13:30 Ah, FA Cup final day. As far as sporting occasions go, this is right near the top of the sporting calendar. Everybody has a favourite FA Cup moment, whether it be Ricky Villa’s magic feet or Lawrie Sanchez triggering the greatest cup final shock of all time. Today, Darlington go in search of their own magic moment.
13:40 Kick off is at 3pm, so between now and then we’ll take you through all you need to know about today’s game. Manchester United have had a fairly average season by their standards, finishing 6th in the Premier League and winning the League Cup. The Champions League still eludes Alex Ferguson though, and their semi final defeat to PSG will be the biggest annoyance to the Scot. Still though, two trophies wouldn’t be a bad season!
Darlington meanwhile finished 17th in their first ever Premier League campaign, something which manager David Black considered ‘our league win’. There’s no doubt their aim was just to stay up, and the FA Cup run has been a bonus to them.
13:45 Route to the Final
Manchester United have barely been tested on their route to the final, only facing Premier League opposition once before the semi final when they dispatched Aston Villa at Old Trafford in Round 4. Northampton, Bristol City & Huddersfield were sent packing in rounds 3, 5 and the Quarter finals respectively.
Darlington meanwhile ran a bit of a local gauntlet to reach the semi finals. Trips to Carlisle and Bishop Auckland saw Darlington pick up two wins to reach round 5 where they were given a break from local derbies to face Division 2 Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. After beaing the Seasiders 1-0, it was finally a home tie for Darlington against fierce local rivals and fellow Premier League side Middlesbrough. Steve Gaughan, who we’ll talk more about later, scored the decisive goal that sent Darlington to the semi finals.
Whilst the world wanted a Manchester derby final, there were sighs of relief when the two Manchester clubs were kept apart in the semi final. Tottenham Hotspur, who have since been relegated, were drawn against Manchester United
This left Man City to face Darlington, and another 4-1 scoreline.
An unbelievable spell either side of half time from Darlington and Man City had no answer. Which brings us to today…
13:55 Team news will be with us in 5 minutes, but we know captain Gary Neville & Antoine Sibierski are out injured for Manchester United, whilst defender Leigh Townsend is suspended for Darlington.
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel:
“I know Gary will be gutted to miss today’s game. He just loves winning and obviously he loves the club. He’ll be in the dressing room getting the lads fired up, but United are so strong, they won’t miss him. Darlington just don’t have the players to hurt them.”
14:00 TEAM NEWS
Manchester United: Barthez, Dyer, P Neville, Stam, Jepsen, Butt, Pelatti, Keane (c), Shearer, Loko, Giggs. Subs: Scholes, Betterton, Curtis, Beckham, Eadie
Darlington: Carlos Germano, Davis, Hughes, Costello, T Blake, Honeyball, Gaughan, Heidenstrom (c), Nevland, Devine, McGivern. Subs: Brazil, Simonsen, Martin, Fedoruk, Le Tissier
14:05 No real surprises in the teams, Manchester United look really strong and are heavy favourites. Darlington opt to give semi final hero Sean Devine the nod over youngster Alex Martin, who has played recently.
14:15 The players are out warming up on the Wembley pitch. Nerves will be jangling!
14:25 The Dangermen
We’ve taken a look at some players today who could decide today’s match
With 19 goals and 20 assists, Shearer’s importance to this Manchester United side is obvious. How Darlington’s back 3 cope with the Geordie front man is going to go a long way to deciding the game
The tough tackling Irishman has dominated so many games in his career – but picks up plenty of cards. Keane keeping his discipline could see the Irishman lift the trophy come 5pm.
The former Manchester United striker has been Darlington’s main goal threat all season and has found the net 17 times. With something to prove against his former manager, could Nevland have the last laugh?
Gaughan is 32 and far from a regular in this Darlington side, but has been with them all the way through their journey from Division 3. Part of the Chesterfield squad that made the semi finals in 1997, Gaughan was left out of the semi final against Middlesbrough, and has spoken of unfinished business in the competition. Fate?
14:35 The managers
Alex Ferguson: “I love the FA Cup and playing at Wembley is always special. We’ve been here once already this season to win the League Cup, so that bodes well for us. I’m hoping for a good game but I expect us to win.”
