Manchester United fans head to Wembley dreading the prospect of neighbours City clinching the Treble this season.
The FA Cup final is the best chance they have of stopping the sky blue steamroller landing the three biggest trophies available to English clubs and matching United’s epic feat of 1999.
Even more disconcerting is the notion that Man United goalkeeper David de Gea is the man they are relying on to preserve their team’s place in history as Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League winners in one season.
- FA Cup Final: What Erik Ten Hag Can Learn From Pep Guardiola
- Betfred's Latest FA Cup Final Odds*
Particularly when the Spaniard is officially the best keeper in England yet unofficially one of the worst.
How can the goalie who won the Golden Gloves Award this season also be thought of as such a weak link at the same time?
De Gea kept 17 clean sheets in the Premier League - more than any of his peers in the top flight.
Yet there are regular reminders of his erratic personality and failure to be considered a truly world class keeper with the clangers that a team with genuine ambitions of winning titles cannot afford.
Two costly errors against Sevilla in the Europa League, a blunder at West Ham, brilliant saves against Leicester and an impressive performance at Bournemouth.
Man United boss Erik ten Hag will not know which De Gea has turned up at Wembley tomorrow until 10 minutes into the game.
And when faced with the fearsome prospect of 52-goal Erling Haaland that could be too late.
If City win the FA Cup the best chance of Man United maintaining their unique place in football folklore will be gone. Pep Guardiola’s team is odds-on to beat Inter in next week’s Champions League final.
The pressure is on de Gea to deliver one of his best days since joining Manchester United from Atletico Madrid in 2011. But it has been pointed out previously that it is perhaps no coincidence that his arrival has coincided with the club’s leanest spell for years in terms of trophies.
It’s not exactly a recent phenomenon either. From Bournemouth to Barcelona, Watford to West Ham, down the years he has been handing out gift-wrapped goals to the other team.
At only 32, de Gea is believed by some to be showing his age. The cock-ups have wearied him as much as they have had successive managers and the hard-pressed supporters desperate to stay loyal to their man.
He divides opinion among the fanbase. There is a feeling that football has moved on while the goalkeeping situation at Old Trafford has stayed rooted in time.
The modern vogue for using keepers as the first point of attack is simply a non-starter for ten Hag at present.
The man who will be at the opposite end of the Wembley pitch in the Cup final, Ederson, is a much more composed figure and far more comfortable using the ball with his feet. The same is true with Alisson at Liverpool, despite their difficulties this last season.
De Gea is a blinding shot-stopper when he plays on instinct. But that isn’t enough these days. The trend for playing out from the back and skirting around the opposition press requires a keeper to be able to dribble like Lionel Messi as well as possessing a safe pair of hands.
But above all else, the goalkeeper must be the last line of defence, inspiring confidence from which everything else is built going forward. If the keeper wobbles more than a drunk on a dance floor you will be no more than a decent cup side.
That has been just about enough for Manchester United this season. Winning the Carabao Cup is a good start for ten Hag at the end of his first year in charge.
They are underdogs in the FA Cup final, which takes the pressure off, and to win both domestic cups in your debut season would be a huge psychological boost for the manager and the aura around Old Trafford that even bigger things are around the corner.
Unfortunately the questions surrounding de Gea will never go away now. There have been more ricketts than in a Victorian workhouse during his career.
He is the man more than anyone else who could win the FA Cup for Manchester United - but also lose it for them.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change