Which Red could make the difference at Wembley?

Friday 24 May 2024 10:00

The stage is set for Manchester United as we approach Saturday's Emirates FA Cup final with neighbours City.

The Reds have an opportunity to pick up a piece of silverware for the second successive season but must overcome the champions and wreck their hopes of a Double.

We've upset the odds in the past in the final of a competition so special to the club and there is the chance for someone to emerge as the hero at Wembley, as others have done in the past to earn adulation from the supporters forever more.

While appreciating it would take a huge team effort this weekend, our writers were asked to select one individual they feel can make the desired impact and bring home the trophy for the 13th time in our history.

We'll never tire of watching Amad's FA Cup quarter-final winner against Liverpool.

AMAD (Mark Froggatt)

The starting XI for an FA Cup final is normally quite predictable - maybe there are one or two talking points at best - but, on this occasion, several positions are up for grabs. All eyes will be on Saturday’s line-up announcement, and Amad’s potential inclusion is fascinating. The Ivorian missed the first half of the season through injury and has patiently worked his way back this year, quietly rebuilding his confidence, fitness and sharpness.

Then, a breakthrough. Amad’s euphoric quarter-final winner against Liverpool catapulted him towards cult-hero status and supporters are excited to see more of the technically gifted forward. Recent performances against Arsenal and Newcastle United only strengthened his claim to start, and against a Manchester City side that hasn’t faced him before. Could he be a surprise package at Wembley? Don’t rule it out.


In last year's FA Cup final defeat against Manchester City, Alejandro Garnacho's second-half introduction greatly contributed to the Reds' late push for a leveller, with the Argentina international's best involvement being when he cut inside and bent a shot that looked destined to nestle in the far corner, only for it to whistle narrowly wide.

This substitute appearance capped a 2022/23 campaign that Garnacho finished with five goals and four assists from 34 appearances. In 49 so far this term, he has nine goals and five assists. The 19-year-old is likely to start under the arch on Saturday and, with his electric pace and eye for a goal, Alejandro could well add to his list of final finishes that already contains a brace in the 2022 FA Youth Cup at Old Trafford.

Alejandro Garnacho's brilliant goal against Everton has been the highlight of his season.

KOBBIE MAINOO (Adam Bostock)

The dynamic midfielder's FA Cup final appearance will be just the latest in a long line of landmark occasions that he'll take in his talented stride. Kobbie has already played at Wembley Stadium, of course - including two games for England's senior side, against Brazil and Belgium no less. And, as Liverpool found to their cost last month, Mainoo loves to mix it with our biggest rivals.

His shortlisted Premier League strike in a 2-2 draw that seriously damaged the Merseysiders' title hopes should serve as a warning to City - to not give the United Academy graduate any sight of goal in or around the box. As a local Red, raised down the road in Cheadle, he'd love nothing more than to destroy the Blues' Double hopes.

Kobbie Mainoo's curler against Liverpool showed what he can do in big games.


It's easy to forget that last year's final did not feature Lisandro Martinez. The Argentinian missed the end of 2022/23 with injury and, sadly, has been absent for most of this campaign too. But he seems on track to play at least some part on Saturday, and that will delight both Erik ten Hag and United fans everywhere.

There's so much missing when Licha is not out there: a left-footed presence when we play out from the back; the laser-like passes through the lines; his calm but ultra-committed defending. But it's more than that. 'The Butcher' is the player that connects team and fans more than any other, I'd argue. His tackles and bravery lift supporters and compel team-mates. His composure lends an authority to the team. He has the spirit of United in his veins, even though he hails from Gualeguay, Argentina rather than Gorse Hill.

He'll have a hell of a task list if he does play on Saturday: trying to shackle Erling Haaland among his most difficult jobs. But his return to fitness offers United fans a small chink of optimism, at the end of a season so ravaged by injuries.


Time and time again, Scott McTominay has proven he’s a player who has a big moment in him – popping up with clutch goals just when we need it. In fact, he very nearly did just that in last year’s cup final, having been thrown in for the last 10 minutes and almost snatching a late equaliser. This season, he turned zero points into three at home to Brentford with a dramatic injury-time double, scored another match-winning pair against Chelsea and bagged a vital late winner away to Aston Villa.

Whether starting from kick-off or chucked on as an impact sub, Scotty has the ability to cause chaos in the opposition box, which can often deliver rewards. And having scored the opening goals in both the FA Cup quarter-final against Liverpool and then the semi-final against Coventry, maybe, just maybe, he’ll make it three in a row at Wembley on Saturday.

Marcus Rashford is certainly a big-game player.


Our homegrown forward knows Wembley like the back of his hand and, of course, scored one of the goals to help up lift the Carabao Cup last term. We know he is only just returning to fitness but, after his exclusion from the latest England squad, there is added motivation to show what he is all about and explode for the Reds on this stage. He is very much a big-game player, and he has a terrific record against City too. Rashy's rocket at the Etihad was one of the strikes of the season and, after a disappointing campaign for him, and the team, there is the opportunity to end it on a massive high. 

Whether he starts or comes off the bench, someone who appreciates the rivalry more than most can display the talents the world knows he possesses. If you're looking for key narratives around the final, this is surely one of them.