Over to Wembley Stadium in London, where a capacity crowd of 90,000 will witness the FA Cup final on May 19, and half a billion others will catch the action live on their screens. This year’s final features an exciting encounter between the traditional rivals, Manchester United and Chelsea. Manchester United have reached the final a staggering 19 times and won it on 12 occasions. Chelsea, the runner-up last year, has seven titles to their name. Fifth on the Premier League table, the Blues will have to play out of their skin to beat the in-form Red Devils. While we look forward to this epic game, here are four interesting facts about this year’s FA cup final.
The FA Cup, the oldest football competition in the world, is a knock-out competition in English football. The tournament began in the 1871–72 season and this year will be the 137th final. Beginning in August, the tournament consists of 12 rounds, a semi-final and a grand final. The final, usually held in May, is regarded as the finale of the English football season. After its massive makeover in 2007, the Wembley stadium has been the exclusive host for the past 11 years.
Although Manchester United and Chelsea battle each other regularly in the league, they have faced each other just twice in the FA Cup final. The 1993-94 season saw Manchester United beat Chelsea emphatically. The unpredictable Eric Cantona scored twice to register a four-goal winning margin. Chelsea managed to pull one back in their next encounter at the 2006-07 final. Didier Drogba scored the sole goal of the game after regulation time.
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and President of the FA, presents the trophy to the winners. The final coincides with the wedding of Prince Harry and there were doubts about Prince William’s appearance. These rumours have been quashed with the royal wedding being held at noon and the final slotted later in the day. Although palace officials have not commented, they have since assured that the two events will not ‘clash’.
The final will see the family of former England captain Raymond Colin Wilkins as special guests. Wilkins began his career with Chelsea before moving to Manchester United. Before he retired, he had stints with AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. Wilkins worked as a coach and manager at Queens Park Rangers, Fulham and Chelsea after he hung up his boots as a player. He suffered a cardiac arrest in March this year and passed away on April 4, 2018. The FA will honour his contribution to the game with pitchside hoardings and a video tribute.