By Adam Joseph
Twelve times, they say. Manchester United have reclaimed their title as the FA Cup’s most successful side, joining Arsenal on twelve title wins. It was a 2-1 win for United that was equal parts drab and dramatic, but Wayne Rooney got to lift his first trophy as Captain in a performance fitting of a leader.
Jason Puncheon’s sensational strike with just over ten minutes to go killed the hope of hundreds of millions around the world. Juan Mata came to the rescue only minutes later when a brilliant Rooney run led to Marouane Fellaini’s chested down for the Spaniard to lash it home to equalise.
Believe it or not, the Red Devils actually registered twenty four shots on target across the regular and extra time periods. Only three were on target however, in typical Van Gaal fashion. They dominated possession in typical style, but a lack of cutting edge and genuine chance creation almost cost them dearly.
Rooney and Michael Carrick lifted the trophy together in what was a nice moment, as both have now won everything there is to win in club football (outside of the Europa League, next season perhaps). It might be the latter’s last game at the club as an extension remains unsigned, as a club great might seek a fresh start elsewhere.
Meanwhile, within minutes of the win Jose Mourinho’s arrival was leaked as becoming official perhaps as soon as today or tomorrow. It was an unusual move by whoever was at the source of the link, but it is ultimately inconsequential.
The Portuguese’s arrival has been foregone conclusion for a long time, and whether or not you believe the rumours cycled daily by the classless English press is a personal prerogative. Mourinho has been an inevitability, whether some like how it was announced or not.
It is not very often that a manager wins his team a trophy (albeit his first at the club) and will no longer be at Manchester United by the end of the week. Reports mainly surround Van Gaal being gone as soon as Monday.
While it seems ruthless, it’s also necessary. Quite simply the club cannot wait any longer. Arsenal are already doing business, with Granit Xhaka already on his way. Arguably Germany’s most underrated midfielder has already been snapped up.
Meanwhile Pep Guardiola has been announced since the beginning of February, and there’s no doubt a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to remodel the squad in the Catalan’s image. Antonio Conte is likely doing the same at Chelsea, though his focus on Italy clouds that the same way Van Gaal’s did in 2014.
This is what modern football has become, ruthlessness is the way forward. Southampton showed it sacking Nigel Adkins to bring in Mauricio Pochettino, that worked. Watford are doing the same with Walter Mazzarri replacing Quique Sanchez Flores, though the result of that remains to be seen.
With the European Championships, the Copa America and Olympics approaching that cuts the time for transfer business severely. Xhaka wanted his future sorted before the Euros, and he got it. This is why United cannot and couldn’t wait long to act.
Van Gaal has set up the youth part of Old Trafford admirably, with several talented youngsters breaking through this season. It doesn’t matter how they did it, as long as they did. This sets up the core of United going forward. That’s something to be grateful for.
None of this though, should overshadow the joy of the FA Cup. It’s been twelve long years for a twelfth FA Cup win, and the feeling of Jesse Lingard’s stunning strike won’t be forgotten for a long time. Perhaps it’ll be the beginning of something bigger at Manchester United.
Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.
Follow him on twitter @AdamJosephSport