Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal goes into the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace on Saturday facing echoes of the 1990 showpiece between the two sides that proved so pivotal in the career of Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson’s United were struggling in the 1989-90 season and the clamour was growing for the manager’s dismissal, but the FA Cup win in a replay over Palace gave the Scotsman a reprieve.
He went on to build a dynasty that won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies, alongside a host of domestic cups.
Van Gaal, who took charge in May 2014 and guided United to fourth in his first season, is under similar pressure after his side finished fifth in the Premier League and dropped out of the Champions League in the group stages.
The Dutchman has been accused of moving United away from United‘s traditional brand of attacking football to a more laboured style, which yielded the second fewest goals of the league’s top 10 teams this term.
The 64-year-old was booed by some fans during his end-of-season speech after Tuesday’s final 3-1 win over Bournemouth at Old Trafford.
Speculation is rife over his future, but the former Ajax Amsterdam, Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager is adamant he will remain, irrespective of what happens at Wembley.
“Yes, because I have signed a three-year contract,” he told reporters.
Van Gaal understands the fans’ disappointment, but says they should be realistic as Unitedchase their first FA Cup title since 2004 and their first major trophy since the 2013 Premier League.
“The expectation is very high. Too high. We are a team in transition,” Van Gaal said. “I have tried to explain that.
“We didn’t reach our aim. We have to qualify for the Champions League. We have still the FA Cup final to go. Everyone has to make up his mind at how we have done this season at that time.”
Crystal Palace, who finished the Premier League five points above the relegation zone, are in the final for the first time since losing the 1990 replay 1-0 following a 3-3 draw in the first match.
“I remember Sir Alex’s career hinged on that game and maybe LVG’s career will hinge on this,” said Palace boss Alan Pardew, who played for Palace in the final 26 years ago.