On May 21 at Wembley, United will once again face Crystal Palace in a repeat of the 1990 FA cup final. That match played a pivotal role in the history of the football club, many believe it was the trophy that kept Alex Ferguson in a job.
Lee Martin scoring the only goal in the replay, after the first game finished 3-3. Now 26 years on, once again the long-term future of the manager’s job could be heavily swayed by the result when the teams go head to head in less than a months time.
Although the two managers careers are at opposite ends of the spectrum, Alex Ferguson was just setting off on what was to be an unrivalled period of dominance for the Red Devils, which in the 20 years that followed brought over 20 major trophies to the club.
Louis Van Gaal is coming to the end of his career as a manager, taking charge at United during a period of transition, he doesn’t have the time on his hands that Ferguson did.
Van Gaal has won major honours in his native Holland, Spain and Germany and guided the Netherlands to third place in the World Cup. It could be the perfect final addition to his CV to win a trophy in England.
Just like when United last faced Palace in the final, the clubs league position is not as good as it should be, 4th place is still a difficult ask, would an FA Cup be good enough for the supporters?
Judging by the scenes following Anthony Martials last gasp winner on Saturday, the FA Cup still has a place in the hearts of many supporters.
With Mourinho again linked to the United job over the weekend, an FA cup victory would allow Van Gaal to bow out at the end of the season, with his head held high; and a sense of achievement; even greater if the team can somehow make up the ground on City or Arsenal and steal 4th place.
For periods of the game on Saturday, there were glimpses of the United of old, especially the 93rd winner in what was known for years as “Fergie time”.
Fans will now look ahead to the final, Palace are arguably the tougher of the potential opponents, carrying much more of an attacking threat than Watford.
Not too much should be read into the recent 2-0 win at Old Trafford, but United won’t have a better opportunity to lift the cup for the first time since the 2003/04 season, something which is long overdue; and just like in 1990; could kick-start a new era for the club. With or without Louis Van Gaal at the helm.
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