Chelsea Women are FA Cup champions for the third successive season after a moment of sheer attacking brilliance from Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr was enough to see us bypass Manchester United.

While it was United’s maiden appearance in a major cup final since their reformation in 2018, this was Chelsea’s seventh FA Cup final within the last 12 years. In truth, Marc Skinner’s side were better in the first half. Chelsea were limited to very little. But on the whole, domestic cup finals are not won and lost by eye-catching football. They rise and fall on Wembley afternoons like these: when the nerves are lingering, when the games are cagey and compact, when ultimately the decisive factor in victory is not the number of trophies in your cabinet but your ability to ride the storm.

Man United’s storm came late on, as expected. Chelsea weathered it, Emma Hayes’ tactical tweaks guided us across the line. Mjelde cleared excellently after the ball dropped yards from Berger’s net. Ingle headed forward time and time again. Buchanan was introduced for James as we looked to hang on, and she defended as if her life depended on it. The desperate lofted balls and crosses began to arrive, the corners began to land. But it was too late for United, because this game was won in a flash just before the 70-minute mark.

After the half-time interval the Chelsea gears began to crunch, the engine to turn. Lauren James began to pull the strings from wide-right, the sharpest and most surgical passer of a ball in either attack. The blue shirts began to funnel the ball about with a gripping sense of team-intelligence, as if they knew how this was going to play out all along.

Pernille Harder was introduced after the halfway stage for Leupolz, as we switched formation. Cuthbert was lurking in midfield, Ingle bolting the gate. Chelsea were brighter from then on, creating more goalscoring opportunities upon Harder’s introduction.

If we were to make the breakthrough it looked as though it was going to come from some of our most experienced and special players. That could have been from the feet of Lauren James, whose thrilling lightness of touch in her movements and her contact with the ball separated her from the rest of the players under the Wembley arch. James couldn’t find a way through, despite glancing the post. It continued to be tight, continued to be taut. But then came our moment.

Reiten picked the ball up in the final third, pinging the ball through to Harder. The Dane’s cross was then hit with brutal perfection: fizzed in from the right with vicious fade and slice, laying it on a plate for Sam Kerr.

Kerr, who contributed five goals on our way to today’s Wembley final, had opened the scoring against United again, two months on from when she did so in a crucial WSL victory. She wheeled away in ecstasy, backflipping, somersaulting and screaming with joy. Her team-mates chased after her.

As the final whistle blew Chelsea were holding on a little. Berger had spilled a looping cross. Buchanan was needed time and time again. The players sank to the turf. Chelsea had won a third successive FA Cup. This August marks 11 years since the incredible Emma Hayes took charge of a Chelsea side that had never lifted a major trophy. Now we merely don't know how to stop winning them.

What's next?

Ain't no rest for the wicked! A trip to West Ham United comes next on Wednesday night in the Women's Super League, our penultimate away trip of the season.

The Blues are in the midst of a WSL title race, as we currently sit second and just a point behind Man United at the top. Wednesday's trip to east London will act as our game in hand.

The teams

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Berger, Perisset, Eriksson, Mjelde, Charles (Carter 72'); Leupolz (Ingle 56‘), Fleming (Harder 56‘), Cuthbert; James (Buchanan 87'), Reiten, Kerr

Unused subs: Musovic, Svitkova, Kaneryd, Abdullina, Cankovic 

Goalscorer: Kerr 68'

Booked: Reiten, Charles, Ingle, James

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Earps, Batlle, Blundell (Garcia 78'), Toone (Mannion 78'), Zelem, Galton, Ladd (Thomas 90'), Le Tissier, Turner, Parris (Williams 60'), Russo

Unused subs: Baggaley, Riviere, Boe Risa, Cascarino, Nallsund

Referee: Emily Heaslip

Crowd: 77,390 - A world record domestic crowd for women's football.