‘It’s what childhood dreams are made of’, says Katie Zelem ahead of Man United's first Women's FA Cup final test | The Sun
FOR KATIE ZELEM leading Manchester United in their first ever FA Cup final appearance will be a ‘childhood dream’ fulfilled.
On Sunday the Oldham-born midfield ace will become the first player to captain a Red Devils Women’s side at the Wembley showpiece.
The match, which kicks off at 2:30pm, will see United take on four-time winners and holders Chelsea.
This year’s decider is set to be the first one played in front of a record Wembley crowd with tickets for all areas of the stadium sold out.
For Zelem, who began her career in the Red Devils Centre of Excellence aged eight, this is a chance for United to break new ground.
The United skipper, 27, who signed for United from Juventus in 2018, said: "In previous years we’ve not had too much success in the FA Cup, especially compared to the Conti Cup.
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"It’s something we've always strived for.
"Getting to the semi-finals was making history for the club and now we’re one step further in the final.
"For myself to captain the girls at Wembley hopefully is so exciting. We just want to represent the club and be there.
"Captaining Manchester United and making my debut – then this moment – will certainly be up there in my highlights.
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"It’s a club I’ve been at for a really long time now and supported my whole life. I think it’s what childhood dreams are made of."
Sunday’s match will be the first time Zelem and the Red Devils have featured in the final for a major domestic trophy.
It comes in a season in which the player and her side have mounted their strongest push for a WSL title and qualification for the Champions League.
Aside from reaching an FA Cup final this term’s campaign has seen Marc Skinner’s side achieve other milestones.
This includes beating Arsenal twice this term.
Late goals from Millie Turner and Alessia Russo saw them become the first team to defeat the Gunners in the league at the Emirates.
The midfielder, who has made 73 WSL appearances for United added: "I think the Arsenal game at the Emirates was a turning point.
"Those things don’t happen by accident, it’s not really something you can overly practise in training.
"But when it happens once, then starts happening again, it becomes less of a coincidence. You make your own luck.
"Whether people will say we’re lucky, we work hard for that moment,
"We work hard to keep the pressure on a team and we work hard to create those chances.
“We’ve done really well in that our goals have come from all over this year.
"People have come off the bench and made such a huge difference.
"For us, belief is such a huge thing that you are going to score and not panicking.
"We know that a chance will come, it’s just about taking it
Chelsea are currently the only top four opponent Man United have not beaten.
While the Blues have won six of their seven top-flight meetings, Zelem believe United’s performances have improved since a 6-1 loss to their cup final rivals back in 2021.
She said: "Every time we’ve played Chelsea [since then] we’ve improved.
"We know what they’re about – they’re a team that doesn’t mind not having the ball and are defensively really organised.
"They’ve obviously got the threat in behind with Sam Kerr and threats on the counter attack.
"We know what their threats are now and, I’ve said it a lot of times throughout the season, but it’s about confidence and belief.
“That’s why we’re doing well this year, because we genuinely believe we can win every game.
“When we play against Arsenal, I think we’ve got that psychological edge over them now.
"It’s about taking that sort of mentality into the Chelsea game."
For Zelem reaching the FA Cup final is just the start for United in terms of their ambitions for the future.
She adds: "This is just a baseline of where we want to be.
"We’ve always said we want to be in the Champions League and have always been close but not close enough.
"I think this is the turning season that everyone will back [at].
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“It used to be the top three and Manchester United and now it’s solidly a top four. We know we can compete and win things."
The Women's FA Cup final will be broadcast live on BBC One from 2:30pm on Sunday 14 May
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