They had forgotten what it is like to win important matches. Once the FA Cup was deemed so insignificant, Manchester United declined to compete.
On Saturday, when, fittingly, Anthony Martial, raced onto to Ander Herrera’s through ball in the third minute of added time and struck past Joel Robles, he raced into the United fans. A scrum ensued of players and supporters, delirious and ecstatic.
It was a pure Manchester United moment, the sort we had come to forget in the last three years. It was bold, brash and, like all their best victories, it came at the death. Silverware beckons in the FA Cup, no longer the most-prestigious trophy; but right now they will take what they can get. It’s their first FA Cup final for nine years and Wayne Rooney will finally have the chance to win a trophy which has eluded him.
It probably won’t be enough to save Louis van Gaal but at least he gets to end in the sunshine with a trophy at stake. As for Roberto Martinez, the Everton fans streaming from the ground as Martial’s shot rippled in the net, told its own story of despair. It felt as though only a victory would have saved him here.