The days of Manchester United dominating the domestic game may have passed, but manager Louis van Gaal believes lifting the Emirates FA Cup will be an important milestone for the club.
The Red Devils won the last of their 11 FA Cups in 2004 and are without a major trophy since lifting the Premier League title in 2013 – a relative famine by the standards set in the last two decades.
The club has gone through major transition since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the conclusion of that season and this term narrowly missed out on a top-four finish and, with it, Champions League qualification – fierce rivals Manchester City beating them to the punch.
Crystal Palace v Man Utd
Emirates FA Cup Final
5.30pm, Saturday 21 May 2016
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
by Katie Falkingham
But van Gaal feels beating Crystal Palace at Wembley – in a repeat of the thrilling 1990 Final – should help appease supporters so used to witnessing tangible success.
“Qualification [for the Champions League] is not a title, a title is the FA Cup,” he said.
“It is important for the players. They can look at and hold the Cup, that’s an exciting moment and especially here in England because the FA Cup is a big title.
“Also for Manchester United it is a big title. I have read that the club’s last FA Cup win was in 2004, so that’s a long time ago.
“The fans are more concerned about the title than I, because the title for the fans is fantastic. We want to give it to them.
“We are playing in the most prestigious temple of England. It confirms how important it is.”
Van Gaal’s squad has been plagued by injury this season, but his defence looks set to be boosted with Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo both passed fit to play.
Midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who played in the 2009 Final with Everton, is available again after suspension and van Gaal has hinted he may start to help combat Palace’s threat from set-pieces – 29 of their 56 goals this term have come from dead-ball situations.
The Dutchman admits he would love to witness a vintage United performance in front of a packed crowd, but knows winning is all that matters.
“Always your starting point, to impress and perform well, depends on a lot of factors, including your opponent,” added the 64-year-old.
“Our starting point is to win well and score beautiful goals.
“But if we win 1-0 that is also enough. Winning is the most important thing in a final, otherwise you have nothing.
“Close is not enough, you have to win it.”