David Black: “It’s been an incredible journey from Division 3 but we’ve got great self belief in that dressing room. Nobody gave us a chance against City but here we are, at Wembley. Obviously we’re underdogs but it’s happened before and it’ll happen again. Why can’t it be us?”
14:45 The players are in the tunnel. This is a World away from Feethams – Wembley is about 7 times the size for starters. Will Darlington freeze or will they rise to the occasion?
14:50 Both managers are suited and booted and lead their teams on to the Wembley pitch. Time for Abide with Me and then the National Anthem. It’s game time.
15:00 Kick off
Darlington get us underway in the 2002 FA Cup Final.
2 mins – Heidenstrom wins a header and it falls invitingly for Lee Hughes to have a strike. Unfortunately that’s not really what he’s known for and the shot goes well over Fabien Barthez’s goal.
6 mins – Both sets of fans are in great voice but there’s not much action on the pitch, as both sides try to gain a foothold in the game.
DARLO4LIFE via Text: “Do the players know it has kicked off?”
footyismint via Text: “Good idea from Darlo to bore everybody into submission!”
11 mins – A corner! Giggs delivers but it goes out before it comes in. This has been a slow burner so far.
14 mins – Darlington’s turn to have a spell of possession, and they too get their first corner. Ryan McGivern swings it in but Jaap Stam is able to head it away.
20 minutes – Remarkably, this is Manchester United’s first shot on goal. Shearer hits it, but he doesn’t get hold of it properly and it’s easy for Carlos Germano.
23 minutes – Alex Ferguson is not happy. He’s in his technical area bellowing at his team to up the ante. David Black will be delighted with this so far.
28 minutes – DISALLOWED GOAL
Fergie’s face is red, so you know something big has happened.
Finally some real action of note. Tim Blake has the ball about 40 yards from his own goal and comes under pressure from Roy Keane. Blake tries to pass the ball off but is bundled to the ground and the ball runs for Alan Shearer, who gives himself half a yard and fires home. Shearer’s wheeling away celebrating in the usual manner but the referee has blown for a freekick against Keane, who is adjudged to have fouled Blake. Shearer and Keane, never shy of saying a word or two, are both furious, but it remains 0-0.
30 minutes – Ferguson is still furious and the Man Utd fans are whistling. It looked a correct decision though…
Former Man Utd & Darlington striker Alex Notman, working for TV:
“It is probably a foul, but sometimes you get away with those. I think there’s an element of experience here from Keane & Shearer going mad – they’ve got the fans up and the game is alive, and that suits Man Utd more than Darlington”
34 minutes – CLOSE
Erik Nevland! No! The Norwegian pounces on a bad touch by Jaap Stam and from just outside the box hits a snap shot that flashes just past the post.
38 minutes – Everything has calmed down a bit now, even Fergie.
42 minutes – CLOSE
It’s Manchester United’s turn to come forward, and Pelatti wins a corner. Giggs whips it in and it’s the dimunitive figure of Kieron Dyer who gets his head on it, but it whistles over the bar. Major questions in the Darlington defence how a man of Dyer’s size got on the end of the corner
44 minutes – YELLOW CARD
Nicky Butt is the first man in the book for a late tackle on Steven Gaughan
Not a classic but the tension will ramp up the longer thies goes on in the second half.
As the stats show, it’s a fairly even game. That will please David Black more than it will Alex Ferguson
Former Man Utd Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel:
“That was hard to watch at times. The disallowed goal aside, nothing happened. Darlington will be quite happy but they can’t afford to sit back any more, which I suspect they will.”
The boys in the studio are looking at the disallowed goal again. Keane definitely makes contact with Blake but was the defender already going down? The players are on their way out for the second half.
46 mins – KICK OFF
Man Utd get the second half underway.
47 mins – Alan Shearer tries his luck from way out but it’s over the bar. A sighter.
52 mins – CLOSE
Pelatti has come alive in the second half, playing a sublime ball through to Shearer. The England frontman drills it low and hard but Carlos Germano gets a hand to it and it’s corner. Man Utd are ramping the pressure up. Shearer heads the resulting corner over the bar.
57 mins – Shearer turns provider this time, crossing to the back post where Patrice Loko heads goalwards. Scott Honeyball has other ideas and blocks it behind for a corner. It’s only a matter of time…
58 minutes – The first corner is headed behind by Honeyball again. The second is met by Nicky Butt who should maybe do better but again misses the target.
