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Palace will fancy their chances of a first major honour in their 111-year history against a United side that has been far from convincing over the course of the season.
United are equally keen to get their hands on the cup having finished the season outside the top four in the Premier League. The club has not won anything in the three seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson departed and any kind of honour would serve to sate a fanbase accustomed to regular silverware.
The road to Wembley
Crystal Palace’s route to the final has not been an easy one with Southampton, Tottenham, Stoke and Watford all providing stern opposition. A quarter-final victory against Reading wasn’t easy either with Alan Pardew’s side only progressing thanks to two late goals.
United’s was slightly more straightforward with lower League opponents Sheffield United, Derby and Shrewsbury all dispatched but the Red Devils did require a replay to get past West Ham at the quarter-final stage and a 93rd Anthony Martial strike to eliminate Everton in the semi-final.
Did you know?
United have won the FA Cup 11 times – the second most of any side – but their last victory in the competition came back in 2004 when they triumphed 3-0 against Millwall. Wayne Rooney has just completed his 12th season at the club but is yet to lift the trophy, although he has finished as a runner-up on two occasions.
Wayne Rooney on the move?
Wayne Rooney impressed in a midfield role during United’s 3-1 win against Bournemouth, picking up the Man of the Match award and getting on the scoresheet. And he could be used in the position again against Palace after talking about how much he enjoyed it.
He said “I think sometimes you have to make choices in your career and at the minute it is probably better for me to play deeper. Now obviously that’s a bit different now with England because I could still be the striker, but certainly after that, I am sure for next season, that is probably where I see myself playing. I think of course you’re involved in the game. I feel like I can dictate games more from there and try and control the tempo in games, which I felt I did quite well tonight.”
Palace receive triple fitness boost
Crystal Palace have been boosted by the news that Yohan Cabaye, Wilfried Zaha and Connor Wickham will all be fit to face United. The trio faced the last game of the Premier League season with knocks but have recovered sufficiently to make the cut at Wembley.
The big decision facing Louis van Gaal is whether to pick Marouane Fellaini, who is available after serving a three-match suspension, or stick with Jesse Lingard. Fellaini’s ability to defend set-pieces makes him a contender against a Palace side with a big aerial threat.
Premier League pitfalls
The FA Cup has provided a nice distraction for Palace and United this season with both clubs struggling to live up to expectations in the Premier League. A 2-1 win against Stoke on 19 December put Palace 6th and just four points behind second-placed Arsenal. However, a 14-game winless run followed and they only finished five points clear of the relegation zone.
United, meanwhile, failed to qualify for the Champions League and disappointed in front of goal scoring only 49 times and returning just 66 points, their second-worst total in the Premier League era. Those 49 goals marked them out as the 10th highest scorers in the division.
When was the last time?
These sides have met at Wembley before, in the 1990 FA Cup final, an occasion that saw United win but only after a replay.
A Palace side featuring current manager Alan Pardew and a clutch of players who have gone down in Eagles history including Ian Wright, John Salako and Mark Bright held United to a 3-3 draw.
Alex Ferguson’s side on that day featured plenty of familiar faces too, Paul Ince, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes among them.
Eventually left-back Lee Martin’s second-half strike separated the sides in the replay and gave United their first trophy of the Ferguson era. They have never looked back, while although Palace have returned to Wembley in the play-offs they have never made it back in the FA Cup.
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