Manchester United battled their way into the FA Cup final today with a penalty shoot-out win over Brighton and Hove Albion at Wembley.
The two sides cancelled each other out in 120 minutes of football which saw few chances and two defences at the top of their game.
United fans had a right to be fearful of penalties, having lost seven out of their last eight in all competitions – the only success coming against Rochdale and today’s goalkeeper, Roberto Sanchez.
It was all the more worrying that normal penalty taker, Bruno Fernandes, had gone off in extra time. Looking at the lineup, two players stood out – Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, whose last attempted penalties at Wembley were both missed.
They were in the shootout of the Euro 2020 Final when England lost to Italy.
It was nerve-wracking even to watch first Sancho step up to take United’s third penalty today, not only because of that history but also because of his form this season, which has oozed a lack of confidence.
The United winger despatched his spot kick with ease.
Rashford followed for United’s fourth and did the same, burying the ghost of that July evening in 2021.
The courage the pair showed and the subsequent success it brought United could be a turning point in their young careers.
Sancho, in particular, may use this to kick on and find the kind of form that saw United pay over £80 million pounds for him in 2021.
Rashford’s confidence has already reached new heights this season but it will do him no harm, either.
Good character from both Rashford and Sancho to take those pens back at Wembley
— Jonas Hen Shrag (@JonathanShrager) April 23, 2023
Another brave penalty taker was Victor Lindelof, who stepped up to take the seventh spot kick, knowing that it would take his side through to the final.
Lindelof has come in for a great deal of stick from United fans over the years but he was commanding today and capped off a superb performance with that crucial winning kick.
United now face “noisy neighbours” Man City in the final, knowing that a win might be necessary to stop them repeating their own unique feat of the League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.
The match will take place on Saturday 3rd June.
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