult to enjoy moments. So, if you'll forgive me my dance, it's just because I enjoyed it."
Pardew also explained that Zaha was in tears before the game as he had become emotional, and not because the former United winger had failed to prove his fitness after three games out.
Pardew said: "We put some personal messages in the dressing room from family members and I think one of those just got to him."
- PA Sport.