Friday 22 April 2016

Rooney and Rashford key as Reds bid for place in final

As United pursue a first FA Cup final for nine years, two of the key attacking men have very different experience of the world's oldest domestic competition.

Wayne Rooney is a Wembley veteran, but Marcus Rashford appears likely to make his debut at the national stadium.
After playing together for the first time against Villa and then Palace, the duo may prove pivotal in ensuring the Reds set up a return date in the capital on 21 May.

Rooney has played 32 times for England at Wembley and scored 19 goals- an excellent ratio.
He had to wait until 2007, when he was 21, to appear there as the venue was being renovated and his first outing- for United- ended in disappointment as Chelsea won the trophy through Didier Drogba's extra time winner.

A few months later, he converted his penalty in the shootout against the same opponents to help earn victory in the Community Shield and the United captain also has a last minute equaliser in the curtain raiser against Blues in 2009, a headed winner in the League Cup final over Villa (2010) and a Champions League final strike (2011) on his CV. 

In total, the 30 year old has appeared seven times at Wembley in United colours so when he lines up against his former club it will be his 40th outing beneath the arch.

He is clearly a man on a mission as the FA Cup is the only major trophy missing from his collection in United colours. 
If you had told him, or anyone else, after his Man of the Match display in the 2005 final against Arsenal that he'd still be waiting for a maiden Cup win, it would have been something of a surprise.

By contrast, 18 year old Rashford has yet to play at Wembley and his memories of the competition obviously pale into comparison.
Rooney attended the 1995 final as a fan of his boyhood side, when Everton beat United 1-0, but Rashford was probably still in nappies when United overcame Newcastle to seal the second leg of the Treble in 1999.

The Mancunian striker was only six when the Reds last won the FA Cup and so will have only the sketchiest memories of the club's success in the competition.

Yet, as a raw teenager, he may get the chance to become a hero and continue to carve his name into United folklore.
His sublime strike at West Ham helped set up the semi final with Everton and the expansive Wembley pitch could provide numerous opportunities to exploit his explosive pace- especially against what looks to be a makeshift Toffees backline.

Whether Rooney or Rashford end up being influential on the big stage this weekend remains to be seen, but both will be extremely motivated to ensure the team lines up another day to remember at Wembley.

Wednesday's win over Palace hinted at the prospect of the pair combining to good effect, and the chance to upset a depleted Everton side should be approached with relish. 

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