Saturday’s showpiece at Wembley represents a significant transformation in the careers of both Cabaye and manager Alan Pardew, given the opportunity it presents and the contrast from that and their time at Newcastle.
Cabaye excelled as an individual at St James’ Park but returned to the Premier League with Palace last summer after his career stalled at Paris St Germain. Pardew left Newcastle for Palace just seven months earlier, and has this season prioritised the FA Cup in a way he previously could not at a club which was recently relegated to the Championship.
It is no secret Pardew was discouraged from pursuing glory in cup competitions and to prioritise only the league, and having witnessed that attitude during his two and a half years there, Cabaye recognises he has been given a chance he believed was beyond him.
“To be honest, no,” Cabaye, 30, answered when asked if he ever thought he’d play in the cup final.
“At Newcastle the cup runs were very bad and now I have the opportunity to play in a big game.
“The FA Cup semi-final (win over Watford) was fantastic, the atmosphere was very good and yeah, I am disappointed I didn’t get that with Newcastle.
“The cup has always been important (to Pardew), even at Newcastle. Maybe the group mentality is different.
“All the players now know how important the cup is, to get a trophy. We have had a fantastic run, we have beaten four Premier League teams (to reach the final) and now we are in the final. All the players are focused and determined to win.”
The midfielder’s first memories of the cup surround the 1996 final, when a late goal from Eric Cantona secured United’s 1-0 defeat of Liverpool.
Though a significant figure for United during the 1990s, Cantona was unable to reproduce his club form for France — whose inclusion of Cabaye in their squad for Euro 2016 justifies his decision to leave PSG for Palace — but that did little to stop him inspiring a player who watched him while growing up.
“I liked Cantona’s mentality,” said Cabaye.
“He had fantastic confidence and he was such a great player. I am disappointed for him that he couldn’t have a big influence with the French squad but for me he was one of the biggest French players.
“Cantona, even (David) Ginola, were very, very important for French players to know more about the Premier League (during the 1990s in France).”
Meanwhile Wayne Rooney sees his future in United and England’s midfield as that is where the captain now feels most effective.
Rooney was deservedly handed the man-of-the-match award for his display in Tuesday’s 3-1 win against Bournemouth and is keen to keep that role moving forwards, especially after England’s top-scorer features at Euro 2016.
“I think sometimes you have to make choices in your career and at the minute it is probably better for me to play deeper,” he said.
“Now obviously that’s a bit different now with England because I could still be the striker, but certainly after that, I am sure for next season, that is probably where I see myself playing.
“I think of course you’re involved in the game,” he added.
“I feel like I can dictate games more from there and try and control the tempo in games.”