Manchester United produced a late, late winner to reach a record-equalling 19th FA Cup final after snatching a precious 2-1 victory over Everton inside Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
The Red Devils, who currently lie five points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal in the race for a top four Premier League finish this season, advanced thanks to forward Anthony Martial’s 93rd minute finish which sent the red half of the national stadium into raptures.
Midfielder Marouane Fellaini fired United ahead from close-range after 34 minutes, before goalkeeper David de Gea brilliantly preserved their one-goal cushion shortly before the hour-mark after masterfully saving Romelu Lukaku’s 57th-minute spot-kick.
However; the Spaniard shot stopper was eventually beaten, but by his own defender, Chris Smalling, as the England international steered Toffees substitute Gerard Deulofeu’s cross past his own teammate shortly after.
With Roberto Martinez’s Everton applying relentless pressure late on, and becoming the more likelier team to grab a late winner, Louis van Gaal’s summer signing Martial stole the limelight deep into added time after breaking clear of the opponent’s defensive ranks to finish coolly past despairing ‘keeper Joel Robles after latching onto Ander Herrera’s.
Next month’s fixture in the competition will be United’s first FA Cup final since 2007; when they lost 1-0 to Chelsea after extra-time due to Didier Drogba’s only goal of the game.
When coming back to Wembley on May 21; Van Gaal’s side will face Crystal Palace after manager Alan Pardew guided his fellow Premier League outfit to the final after they similarly fought past Watford 2-1 on Sunday.
In exact fashion to Saturday’s proceedings; the Eagles took the lead through Yannick Bolasie’s sixth minute header, only for Troy Deeney to nod the Hornets level following Jose Manuel Jurado’s corner on 55 minutes.
But just moments later, Palace struck the decisive and winning blow when striker Connor Wickham converted Pape Souare’s cross past visiting goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes to seal a first FA Cup final appearance in 26 years for the Selhurst Park outfit.
It was the former Ipswich Town and Sunderland striker’s first strike in the competition since netting for the Black Cats in the third round against Bolton Wanderers back in January 2013.
Despite sitting 16th in the Premier League standings; still eight points above the drop zone with only three league games remaining, meaning their top-flight status isn’t guaranteed just yet, boss Pardew guided his side to a repeat of the 1990 final between Palace and United, where both teams played out an enthralling 3-3 draw, before the Red Devils prevailed 1-0 victors in the replay just days later.
Sunday’s result means the South Londoners have now won four of their last five visits to the national stadium, making Van Gaal’s United very wary of their opponent’s fortunes inside Wembley ahead of next month’s final.
The encounter will be a flashback for Palace boss Pardew himself, after featuring in the Eagles only previous FA Cup final appearances 26 years ago when the Red Devils pipped them in the narrow replay.