FA Cup Final: Five talking points from the weekend's showpiece at Wembley

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Jesse Lingard will be the toast of Manchester United this week as he blasted the Red Devils to FA Cup glory with an extra-time winner against a resilient Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon.

The 23-year-old's strike came after Juan Mata had cancelled out Jason Puncheon's opener to gift Louis van Gaal's side their first piece of silverware since 2013. United were made to sweat after Chris Smalling received his marching orders but Lingard's lightning bolt stole the headlines.

United's victory, however, did not come without incident and we take a look back at five major talking points from Saturday's final...


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Rooney's influence

Much has been made of Wayne Rooney's performance's in a United shirt over recent seasons but the club captain was inspirational as he ran the game from his now familiar midfield berth.

Palace had perhaps put too much emphasis on thwarting the likes of Anthony Martial, Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford but it was the skipper who made sure the United cog was ticking over nicely.

In fact, it was a breath of fresh air to see Rooney play with such creative freedom and seemingly, less pressure to be United's match winner. This paid dividends as Rooney was able to orchestrate United's victory, almost in the fashion Paul Scholes used to, with his ability to drive and inspire his teammates.

Despite being wayward with his own goal attempts, the England captain orchestrated United's equaliser just three minutes after they had gone behind. The 30-year-old picked the ball up from deep and waltzed his way through a sea of Palace legs before carving out a cross that was chested into the path of Mata and the Spaniard finished with aplomb.

Rooney's efforts would have delighted England manager Roy Hodgson and his calming presence will surely breathe confidence back into the fans who had any doubts about the Liverpudlian leading the Three Lions into battle at next month's European Championships.

Van Gaal delivers silverware

Louis van Gaal is no stranger to winning trophies. He has now won four domestic cup competitions in Germany, Netherlands, Spain and England but his latest triumph will perhaps be his least celebrated.

A hard-fought victory over Palace will hardly sugar-coat Van Gaal's inability to clinch Champions League football for next season and the news of Jose Mourinho's imminent appointment will leave a sour taste in the mouth of the Dutchman.

It's fair to assume the pressure surrounding his future is getting to the former Netherlands coach as he diverted all talk of Mourinho [during the post-match press conference] and focused solely on Saturday's game.

Nonetheless, Van Gaal is the first manager to lead United to FA Cup glory for 12 years and has won United's first trophy since 2013 - a feat that isn't likely to satisfy the fans in the long run.

However, no matter what happens between now and the start of the new season, Van Gaal can feel somewhat rewarded for his efforts with the FA Cup success.

Lingard's thunderbolt

There's not many FA Cup finals that can boast goals of the quality that was on display at Wembley on Saturday. Puncheon's opener was scored with such aplomb that manager Alan Pardew even afforded a dance he was that enthralled by it.

Fast-forward three minutes and Mata's volley drew United level via a deflection off Joel Ward but it was Jesse Lingard's stinging effort that finally delivered the trophy for the Red Devils.

The ball fell kindly to Lingard who lashed the ball home from inside the box with such venom the net was almost removed. Lingard's finish came with just ten minutes remaining and the dismissal of Chris Smalling just beforehand made no difference.

Warrington-winger Lingard hadn't scored since a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge - 18 games previous but he picked the perfect time to end his drought.

It was a fitting end to the season for the United graduate and although he wasn't able to force his way into the reckoning for the Euro's, his cup final goal will hold him in good stead ahead of the new campaign.

Palace hard done by

Alan Pardew will be wondering what he has to do to win the FA Cup. He's failed three times now, once as a player and now twice as a manager. His latest exertion saw his Palace players do their up-most to claim an unlikely victory but it's perhaps the performance from Mark Clattenburg that will bear most of the turmoil felt by Pardew.

Lone striker Connor Wickham was bundled over by Chris Smalling but such was the momentum of the Palace striker he got back on his feet and scored a perfectly good goal with the game still level. Clattenburg had correctly awarded a free-kick but more glaringly failed to award the advantage in Palace's favour.

Pardew firmly believes Palace should have been awarded a penalty in extra-time when Wilfried Zaha was adjudged to have been bundled down by Wayne Rooney. The latter made a rather clumsy attempt to thwart his former teammate but Rooney didn't make any clear contact so Clattenburg perhaps got this decision correct.

With that said, if Rooney's attempted tackle hindered Zaha's ability to shot in any way - it should have been a penalty so you can understand Pardew's frustrations. Smalling was correctly shown red after his lazy attempt to bring down Yannick Bolasie in extra-time but the Eagles were unable to capitalise and Pardew was left to ponder what might have been.

Rashford's injury

Marcus Rashford was once again entrusted to lead the line for Manchester United and the youngster increased his glowing reputation with an all-action display. Rashford looked very much at home in front of 90,000 spectators at Wembley and looked lively from the very first whistle.

The 18-year-old's ability to stretch the Palace defence with his piercing runs gave the Eagles plenty of cause for concern and Alan Pardew's side were struggling to contain him. That, of course, was until a nasty looking stamp from Yohan Cabaye prior to a foul from Wilfried Zaha brought a premature end to the game for Rashford.

Zaha's tackle was lazy and clumsy but it was the studs of Cabaye's boot to the inside of Rashford's knee that saw him grounded where he received treatment on the pitch.

It was reassuring to some extent to see Rashford on his feet celebrating with his teammates to ease any serious concerns and he is set to join up with the England camp this week. Rashford only made his United debut in March but has already scored against Arsenal, West Ham and the derby winner at The Etihad.

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Wayne Rooney
Alan Pardew
Manchester United
Louis van Gaal
Crystal Palace
Premier League
FA Cup

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