Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is aiming to win the FA Cup with “beautiful” football but will settle for anything that brings the trophy back to Old Trafford.
United are favourites to see off Crystal Palace at Wembley today in a repeat of the 1990 final that ended after a replay with Alex Ferguson’s first piece of major silverware.
The Red Devils have not added to their honours since the Scot’s retirement in 2013 and while Van Gaal is aware United fans expect an aesthetically-pleasing brand of football, he sees success as the main priority.
Supporters have been vocal in their disapproval of United’s style at times this season and will surely demand a stirring show to end the campaign.
“Of course the starting point is to perform well, to win beautiful...to score beautiful goals,” said Van Gaal.
“But a 1-0 win, for me, is also enough because winning is the most important thing in a final. When you lose, you have nothing.”
The Dutchman also hinted the match could only truly be a spectacle if Palace threw caution to the wind, something he does not anticipate will happen.
“You always need two attacking sides, then you always get a fantastic match,” he explained.
“I think they shall defend very small spaces and then counter because they have a lot of speed in attack.
“It shall be very difficult, but you cannot always predict a final.”
Van Gaal has insisted his own future at the club, which continues to attract varied speculation in the media and on the terraces, is a minor concern compared to final itself.
And rather than fretting about whether or not it will prove to be his last game as manager, he is concerned about telling those who will not make his matchday 18 the bad news.
Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini, Matteo Darmian, and Morgan Schneiderlin are all back in the fray, meaning changes can be expected, at least on the bench, from the 3-1 win over Bournemouth.
“I have a lot of fit players now, and for me that is more difficult because I have to disappoint a lot of players,” he said.
“I have worked a year with 27 players and all 27 try their utmost best.
“Then you have to say to some ‘you are not invited for the squad’ and he has to come to the stadium. That’s not nice. I have to select a team and also I have to disappoint because some others are thinking they should play.”
Defender Daley Blind is one of several players brought to Old Trafford by Van Gaal who have yet to pick up silverware at the club. But the dramatic semi-final defeat of Everton gave him a taste of what the moment would feel like.
“You see how happy we were and how we celebrated with the fans after the goal from Anthony (Martial) against Everton in the semi-final,” he said.
“It was an amazing feeling to have a moment like that with the crowd that I never had before with the fans so close.
“It was very special. In the moment, you don’t realise what you are doing, then you see the pictures afterwards and you see the emotion you felt.
“There are no words needed, the pictures say it all.
“I’ve played there (Wembley) twice now and I’ve never lost.
“I hope we keep it that way. Playing there with such a crowd and an atmosphere like that in such a great stadium, it’s all there, what you need for a final.
Van Gaal faces a selection poser for the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace, with a quartet of players pushing for a return to the 18-man squad.
United convincingly beat Bournemouth 3-1 in their final match of the league season, but can now add fit-again trio Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Morgan Schneiderlin as well as Marouane Fellaini.
Fellaini is back in contention after a three-game suspension, putting Ander Herrera’s place at risk.
Provisional squad: De Gea, Romero, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Borthwick-Jackson, Darmian, McNair, Herrera, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Depay, Fellaini, Lingard, Mata, Rashford, Rooney, Martial.
Here’s a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis: Who will win the FA Cup final?
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