LONDON – Louis van Gaal delivered Manchester Unitedâ€™s first trophy since Alex Ferguson retired three years ago with a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace after the 135th FA Cup final went to extra time on Saturday.
With Ferguson watching at Wembley Stadium, Jesse Lingard, an academy graduate thrust into the first team by Van Gaal, completed Unitedâ€™s comeback by volleying in the winner in the 110th minute. Unitedâ€™s record-equaling 12th triumph in world footballâ€™s oldest cup competition comes at the end of a lackluster second season under Van Gaal.
The managerâ€™s United future has seemed precarious for more than six months, and failure to qualify for the Champions League has only added to the uncertainty. But United showed the fighting spirit often lacking under Van Gaal to provide a winning end to the campaign.
â€œWeâ€™ve had a tough end to the season but I thought we worked very hard today â€” our determination got us through this so Iâ€™m delighted,â€ United captain Wayne Rooney said. â€œItâ€™s been a (while). Itâ€™s not always great of course. â€œWinning trophies lifts football clubs and lifts supporters. The fans have had a tough few years. Hopefully they enjoy tonight.â€ Alan Pardew wonâ€™t.
The Palace manager produced a giddy jig on the touchline after Jason Puncheon put the London club ahead in the 78th minute, but Juan Mata equalized within three minutes to force extra time. Even being reduced to 10 men, when Chris Smalling was sent off in the 105th, did not dampen Unitedâ€™s resolve.
Lingard, who replaced Mata at the end of regular time, produced the winner five minutes later to deny Palace a first major trophy. It is the first time United has won the FA Cup since 2004 â€” one of 38 major trophies Ferguson won as manager from 1986 to 2013. Fergusonâ€™s immediate successor, David Moyes, was fired after less than a year in charge.
Van Gaal has managed to end the clubâ€™s rare trophy drought, and the Dutchman has titles in four countries in management. â€œNot many managers can say that,â€ the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach said. – AP
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