Wilfried Zaha knows more than most Palace players – maybe with the exception of Jason Puncheon – how much an FA Cup Final means to the red and blue community having been signed by the club academy as a 12-year-old after moving to Thornton Heath, a stones’ throw from Selhurst Park.
After turning in a man-of-the-match performance against Watford in the FA Cup semi-final win on Sunday the winger was under no illusion what the second appearance in the cup final for a club with 111 years of history means for the Crystal Palace family.
“It’s massive,” said Zaha, who was born in 1992, two years after that first, famous appearance for the Eagles in the 1990 final. “When people think about Palace they don’t think much because we haven’t won much over the years, but I’m just happy that I’m in the team that got to the final and all I want to do now is win the final.
“We’ve got there now and we all just want to go all the way - I’m buzzing for me, for the team and for the Palace community.”
Wembley is special for Zaha. He has not been on the losing side in his last four appearances having appeared first in May 2013 for the Eagles in that play-off final victory over Watford where he won the penalty which sent the Eagles up, and then twice again in quick succession a few months later, first for Manchester United in their 2-1 Community Shield win over Wigan and then for England in their 3-2 friendly victory over Scotland.
So Zaha knows the Wembley turf well, and is set for his fifth appearance at the national stadium since that first Watford victory on the famous pitch, both in an attacking and defending role.
“It’s a brilliant pitch for me to play on,” said the 23-year-old about the famously wide pitch. “It’s easier, especially for players like me, because when I see space, I just push and pull the ball into space and just run really.
“But it’s not all about attacking; you have to defend as well. We attack and defend as a team and that’s one thing that Yannick (Bolasie) and I had to add to our game - the gaffer has made sure that we’ve got that in our game as well.”
With the date of the final on May 21 firmly etched in Palace and Manchester United fans’ minds, Zaha – the last signing by Sir Alex Ferguson for the north-west giants before retiring – sees it as just 90 minutes from glory, regardless of the opposition.
“It’s just another game,” said the Ivory Coast-born forward. “We’ll perform the same way we performed today; any team will do the same – just because it’s Manchester United it doesn’t mean that we will do anything different.
“My only objective is to win with Palace.”