There will be no fairytale for Steven Gaughan, who is replaced by Carlton Le Tissier.
59 minutes – GOAL! Manchester United 1 – 0 Darlington (Alan Shearer)
What a goal. He had a sighter just after half time but this time, the ball drops to Shearer just outside the box and it is smashed right footed into the roof of the net. Germano no chance. Darlington hearts broken.
62 minutes – It’s a disaster for Darlington but there’s still time. David Black is pondering a change.
Former Manchester United & Darlington striker Alex Notman:
“It had been coming. Ferguson has clearly had the hairdryer out and it’s worked again. Manchester United will be smelling blood now and will want this finished off as soon as possible to avoid any late drama. What a hit though”
70 minutes – SUBSTITUTION
Here is the change then – young Alex Martin is on, Scott Honeyball is off. Striker for defender, looks like 4-3-3 for the last 20.
75 minutes – CLOSE
Shearer goes close again. This time Loko plays him in but he screws his shot a foot wide of the far post.
77 minutes – CLOSE
Loko to Shearer again, Germano tips round for a corner. It’s all Man Utd, Darlington just can’t get the ball forward. Corner…
78 minutes – Dyer volleys Giggs’ corner goalwards and it deflects behind. Patrice Loko then has a go but it’s over the bar.
81 minutes – GOAL! Manchester United 2 – 0 Darlington (Alan Shearer)
After Patrice Loko sees another shot deflect behind, Giggs’ whips yet another corner in and Shearer heads it home. Game over.
82 mins – SUBSTITUTION
Final change for Darlington as young Mervyn Brazil comes on for an exhausted Erik Nevland.
83 mins – Ryan McGivern rifles a shot goalwards but it is well wide. Sums up Darlington’s day.
86 mins – Sean Devine’s turn to have a shot but it too is wide. Darlington have only managed 4 shots, and zero on target.
87 mins – YELLOW CARD
Sean Devine goes into the book for a foul on fellow Irishman Roy Keane.
GOAL! Manchester United 3 – 0 Darlington (Patrice Loko)
It’s been a sublime second half for Man Utd and Patrice Loko gets the goal he deserves. Roy Keane plays him in and the Frenchman lobs Carlos Germano. Game well and truly over.
88 mins – GOAL! Manchester United 3 – 1 Darlington (Mervyn Brazil)
Late fightback? Don’t bet on it. Devine drills a shot goalwards and Barthez can only keep it out with his legs. Subsitute Mervyn Brazil puts in the rebound for a goal he will never forget. The Darlo fans are singing “We’re going to win 4-3” – well, you never know I suppose
FULL TIME – Manchester United win the FA Cup
The referee calls time on a game that came to life in the second half. Darlington did themselves proud but this time, Goliath won. Their players are crestfallen. Manchester United, meanwhile, are in the mood to party.
RedDevilJeff via Email: “Yeesssssssss! Don’t care who the opposition are, I just love winning”
DarloBill: “Unlucky boys. Proud to be a Darlington fan. Our turn will come.”
The Manchester United boys are partying with their fans. The Darlington players are slumped at various parts of the Wembley turf. Their manager is visiting each of them one by one and consoling them, whilst captain Bjorn Heidenstrom is over clapping the fans. They understand.
Manchester United Manager Alex Ferguson:
“A magnificent second half from us. There were some stern words at half time, and we played much better second half. We didn’t let them settle and in the end, our class told.”
Darlington manager David Black:
“The lads gave it everything, which is all we’ve ever asked. Sometimes it’s not enough, but I couldn’t have asked any more and the fans will agree I’m sure. We’ve achieved so much in a short space of time and we want to make days like this a regular occurence. We’ll learn from this and be better for it, but our congratulations go to Man Utd today.”
17:15 It’s time for Man Utd to collect their trophy. The injured Gary Neville has joined the party, but first the Darlington players need to troop up the famous steps, led by captain Heidenstrom.
Man Utd’s players make their way up to shake hands with Prince Charles, with Keane & Neville bringing up the rear to receive the trophy.
17:30 As Man Utd fans prepare for no doubt a great night on the London dance floors, spare a thought for Darlington, who did themselves proud. Thanks for joining us today, we’ll see you again soon.