The 1990 FA Cup Final was a football match contested by Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium, London, England. The match finished 3–3 after extra time. Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes (2) scored for United; Gary O'Reilly and Ian Wright (2) for Palace. Wright had only just recently returned from a broken leg that kept him out of the semi-final.
In the replay, United won 1–0 with a goal from Lee Martin – only the second goal he would score for the club. It saw them match Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur's record of seven FA Cup triumphs. In contrast, this was the first time Crystal Palace had appeared in an FA Cup final, and they had just completed their first season back in the top flight after nearly a decade away.
This was the first FA Cup final to be played in front of an all-seater crowd, as Wembley's remaining standing areas had been converted to all-seater in the autumn of 1989.
The month before the final, UEFA had announced that the ban on English clubs in European competitions would be lifted for the 1990–91 season, provided that England fans behaved well at that summer's World Cup. England fans duly behaved well at the tournament, and this gave the green light to United to compete in the 1990–91 European Cup Winners' Cup, which they ultimately won. It also proved to be the turning point in Manchester United's history after a few lean seasons; over the next 20 years they collected a total of more than 20 major trophies.
If Crystal Palace had won the trophy, it would have gained them the first major trophy of their history and given them European qualification for the first time as well.
The 1990 Crystal Palace team was the last all-English team to play in an FA Cup final.
The 1990 FA Cup win was the third time Bryan Robson had been in the winning side in an FA Cup final; he had also now scored a total of three goals in FA Cup finals. He was the only player left from the 1983 FA Cup winning team, in which he had scored two goals in the final replay. He left the club just after their 1994 FA Cup final win, but was denied a fourth FA Cup winner's medal as he was not included into the squad for the final.
United's squad had changed so much since the appointment of Alex Ferguson as manager in November 1986 that Mark Hughes (bought back from Bayern Munich in 1988 after one year with FC Barcelona and another with the German side) was the only player in the team other than Robson still at the club who had featured in the 1985 FA Cup winning side.
The first game on the Saturday was an open attacking affair. Both teams had been involved in dramatic high-scoring semi-finals and the final started the same way. On 17 minutes, Crystal Palace took the lead when Gary O'Reilly headed in from a free-kick, via Gary Pallister's head, despite the attempt of Jim Leighton to save the ball on the line. Manchester United hit back on 35 minutes. Brian McClair made a run down the right wing and floated a cross to the back post, where captain Bryan Robson was waiting to head goalwards. His header flicked off John Pemberton's shin and evaded Palace goalkeeper Nigel Martyn. It was 1–1 at half-time.
In the second half, United went ahead for the first time in the game, when a cross-shot from Neil Webb found its way to Mark Hughes who fired low into the corner. Palace manager, Steve Coppell made a game-changing substitution when he brought on Ian Wright, who had an immediate impact when he went on a mazy run past two United defenders and slotted a calm shot past Leighton. 2–2. Extra time loomed but not before Mike Phelan saw his clever chip hit the crossbar.
Extra time was needed for the second final in a row, and it was Palace who scored first, when John Salako floated a cross to the back post. Leighton hesitated for a second, which allowed Wright to volley home for his second goal of the game. 3–2 to Crystal Palace. However, the scoring was not over, and in the second period of extra time, Wallace provided the through ball for Hughes to chase, and he calmly angled the ball past the onrushing Martyn to make it 3–3.
The main story of the replay was that Alex Ferguson decided to replace Jim Leighton in goal, with Les Sealey. Sealey made three important saves to keep Palace at bay, in a tough-tackling match. Leighton only played one more match for Manchester United, against Halifax Town in the Football League Cup on 26 September 1990.
The match itself was not as eventful as the first game, finishing 1–0. United won by a single goal scored by defender Lee Martin. He chested down a Neil Webb pass and fired high into the net, past Martyn in goal. Bryan Robson held aloft the Cup for the third time as captain.
It was Manchester United's first major trophy under the management of Alex Ferguson. It is often debated that if Manchester United lost the match, Alex Ferguson would have been sacked as Manchester United manager, although Ferguson claimed in his 1999 autobiography Managing My Life that the club's directors had assured him earlier in the season that his position as manager was secure; although naturally disappointed with the lack of progress in the league, they understood the reasons for this, namely the long-term absences of several key players due to injury.
Manchester United's squad recorded "We Will Stand Together" for their appearance, whilst the Palace team recorded a version of the club's anthem "Glad All Over".