Arsenal’s hopes of three-in-a-row FA Cup glory were dashed this season after they crashed out at the Quarter Final stage to Watford. The Hornets would go on to lose to Crystal Palace in their Semi Final and set up a Palace Vs. Manchester United final. If the idea of The Eagles taking on United in a cup final rings a bell, it’ll be déjà vu with good reason – it’s a repeat of the FA Cup final twenty six short years ago.
Martial arts fans might always equate Palace/United with Eric Cantona’s Kung Fu antics at Selhurst Park back in 1995, but football purists might prefer to recall a sporting event where the player’s studs remained in the hallowed Wembley turf. As opposed to in the face of some poor bloke from Croydon.
Let’s flash back to the first year of the ’90s for a little while, shall we? It’s time to get all nostalgic and remember May 12th (and 17th) 1990…
This was back in the days of the FA Cup final replay being a fallback option, in the event of a draw. Penalties were eyed with such suspicion back then. And England’s penalty loss to West Germany at Italia ’90 hadn’t even happened by this point. Anyway, the inevitable happened and the first game finished all square after 120 minutes.
So a rematch was required. 210 minutes eventually decided the winner. Which is pretty brutal, isn’t it? Especially when you consider that – Alex Ferguson’s goalkeeper swap aside – the same two XI’s started each game, just a few days apart.
Fun fact: Palace’s team here – it’ was the last time an all-English one started an FA Cup final.
Here are the line ups:
The only change for the second tie was Jim Leighton dropped in the United goal in favour of Les Sealey. It was to be an inspired decision by Ferguson. A string of fine saves kept Palace’s front line at bay and proved pivotal in United picking up the trophy.
Oh, yeah – sorry. Man United won in the end. SPOILER ALERT.
But it was no cakewalk for the North West club. The first leg saw Palace fly out of the traps. Centre back Gary O’Reilly put them ahead with a deflected effort that came off Gary Pallister’s bonce on 18 minutes.
Quarter of an hour later Palace ‘keeper Nigel Martyn let Captain Fantastic Bryan Robson level after misjudging his header. Then 17 minutes after the restart, Sparky (that’s Stoke City boss Mark Hughes for our younger readers) put United ahead.
Enter Ian Wright. The youngster came on for Phil Barber on 69 minutes. Three minutes later he’d equalised and taken the game into extra time…
The on-fire Wrighty bagged his brace just after play resumed and it looked like former Man United star Steve Coppell’s men were heading for glory. Until Hughes matched Wright’s efforts and grabbed his second and United’s third. 3-3. And so it stayed.
So a replay was needed. A cagey second game ended in a 1-0 victory for the Reds. The game was decided by left back Lee Martin who chested down a pass from Neil Webb to rifle home a half-volley into the top of the net.
The sweetest thing about it all? Martin gave his winner’s medal to Jim Leighton, the Scottish goalkeeper coldly dropped for the replay.
And that’s lovely, isn’t it?
The game would go on to be something of a turning point for Manchester United as they went on to dominate English football for decades. Could we see a repeat of this on Saturday? Will Louis van Gaal go on to defy his critics and maybe emulate Sir Alex Ferguson? Or will Palace boss Alan Pardew – who played in both 1990 FA Cup finals – scupper things?
Let’s wait and see, eh?