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Smalling, Young and Mata looking dejected on the pitch at Wembley

Opinion: Defeat will drive us on like nothing else

You can't win them all. It might be something no supporter wants to hear after defeat in a major final but it is a fact that seems to be overlooked in the current climate.

We've come out on top on so many of our recent trips to Wembley - the dramatic late triumph against Everton in the semi-final, triumphing with 10 men over Crystal Palace, sinking Southampton despite being pegged back in the League Cup and coming from behind to beat Tottenham Hotspur.
Discounting the league game against Spurs and only focusing on finals and Community Shields, we had won our last seven outings at Wembley. The last one we lost was against Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League follow and I remember the hollow feeling leaving London that night.
This is football. That was seven years ago and maybe it was our time to suffer misfortune again, with Eden Hazard's penalty enough to settle the 2018 Emirates FA Cup final. One moment in 90 minutes. We were not beaten by the better side as we had been by Barça. The first half was hugely disappointing from a United perspective but the second certainly wasn't.

Watch what happened in the finalVideo

For all the frustration, it is hard to make any suggestions that the Reds did not turn up on the big stage. We definitely did turn up after the break and, with the whole end behind us, it felt like what supporting Manchester United means. Roaring the team on and striving for glory. Pushing, pushing, pushing. The players responded but were out of luck.
It wasn't to be as Chelsea defended manfully and stuck to their effective game-plan. Last year, everybody expected them to beat Arsenal and they lost to the Gunners. This time, many thought we were favourites and the result went the other way. I'd seen many reports and comments claiming the outcome did not matter anyway: it would only be papering over the cracks for both teams.

United beaten in the FA Cup final article

A first-half penalty from Eden Hazard unfortunately proved to be decisive at Wembley Stadium.

We all know that's unfair for a side that finished second in the Premier League but this is the modern football world. Managers get hired to keep teams up and are then fired anyway even when they complete that task. Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain can be totally dominant in their domestic leagues and yet draw criticism for failing in the Champions League. It's something even Manchester City received to a lesser degree.
It goes without saying that this imaginary bar is getting raised higher and higher. Don't win the league or Champions League? The campaign is a failure. Oh, so you won the FA Cup - well, that's lost its allure and don't even mention the League Cup. How did it come to this? You don't just win trophies by default; securing one to end things on a high - as we did in 2016 and 2017 - isn't a given.
We aim high at Manchester United, of course. We want to be winning those huge honours I have mentioned. But do you know what makes coming out on top the best feeling in football? Knowing how painful losses like the one to Chelsea are. It drives you on like nothing else. 
So the next time somebody says the FA Cup doesn't matter, it's a mere consolation prize, you'll know this cannot be true. If it never mattered then why is there such a low feeling and, as I write, I am overhearing people calling radio stations going into meltdown because we did not win a trophy.

'I don't want to experience this again'Video

Every fan wants to be a winner. I'm no different but that feeling of elation would soon recede if it came like clockwork every season. Just remember the other side of the coin and, trust me, that next trophy, whenever it comes, will feel all the sweeter. And why? Because we all know it truly does matter.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.

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