Up for the Cup! The 2016 winners…

By on May 22, 2016

There were a few moments on Saturday night when four cup finals were simultaneously taking place across Europe. First the Scottish Cup final kicked off, then the English FA Cup, the DfB Pokal in Germany, the Coupe de France, and finally, the Coppa Italia. Hibernian, Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain and Juventus  all lifted silverware, but it was at Wembley where the oldest trophy in world football was won by a lad from Warrington. Richard Lewis reviews the weekend’s action.

Wingard: Jesse’s Jewel makes it a Red Devils Dozen!
Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United (aet):

In Sir Alex Ferguson’s last eight years at Manchester United, there was only one trophy that evaded him: the FA Cup.  Ferguson’s last cup success was in 2004 and last year Arsenal overtook United with twelve title wins.

United starter Marcus Rashford was only six years old the last time the club won the FA Cup, but the Red Devils ended the long wait with a dramatic extra-time win over Crystal Palace at Wembley on Saturday. It was United’s first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, although Louis van Gaal’s first piece of silverware at Old Trafford also looks set to be his last act at the helm of the club.

Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has been heavily linked with the United since the turn of the year, but it appears to be more than just persistent newspaper speculation now and Mourinho looks set to take over on Tuesday.

Saturday’s final was hardly a repeat of the 1990 final between the two clubs, which famously ended 3-3 with doubles from Mark Hughes and Ian Wright for United and Palace, respectively (United won the replay 1-0). That said, a dramatic finale was in store for the 2016 edition as Palace blew a late lead. Rapper Tinie Tempah opened the showpiece with a pre-match performance of two of his songs, although poor Karen Harding seemed to wait until stoppage time to join in with the National Anthem.

Rapper Tinie Tempah opened the showpiece with a pre-match performance of two of his songs, although poor Karen Harding seemed to wait until stoppage time to join in with the National Anthem.

Palace substitute Jason Puncheon opened the scoring with a perfectly struck volley on seventy-eight minutes, with Eagles’ manager Alan Pardew celebrating with dance moves even Judy Murray would be embarrassed by. But only three minutes later United equalized through Spanish midfielder Juan Mata, whose low, driven effort beat Wayne Hennesey in goal. United hit both posts in the dying minutes of the game, but only extra-time could decide the final.

The additional thirty minutes saw United centre-back Chris Smalling see red for a second bookable offense, but United rallied to score a decisive winner. Home-grown talent Jesse Lingard came off the bench to replace Mata and smashed a pinpoint volley into the top corner with ten minutes to go, the best moment of his young career thus far. Van Gaal will take credit for giving Lingard his break at United, but maybe it was the Englishman’s loan spell at Leicester City in 2012 which gave him that extra bit of magic.

This time last year Lingard was nowhere near the first team and apart from lifting the FA Cup, the legacy of Van Gaal at Old Trafford may also be introducing Lingard and Rashford into the first team. It goes to show how far Lingard has come this season that £25 million signing Memphis Depay did not even make the eighteen-man squad for the final.

United and Southampton have automatically qualified for the Europa League group stages as a result of United’s final success, while West Ham United will enter in the third round qualifying stages.

Although the lack of Champions League football next season and the underwhelming fifth place finish in the league is too much for the Old Trafford hierarchy and supporters to overlook in their decision regarding Van Gaal, hopefully the likes of Lingard, Rashford and Martial will build on their potential under Mourinho. Captain Rooney could have also found a new future playing in a deeper midfield position and Mourinho will seek to keep goalkeeper David de Gea as well. United will return to Wembley at the start of August to face the Foxes of Leicester in the FA Community Shield, what looks set to be their first competitive match with Mourinho in charge.

Dortmund count the Costa of penalty misses!
Bayern Munich 0-0 Borussia Dortmund (4-3 on penalties):

Pep Guardiola signed off at Bayern Munich with yet another trophy in his last match in Germany before moving to Manchester City, where he would face old foe Jose Mourinho in the Premier League if recent reports are true. Guardiola’s reign in Germany concluded with another league and cup double, as Brazilian midfielder Douglas Costa bagged the decisive penalty in the shoot-out after a 0-0 draw with rivals Dortmund in the DfB Pokal.

The yellow wall have now lost three German Cup finals in a row and with Germany centre-back Mats Hummels departing for Bayern over the summer, coach Thomas Tuchel will face another uphill battle to defeat Bayern next year. Hummels actually had to go off with a cramp, certainly not the best farewell to Dortmund, but at least he didn’t have as bad a day as former England midfielder Frank Lampard, who lost 7-0 to local rivals New York Red Bulls with New York City FC in the MLS. Some of the US media have dubbed the former Manchester City and Chelsea man as the worst signing ever in the league and the recent emergence of details regarding of his inflated contract hardly endears himself to the NYCFC fans.

On Sunday night, Barcelona also defeated Sevilla 2-0 to round off a weekend of thrilling cup finals.

Homepage photo credit: Juve2015 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About Richard Lewis

Richard Lewis can relate almost anything to football and quite often does! You may have seen Richard's previous ideas and work in the BBC Match of the Day Magazine, from 2011 to present. He is a Manchester United and England fan, but has gone to see Leyton Orient play with his O's season ticket in the 2013/14 campaign. Aside from football, Richard has written articles on Doctor Who and studies English Language and Linguistics at the University of Westminster. Aspiring sports journalist.