Monday 23 May 2016

A winning farewell for Louis with Mourinho set to take over

All the messages in and around Wembley before and during this FA Cup final pointed to this Wembley showpiece marking the end of Louis van Gaal's largely undistinguised two years in charge. 

When his expected replacement with Jose Mourinho is confirmed, the 64-year-old Dutchman can at least take pleasure and credit for returning United to trophy-winning ways for the first time since the retirement of Sir Alex in 2013.

Saturday's performance was another that has become our FA Cup template this season, driving on through periods of adversity to eventually come out of the other side victorious, something for which Van Gaal deserves credit.

We won at West Ham in a quarter-final replay then survived resurgent Everton's spirited comeback to win the semi-final with Tony Martial's late winner.

Here, we fell behind through Jason Puncheon's goal 12 minutes from the end and then had to win the match with ten men following Chris Smalling's red card.

It was a victory that clearly meant so much to Van Gaal as the normally impassive manager raced from his seat in the dugout to embrace his staff in celebration of Lingard's winner.

In what appears to be his last act as manager, it was one that illustrates he will be leaving on a high.

Captain Wayne Rooney did more than most to ensure a glorious send-off for his manager, as he led his team-mates up the Wembley steps to collect the famous trophy and add a missing medal to his now complete collection - a richly deserved accolade.

The England international may not have been at his best but it was his intervention, character determination and sheer willpower when we had our backs to the wall that dragged United back into a cup final we were in danger of losing.

Bursting from midfield, he drifted past four Palace players and took on two more before crossing to far post for Fellaini to knock on for Mata to score.

It was a momentum shifting moment amid another lung-busting display from Rooney, typified by his tackle on Wilf Zaha to prevent a goal from the former United winger.

Rooney may have his critics but he is indispensable for club and country and he proved once again he retains the ability to influence the biggest of games.

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