The FA Cup always proves a bit of a conundrum. The regular Premier League season has wound down, and we've already crowned a champion in the glorious 5,000-to-1 Leicester City. The knockout-style FA Cup competition feels like the dregs of happenstance—luck in an unpredictable game. But today proved something special between Crystal Palace and Manchester United. It actually had some action.
Sure, each of these finals require a victor, and so there has to be at least one ripple of the net. But after a slow start, Crystal Palace and Manchester United traded a thrilling pair of goals—within three minutes of each other. Palace owed their first to a lovely touch from substitute Jason Puncheon that nearly caught him offsides. To him, it looked like you could drive a truck between Manchester United's DeGea and the near post. All Puncheon had to fit was the ball.
But it wasn't long until Manchester United retaliated with a pristine volley from Juan Mata that filtered uglily through the Palace defense.
The game went to extra time, and Palace witnessed a glimmer of hope as Manchester United's Chris Smalling was sent off on a pair of yellows.
But Manchester United would ultimately come back for a wonder strike from Jesse Lingard to break the crystalline hearts of Palace. (Sorry; had to.)
The FA Cup belongs to Manchester United for the first time since 2004, and we're just glad we didn't have to sit through a series of unsatisfying PKs to determine who took it. Goodnight, English football. For now.