Man United want to 'rectify' poor season with FA Cup win - Ladd

Manchester United midfielder Hayley Ladd has said that the team is determined to win silverware to "rectify" their poor league campaign.

United are heading to Wembley for their second consecutive FA Cup final on Sunday and there is sure to be a new name on the trophy regardless of which side wins as they face debutants Tottenham Hotspur.

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Marc Skinner's side fell short against Chelsea last season, losing 1-0 to the team who also beat United to the Women's Super League (WSL) title by two points.

It has been a challenging season for United who are on course to finish the WSL in fifth position, their lowest placing since gaining promotion in 2019. However, Ladd said that she is optimistic about the final and the aspirations of the club.

"It's long been part of our ambitions as a squad to get silverware and to achieve top level accomplishments in football," she said.

"Even though the season's been somewhat mixed, I think it'll provide us with a massive lift. The Chelsea game [in the semifinal] was massive in terms of doing things that we've never done before and, that goes for the final as well.

"We obviously haven't done as well as we'd hoped in the league but hopefully we can rectify that a little bit with the FA Cup. I think silverware is massive for a football team, and if we manage that, then it will be it'll be successful for us."

Chelsea were the only team that United had never beaten prior to the semifinal win, where two early goals proved enough to see off the favourites despite Lauren James' strike.

Ladd has played an integral role at United since she joining the club in 2019. She started the previous FA Cup final and was substituted in the first minute of stoppage time for now-opponent Martha Thomas, who joined Spurs at the start of this season.

"I think we've definitely got confidence and experience from last year. I think it's a bit of a free hit," Ladd said. "The season has not panned out as we wanted. We wanted to sort of be close to the Champions League spots, but this FA Cup final offers us an amazing opportunity to get some success, get some silverware and just have something really positive to shout about.

"We're under no illusions. Spurs are a real top side. They've got a clear way of playing. It's really difficult to play against them and they've got great individuals as well. So we will definitely have to be at the top of our game in order to beat them and to get anything out the game.

"We know they're coming into the game as thinking they're underdogs and there's no pressure on them and that can sort of be a dangerous situation for a team to face. So we'll definitely be prepared with all the things that Spurs can throw at us."

United and Tottenham have played twice in the league this season. Their first meeting ended in a 4-0 victory for Ladd and her team, but in the second meeting, which came only a week after the pair were confirmed as the FA Cup finalists, ended in a 2-2 draw at Leigh Sports Village.

For Tottenham, it will be their first time in an FA Cup final and the first time the team has played at Wembley. However, goalkeeper Becky Spencer is no stranger to the tournament, with Sunday's game marking her 10th final in the competition.

The Jamaica goalkeeper was an unused substitute for Arsenal in six winning finals (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013), and was also on the bench for two FA Cup finals at Wembley; for Chelsea in 2016 and for West Ham in 2019, ending up on the losing side both times.

Spencer's ability was evident in Birmingham City's 2012 triumph over Chelsea at Ashton Gate, where she played a pivotal role in securing the trophy.

"I always say I've had two different careers: one when I was really, really young, and then now when I am more of a senior player," Spencer said.

"Even though I didn't play a lot for Arsenal, in those cup finals, I felt like I had a big part to play, preparing the teams and to always be present in those moments.

"For me, when I was a youngster at Arsenal, I was just happy to be there. It was a valuable experience; just to get to a cup final is something major. The Birmingham one was obviously massive for me; having a big impact in that game helped me to where I am now."

Spencer shone during Tottenham's penalty shootout against Manchester City in the quarterfinal, which ended in a 4-2 win for Spurs. Spencer notably saved England internationals Chloe Kelly and Alex Greenwood's strikes to see them through to the semifinal against Leicester City, where Thomas' 118th-minute header booked their place at Wembley.

"To be honest, I don't want another penalty shootout, but I'll take it if we win. I've had Mary [Earps] as a teammate before back at Birmingham, and she's always hungry for success and hungry to win and we're completely different characters.

"You can see [that hunger] in her whereas with me, you can't really see it, but I'm also very hungry to perform on this big stage and to be there for my teammates and give everyone a good show and just to perform well.

"I don't mind a penalty shootout, but I would hope and want us to win in normal time. But if it did come to a penalty shootout out, hopefully, I can step up to the plate again."

The side were battling relegation last campaign but now sit comfortably in sixth position in the WSL. Spurs almost fell at the first hurdle against Sheffield United earlier in the competition, but mounted an inspired comeback to win 3-2 and ensure the side could progress to the final.

Spencer is optimistic that the difficult journey Spurs have been on over the past 12 months has boosted the team's resilience and given them a better chance to beat United and lift the trophy for the first time.

"We've not made it easy for ourselves in these games and I think that's also something that we can also look back on and be really, really proud of, that even though we've gone down in most of these games, we've always come back, and we've got the result that we've needed," Spencer said.

"I think it's really instilled a real resilience in and around the group, whether it be staff, players, you know, even fans. I think everyone still believes right until that last moment of the game that we can get a result when I think that's something that is just spread across the club."