FA Cup Final Review: Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United
- Date – 21st May 2016
- Venue – Wembley Stadium
- Attendance – 88,619
- Referee – Mark Clattenburg
- Bookings – McArthur, Delaney, Dann, Mata, Fellaini, Rooney, Rojo, Smalling
- Sending off – Smalling
- Goals – Puncheon (78), Mata (81), Lingard (110)
- Star Eagle – Wilfried Zaha (7.9)
The FA Cup Final is the showpiece in the English football calendar and little old Crystal Palace had found their way there again to face the might of Manchester United, again.
There was to be no fairy-tale at the second time of asking for the Eagles who came so desperately close to winning the cup but it took extra time to ultimately be denied of a dream becoming reality.
Most considered the big decision for Palace boss Alan Pardew was whether to start James McArthur or Mile Jedinak but he in fact surprised us all by dropping Jason Puncheon to the bench to accommodate both hard working midfielders.
It is hard to decide as we sift through the debris whether it was the right decision or not but Puncheon left his place on the bench with a little under twenty minutes left to play and made an almost immediate impact.
He cleverly kept himself onside to run on to a cross from Joel Ward and effortlessly dispatched his shot past De Gea to put Palace into the lead with just over ten minutes left to play. The Palace end went absolutely crazy but unfortunately it was short lived as an effort from Spaniard Juan Mata deflected past Wayne Hennessey just three minutes later.
United found the winner from an unlikely source as substitute Jesse Lingard pounced on a stretched clearance from Damien Delaney to fire home past Hennessey.
Losing the influential Scott Dann was huge but he did well to almost get through as much of the game as he did after an awkward landing in the opposition penalty area in the second half. His replacement Adrian Mariappa performed admirably in his place in an appearance that he would most likely not have expected. In fact, every one of the fourteen players that were used in the game put in a performance that management and fans alike can be proud of. Yes, there were mistakes but now is not the time to castigate anyone.
The reaction from the players at the final whistle said everything you needed to know. A feeling of complete exhaustion and disappointment. It was certainly not for the want of trying.
‘My players gave everything. Everything. And they deserved to win but the game is like that. We had a couple of decisions that went against us, big time. Connor was through, Wilfried had a penalty but I am not going to bleat. It was a great performance from both teams, a great final.’ – Alan Pardew talking to BBC Sport
Even though the possession statistics favoured the Manchester side, with the impressive Wayne Rooney seemingly having a majority himself, Palace certainly had chances even without the debatable decisions from referee Mark Clattenburg. There is no making excuses for his poor performance as most in the media and pundits covering the game were all in agreement. His first was to pull back play after Connor Wickham had slotted the ball home following a foul by Chris Smalling. The second was to bring back play after Joel Ward was clear down the right.
There could also have been a penalty decision in favour of Palace as Wilfried Zaha looked to have been brought down in the area by Danny Blind but the best chance for Palace fell to Dwight Gayle who fired straight at the keeper after he had replaced Wickham.
The Eagles had ridden their luck a little with United hitting the woodwork on two occasions but Welsh stopper Hennessey performed well as he looked commanding in the area and came for balls that you would expect him to after being much criticised for not doing so throughout the season.
There was a real feeling that this was to be the year for Palace after Chris Smalling received a second yellow card for a similar foul that earned him his first but the ten men managed to see the game through.
Much has been said of the dance by Alan Pardew after the Puncheon goal but there is nothing wrong with a manager that has some character. It was openly acceptable for the the likes of van Gaal throws himself to the floor and Mourinho having a run down the touchline in celebration to do such things – why not Pards? He showed his passion throughout the game, prowling the touchline feeling every kick his team made as did the Palace faithful. Many would much rather that than a manager sitting down the whole game just observing.
The atmosphere was electric throughout and the fantastic display organised by the Holmesdale Fanatics earned plaudits across the footballing world as did the passion of the fans from start to finish.
How many fans of a losing side stay behind at Wembley and sing as passionately about their team as if they had won? Palace fans showed what supporting a football club is all about and that alone will live long in the memory.
No denying that it was a very special day in the history of the club. The fans put the effort in as usual for the duration and showed their usual fanatical support but unfortunately, it was just not to be. There is a real gut wrenching feeling but also one of bursting pride to be a part of our club. We would not have it any other way.
Player Ratings (courtesy of Who Scored)
- Wayne Hennessey (6.5) – One of his best games in a Palace shirt, superb finger tip save low down from Mata the highlight.
- Joel Ward (7.1) – Great game for the right back, worked hard to get up and down the pitch. So desperately unlucky with the first United goal that ricocheted off his legs and past Hennessey.
- Scott Dann (5.9) – The heartbeat of the back line, played his usual game but struggled with a knock which he could not shake off. Replaced by Adrian Mariappa (6.2) on 90 minutes who put in an impressive shift in his surprise appearance.
- Damien Delaney (6.9) – Dealt with most that came his way and battled through. Unfortunate his attempted clearance fell kindly for United which led to the winner.
- Pape Souare (6.6) – Excellent performance from the Senegalese international both with his defensive duty and getting forward at every chance available.
- James McArthur (7.2) – Part of a solid midfield three, worked hard throughout doing his usual job for the team.
- Yohan Cabaye (7.2) – Took a while to get into the game but faded as the game wore on. Replaced by Jason Puncheon (7.3) on 72 minutes who provided some much needed impetus, scoring a terrific goal to give Palace the lead.
- Mile Jedinak (7.4) – Solid game for the captain which was made harder by the lack of possession but that did not stop the Aussie.
- Wilfried Zaha (7.9) – Difficult opponents for the former United player but did himself proud by growing into the game.
- Yannick Bolasie (6.6) – Disappointing showing from the enigmatic winger but got close to getting on teh scresheet with an effort that De Gea did well to turn behind for a corner.
- Connor Wickham (6.5) – Worked hard as the lone man but subject of an awful refereeing decision who pulled back play when he was clean through. Replaced by Dwight Gayle (6.2) on 86 minutes who had a wonderful chance to score but was not his usual clinical self.
Unused substitutes – Julian Speroni, Martin Kelly, Bakary Sako, Emmanuel Adebayor
The Who Scored man of the match was Wilfried Zaha (7.9). The player with the most shows was Anthony Martial (6). The player with the most tackles was shared between Damien Delaney and Yohan Cabaye (4). The player with the most dribbles was Wilfried Zaha (6).
- Team rating: 6.75 – 6.97
- Total shots: 14 – 24
- Shots on target: 6 – 3
- Possession: 40.1% – 59.9%
- Pass success: 61% – 82%
- Dribbles: 8 – 9
- Aerials won: 30 – 19
- Tackles: 21 – 17
- Corners: 8 – 12
- Dispossessed: 9 – 10