Manchester United came into the 113th FA Cup Final with the chance to seal a famous double for the first time in the club’s history, having already beaten Blackburn to the title by 8 points. It would be a historic day, if achieved, with Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool the only other teams to win the League and Cup double in the 20th century. United were favourites, Chelsea having finished a lowly 14th in the league, although the blues had already beaten United twice in the season.
On the road to Wembley the Red Devils had already seen off Sheffield United, Norwich City, Wimbledon, Charlton Athletic and Oldham Athletic after a replay of the semi-final. Chelsea, on the other hand, were strong enough to overcome challenges from Barnet, Sheffield Wednesday, Oxford United, Wolves and Luton Town.
Team line ups:
Steve Clarke.......Erland Johnsen.......Jakob Kjeldbjerg.......Frank Sinclair
Craig Burley.......Eddie Newton .......Denis Wise (c)
John Spencer.......Mark Stein[/center]
Paul Parker.......Steve Bruce (c).......Gary Pallister.......Dennis Irwin
Andrei Kanchelskis.......Roy Keane.......Paul Ince.......Ryan Giggs
Eric Cantona.......Mark Hughes[/center]
Notable absentee for the United side was Bryan Robson who didnt even make the bench. Brian McClair instead took his place, Fergie feeling this gave him more options off the bench. United fans were relieved to see the “The Great Dane” take his place between the sticks having picked up an ankle injury a couple of weeks prior. Chelsea Player/Manager Glenn Hoddle elected to leave himself on the bench for this one but included a youthful Frank Sinclair at left-back to compete with the pace of Kanchelskis, and two nippy forwards in Stein and Spencer who he hoped would give the giant centre-back pairing of Bruce and Pallister the run-around.
The game started at a high tempo with Chelsea mounting the first attack on a greasy surface due to heavy rainfall. Paul Ince threw himself in front of an effort by young Sinclair to block the danger. Ryan Giggs went on a surging run from just inside his own half. After skipping past a couple of blue shirts in his usual fashion he was taken out by Johnsen who received a booking for his troubles. United had a brief spell of pressure which eventually fizzled out when Pallister blazed a long range effort over the bar. In the early stages Chelsea were were playing some long balls but all in vain as Pallister and Bruce easily cut out any aerial supply. If the London side were to create any danger they needed to play the ball to the feet of Spencer and Stein rather than to their heads.
In the first 15 minutes Giggs had been the pick of the bunch for the reds who were looking relaxed and had yet to get out of first gear. Tackles were fierce and competitive, aided by the slippery surface. Bruce was the next to be cautioned after a crunching tackle on little John Spencer. Although Keane and Ince were assured in midfield, United began to give away possession which allowed Chelsea to attack them with pace. Sinclair used his speed down the left wing, sending a low cross into the box but Stein was unable to poke it past Schmeichel. Chelsea were now looking dangerous. Newton played a clever ball in behind the defence for Spencer to run on to. His shot was deflected off Schmeichel’s leg and almost fell kindly for Stein only for Pallister’s intervention. United off the hook.
Chelsea were causing problems with their speedy forward whereas United were having problems getting Cantona involved in the game. The blues continued to press and after a failed attempt at a clearance by Pallister the ball fell nicely to Peacock who unleashed a dipping left-foot volley which had Schmeichel well beaten but it crashed against the bar and rebounded to safety. United regained their composure and on the breakaway Kanchelskis released Giggs on the right this time who sent a deep ball over the top to Cantona who had pulled off his marker. His header back across goal was aimed at Hughes but Kharine was able to intercept and hold the ball.
The referee blew for half time and Hoddle would have been the happier of the two managers. United were giving away sloppy possession and Chelsea were the creators of any notable chances. Cantona was looking out-of-sorts with nothing coming off for him, however Chelsea would have been disappointed that they couldn’t convert possession and chances into goals and the teams remained level at the break.
The second half kicked off with the rain still pouring. United had efforts on goal with Giggs from long range and then a header from Cantona after a floated ball from Paul Parker. United began to build momentum in attack with slick passes. Again they moved it down the left and as Giggs turns inside he pokes the ball towards Irwin who is upended in the box by Newton. David Ellery awards a penalty, it was clear as day.
Cantona was the man to take it. He hadn’t had the best of games until now but he needed to keep his nerve in front of 80,000 people packed into the Wembley stadium. Sure enough the talismanic Frenchman coolly placed it in the right hand corner, sending the goalie the wrong way. He had made almost no contribution to the game yet was confident enough to put away the spot kick. 1-0 to United. They were now 30 minutes away from making history and the United fans were in full voice.
Chelsea looked to get back in the game immediately but from their free kick United launched a counter attack with four players against their three. Kanchelskis had the ball on the right but his cross evaded Hughes and ultimately came to nothing – a great opportunity wasted.
The game was now end-to-end with both teams really going for it. Kanchelskis chased a pass into the box and on receiving a challenge from Sinclair fell to the ground and won a penalty. A harsh decision it must be said which gave Cantona the chance to all but end Chelsea’s FA Cup dream. He duly dispatched the penalty, a carbon-copy of his first with the keeper going the wrong way again and Cantona putting it in the same corner as before. 2-0.
Hoddle made a change bringing himself on for Craig Burley who had been largely anonymous in the second half but Chelsea’s challenge quickly evaporated. Sinclair slipped on the wet surface and from nothing Mark Hughes was left with the task of sliding the ball into the net. 3-0 and United were Cruising.
The London outfit were on the ropes and now taking a beating. A long ball over the top sent Cantona through on goal. He had only the keeper to beat to complete his hat-trick but steered the ball the wrong side of the post. United were now oozing confidence and the crowd are cheering every pass completed to a red shirt. But Chelsea weren’t done just yet, as they sweep forward Peacock’s header is clawed away by the diving Schmeichel and it goes out for a corner.
Wise should have grabbed a consolation goal after he found himself on the end of a great passing move. Cascarino and Spencer also had late chances but were both thwarted by Peter Schmeichel. This historic day was rounded off when Ince found himself bearing down on goal, he rounded the keeper and then unselfishly squared a pass to McClair who made it 4-0.
The game was concluded and Alex Ferguson had achieved what the great Matt Busby missed out on with the Babes.
Manchester United 4-0 Chelsea
Cantona 2 (2pens)
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