Louis van Gaal is looking to bag his first piece of silverware as Manchester United manager this weekend when his Red Devils take on Crystal Palace inside Wembley Stadium in the 2016 FA Cup final.
The 64-year-old Dutchman, who arrived at Old Trafford back in the summer of 2014 after replacing David Moyes as boss, will be looking to end the Premier League club’s 12-year wait for an FA Cup triumph.
Meanwhile the Eagles; who finished just five points above the English top-flight’s relegation places, are seeking revenge after 1990’s agonising loss to United in a 1-0 replay defeat.
Palace manager Alan Pardew was part of that side that lost in the final 26 years ago, but he has guided his men to victories over four fellow Premier League outfits – Southampton, Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford – to reach Saturday’s showdown.
Crystal Palace’s FA Cup run has been a welcome relief from their dire league form having won just two Premier League encounters since the turn of the calendar year – six points that ultimately preserved their top-flight status.
However the Eagles will walk out at Wembley with history boding well for them considering Palace have won their last three fixtures inside the national stadium and having been victorious in six of their last seven FA Cup ties against Premier League opposition.
As for the opposing manager, Wembley could be his final venue in charge of United. Van Gaal is under pressure having delivered a fifth-place finish for the Old Trafford outfit in the Premier League this term, with ex-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho continually speculated to succeed him in Manchester this summer.
However guiding his side to FA Cup victory this weekend could possibly convince the United board to keep the former Netherlands coach in charge until his current deal expires next summer. Then again, it could just turn out to prove the perfect way to depart the 13-time Premier League champions.
Having fell short of Champions League qualification this campaign, finishing just goal difference behind rivals Manchester City in the league standings, Tuesday night’s end-of-season 3-1 win over AFC Bournemouth at Old Trafford extended United’s decent run of form – with the Red Devils having lost just once in their last eight outings in all competitions.
Despite Manchester United’s glorious history, this is there first FA Cup final since 2007, but they have not lifted the trophy since 2004 after beating Millwall 3-0 in the 2004 final at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
Van Gaal can also guide his Red Devils to a slice of FA Cup history if they can overcome Palace, with one more final triumph equalling Arsenal’s record of 12 competition wins.
Wales international Joe Ledley is certainly ruled out of Saturday’s final at Wembley, after the Palace midfielder fractured his fibula earlier this month in league action.
However Eagles boss Pardew has been boosted by the return of winger Bakary Sako, meanwhile fellow forward Wilfried Zaha is set to face his former club.
Pardew is also set to choose between either Dwight Gayle or Connor Wickham to lead the line for Palace, meanwhile striker Emmanuel Adebayor could play a part in what could be his final appearance for the club.
Meanwhile for United; full-backs Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo have seemingly overcome their respective injuries to stake a claim in manager Van Gaal’s first-team thoughts.
Only defender Luke Shaw and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger are definitely ruled out for the Red Devils, with Marouane Fellaini available once more after serving the last of his recent three-match suspension.
England captain Wayne Rooney is set to sit behind in-form forwards Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial at Wembley, with at least one of the strikers finding the back of the net in four of United’s last five outings in all competitions.
League Positions: Crystal Palace – 15th (42 pts); Manchester United – 5th (66 pts)
Previous Meeting: Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace – April 20, 2016 (Premier League)
Form: Crystal Palace – DWLLWL; Manchester United – WWDWLD
Key Men: Crystal Palace – Yannick Bolasie; Manchester United – Anthony Martial
Shoot Says: Crystal Palace 1-3 Manchester United