Manchester United won the FA Cup on Saturday, beating Crystal Palace at Wembley after extra time. Jesse Lingard scored a last-gasp winner, after Wayne Rooney had cancelled out a Jason Puncheon opener.
United saw more of the ball in the game's opening exchanges, though Crystal Palace's determined defending ensured nothing came of the early pressure. Indeed, the first save was David de Gea's, with the Spaniard called into action inside 20 minutes by a smart Yannick Bolasie header.
That opportunity served to bring the game to life, and Juan Mata almost opened the scoring midway through the half. His half-volley from a tight angle was parried to safety by Wayne Hennessey, with Marouane Fellaini almost breaking the deadlock on the subsequent corner.
The best chance of the half came just past the half-hour, when some smart work by Marcus Rashford down the right culminated in a perfect low cross for Anthony Martial. His low drive was heroically blocked at the far post by Joel Ward, who the Eagles had to thank for keeping the game goalless to the interval.
United maintained a measure of control over the game in the second half's early sparring, and twice rattled the woodwork in quick succession. Fellaini had the best chance, though from inside the area smashed the ball against the Palace crossbar; a few minutes later an Antonio Valencia cross was met by Martial, though his glancing header grazed the post.
United seemed to be inflicting increasing pain on their opponents, who sank ever deeper into their own half. But inside the final quarter-of-an-hour, the inevitable happened. A set-piece bounced out to Ward, whose hanging ball found substitute Jason Puncheon lurking at the back post. A venomous lash enabled the ball to beat de Gea at his near post, and the Eagles had the lead with just minutes to spare.
Fortunately, it didn't prove the winner. An excellent run by an otherwise poor Wayne Rooney proved instrumental in the build-up to United's almost instantaneous equaliser; a clipped cross from the right was subsequently flicked on by Fellaini for Mata, who rifled the ball home from point-blank range. The game opened out for the first time in the match, and extra time beckoned.
The first period of extra time passed largely without consequence, with United continuing to control possession without reward. But shortly before the interval they found themselves again exposed on the counter, and were again punished as a result. Fortunately, it wasn't with a goal; unfortunately, it was with a red card. Chris Smalling, already on a booking, effectively rugby tackled Bolasie to the ground on the halfway line, and could have no complaints when the referee showed him down the tunnel.
Palace had a quarter-of-an-hour to make their numerical advantage count, and they almost did so almost instantly: only a good de Gea stop prevented Dwight Gayle from restoring Palace's lead. But United's response was a good one, and within minutes they had the advantage courtesy of a stunning Jesse Lingard strike. The United substitute caught a loose ball perfectly on the volley from the edge of the area, the ball sailing unstoppably into Hennessey's top corner.
United withstood the late pressure to seal the victory, and a kid from Warrington had won his boyhood club the cup. If this is the end of van Gaal's tenure, it's a good one.