Dwight Yorke says FA Cup finals are historic and special – and still matter

I did in 1999 and I can tell you it is something special, something unique.

Ask Manchester United or Chelsea’s players after Saturday's Wembley showpiece and they will tell you the same.

Its history and importance still resonates.

I played at Wembley for Aston Villa in the 1996 League Cup final, beating Leeds 3-0.

That was special but to be part of the 1999 FA Cup final on the way to the Treble with United was something else.

I was named as a sub that day because Sir Alex Ferguson had told me he was saving me for the Champions League final — but I still got on after an hour and loved the experience.

We pretty much cruised that game against Newcastle United, winning 2-0, sandwiched between winning the league and European Cup.

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You only had to look at our celebrations to see what it meant.

People more likely remember the incredible semi-final when we beat Arsenal in extra-time with Ryan Giggs’ wonder goal.

What I recall about that night was the incredible atmosphere at Villa Park and the scenes at the end.

If there is one thing wrong with the current competition, it is that those neutral club venues are not used for semi-finals.

Wembley should be special and not a venue for the last four. It should be the icing on the cake for players and fans.

It will still be special on Saturday and I fully expect United to win. I’m not being biased — I just believe they are the better side.

Chelsea have had a really poor season and seem to be ending it with something of a whimper.

Of course they’ll lift themselves for this — but so will United.

They just need to do that for every game next season.

I think the fact they haven’t always been able to do that has been the major cause of frustration for the manager this season.

There is no way Manchester City are 19 points better than this United team. This is a very good side that Jose Mourinho has assembled.

The proof has been there with victories over Spurs at Wembley, the comeback against City in the derby and home wins over both Chelsea and Liverpool.

The away win at Arsenal  was a cracker, too. You cannot tell me those were not top performances.

But you can never take your opponent for granted and I think the manager has seen performance levels drop based on the opposition at times this season.

What the players must recognise is what I did very early on from my time at the club, that every opponent raises their game to play United. Aston Villa is a big club but it was nothing like what you faced as a United player.

The extra effort opponents seemed to put in  because it was Manchester United was amazing.

You could see it in their eyes how much they wanted to beat us.

Sir Alex said what we had to do against the so-called lesser side was match them for desire and effort. If we did, our superior ability would win the game.

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And there is no lack of ability in this team. You look at Lukaku, Rashford, Sanchez, Lingard, Pogba, Mata, these are all great players.

It has the league’s second-best defensive record and, in David De Gea, the best keeper in the world. They just need to get that mentality right for every game.

United have gone from sixth to second and are now in a third major final in two seasons. Mourinho has got the club going in the right direction again.

Wembley will provide another example of that.

Interview: NEIL CUSTIS

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