In many ways the FA Cup Final felt like a bit of a let-down in terms of the football that was on display. Palace seemed content to sit deep and try to hold United at bay; their much vaunted wingers hardly seemed to get into the game. The most impressive performance of the afternoon came from Palace’s Ultras, the Holmesdale Fanatics, who never let the volume drop or stopped encouraging their team for the entire match.
The game itself only really sparked into life with substitute Puncheon’s goal in the 78th minute which gave Palace a brief glimmer of hope and even prompted some ‘interesting’ dance moves from manager Pardew on the sideline. They were however to be brought down to earth with a crash when Juan Mata equalized for United 3 minutes later and essentially ensured that the game went into extra time.
Despite being reduced to 10-men in the first period of extra-time, when Smalling was shown a second yellow card; it was United that finished the stronger and found the winner through Jesse Lingard midway through the second additional period.
If the game was poor, the preceding pre-match festivities were even worse; there was a delay to kick-off as a result of Tinie Tempah being late to the stage; then the X-Factor contestant due to sing the National Anthem missed her cue and we could barely hear that or Abide with Me. It was shambolic and incredibly annoying from a traditionalist point of view, as it spoiled the build-up to the game and suggested that these things are actually deemed to be more important than the Final itself. As one of my mates suggested the following day, why is it necessary to try and turn the FA Cup Final into the Superbowl? Can’t we just go back to a 3pm kick off and a traditional marching band and concentrate on the football itself?
The days following the Final brought the least surprising news story of the season with the sacking of Louis Van Gaal and the imminent arrival of Jose Mourinho as the new manager of Manchester United. It is unlikely the Dutchman will be missed by too many Manchester United or English football fans, although his press conferences did provide some level of comedy. Love him or hate him, it will be fascinating to see how Mourinho’s arrival at United, alongside those of Guardiola and Conte at City and Chelsea respectively, as well as Klopp’s first full season at Anfield, influence the dynamics of the Premier League next season.
The FA Cup Final of course marks the end of the domestic season in England, but there is still one more major club game to go with what promises to be an intriguing Champions League Final this Saturday. While both teams have been keen to play down the influence the Final of 2014 will have on this game; it is hard to believe that Atletico will not be looking to atone for their defeat 2 years ago, where they were mere minutes away from lifting the trophy. Atletico have actually had the better of their domestic duels with Real over the past three seasons; yet it remains to be seen whether the ghost of Ramos’s stoppage time equalizer will influence their mindset going into the final? From a personally biased perspective, I would love to see Simeone’s men get one over their city rivals; whatever happens it is a game that that promises to be compelling viewing.