The Top 5

The 5 greatest United FA Cup final victories

The most historic competition in English domestic football returns this Saturday as Chelsea and Manchester United meet in each side’s last game of the season.

Both clubs have a history of winning the trophy, but have endured underwhelming seasons in league competition this year.

United are favourites to win this time out, and it would be the club’s second FA Cup in three years.

However, after last week’s lackluster display against Watford in the final league game of the season, many fans will question as to what side will turn up: the one who came back to beat City 2-3 at the Etihad? Or the side that lost 1-0 to Brighton a few weeks back?

Nevertheless, to take the pre-match anxiety away, why not sit back and read my list of United’s top five FA Cup triumphs?

5 – 2004: Manchester United 3 – 0 Millwall

I’m going to preface this by saying my inclusion of this win is one of pure nostalgia, as it’s a game close to my heart. This FA Cup win was United’s first since I had started supporting the club two seasons earlier.

I was born in 1997, which means, of course, I was alive during United’s treble-winning season. But at that time, I was not even aware football existed.

I distinctly remember watching this final in my friend’s living room. He was a Liverpool fan so naturally, tensions were running high – even though we were both seven at the time.

United had finished third in the Premier League that year. Of course, this was the season of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’.

However, two goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy and a header from Cristiano Ronaldo, who was just completing his first season as a Red Devil, secured a comfortable for United as well as a record 11th FA Cup trophy.

While this win may not necessarily be United’s most impressive in recent memory, it certainly began to build the foundations for the side that dominated the footballing world in the mid-late noughties.

4 – 1996: Liverpool 0 – 1 Manchester United

This FA Cup triumph helped United cement themselves as a global threat in the world of football.

A few days prior, United secured their third Premier League title in four years, and this FA Cup final was also their third in as many years.

Liverpool, on the other hand, had been going through a dry spell in terms of trophies, having not won the Premier League since 1990, nor the FA Cup since 1992.

Both teams had been touted as being two of the most attacking sides in England, and that showed by the number of goals each of them scored during that campaign.

The starting XI for United featured Eric Cantona just behind Andy Cole up front, along with Giggs and Beckham on the wings and Peter Schmeichel in goal – a mouth-watering team to look back on.

Both sides were at a stalemate until the 85th minute, when Eric Cantona struck the ball through a crowded penalty area into the Liverpool goal.

A fitting return for the captain, who had only just come back from a seven-month ban which he earned against the scousers earlier in the season.

3 – 1999: Manchester United 2 – 0 Newcastle

Perhaps this accolade will be overshadowed by United’s achievements on a grander scale that season, or even by that Giggsy goal against Arsenal in the semi-finals. Nevertheless, there would not have been a treble without it.

United went into the game having already secured another Premier League title, and still had a Champions League final left to play. Fergie started a relatively rotated squad against Newcastle, bearing in mind the upcoming game against Bayern.

Roy Keane and Paul Scholes were suspended for the Champions League final, so both started against the Magpies in midfield.

Meanwhile, top-scorer Dwight Yorke and Nicky Butt were dropped to the bench as Sir Alex wanted to protect them from injury. First-choice centre-back, Jaap Stam, was also absent from the starting XI as he was only just beginning to recover from an achilles problem.

Goals from Sheringham and Scholes secured the cup and helped United take a massive step forward in completing their iconic treble-winning season.

2 – 1994: Chelsea 0 – 4 Manchester United

Arguably United’s most impressive win on paper, this FA Cup final more-or-less epitomises just how dominant United were in the 90s.

Like other mentions on this list, United went into the 1994 FA Cup final having already finished the season as Premier League champions.

United looked to become the fourth team of the 20th century to win the domestic double, a win would mean a first in the club’s history.

Chelsea looked the better side in the first half. Both teams failed to score until the 60th minute when Eric Cantona broke the deadlock and gave United the lead after tucking away a penalty.

Another Cantona penalty six minutes later, followed by additional goals from Mark Hughes in the 69th and 92nd minute secured another FA Cup victory for United and the club’s first ever domestic double.

If only this year’s final could follow a similar narrative…

1 – 1977: Liverpool 1 – 2 Manchester United

Who you gonna call? Scouse busters.

Much like United in 1999, Liverpool went into this FA Cup final on track for a treble-winning season.

Bob Paisley’s men had already secured the league title, as well as a European Cup just four days prior. So, it was up to United to deny them the remarkable achievement of a treble-winning season.

The Red Devils did just that, in emphatic fashion, and in front of nearly 100,000 fans at Wembley.

To be denied such an achievement by their bitter rivals – who would then go on to become the first to achieve it then 22 years later – was an embarrassing moment for Liverpool. One that will go down as a milestone in the two clubs’ historic rivalry.

All three goals in the match were scored within a four-minute period. United number nine Stuart Pearson opened the scoring in the 51st minute, while Liverpool’s Jimmy Case responded just two minutes later.

Then, in the 55th minute, United regained the lead through Jimmy Greenhoff. Lou Macari’s shot had bounced off Greenhoff’s chest and looping into the back of the net.

Despite slumping to sixth in the league that year, United’s shutting-up of a rampant Liverpool squad in the cup still makes this season a memorable one.