Manchester City moved one step closer to winning the treble after beating local enemies Manchester United 2-1 in a thrilling contest at a scorching Wembley Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Pep Guardiola’s Premier League champions now need to beat Inter Milan in the Champions League final next weekend in Istanbul to match United’s own historic treble triumph in 1999.
Many expected City’s tussle with their bitter rivals - the first Manchester derby in FA Cup final history - to be the toughest leg in their bid for the treble, but in truth the so-called noisy neighbours dominated this tie from start to finish. And although United were certainly dangerous throughout, it was never really in any doubt which half of Manchester the trophy would be going to.
There was plenty of discourse heading into this match over the lack of entertainment in recent FA Cup finals, but this one, seeped in animosity, controversy and almost non-stop action, certainly didn’t fall short.
The match, played at 3pm for the first time in 12 years, began in jaw dropping fashion with Ilkay Gundogan giving the Cityzens the lead inside just 12 seconds. It was the fastest FA Cup final goal of all time, breaking Louis Saha’s 25 second record for Everton in the 2009 final against Chelsea.
Picking up a long ball from Stefan Ortega, Kevin De Bruyne knocked it to the in-form German forward who thundered in a sublime volley from the edge of the box. It was almost 2-0 just two minutes later but Rodri’s header, which had David De Gea rooted to the ground, flashed wide of the post.
With 52 goals to his name this season, Erling Haaland unsurprisingly proved to be a nuisance. The towering Norwegian goal machine stretched to meet a dangerous ball into the box, getting only a slight touch that was prodded directly at De Gea.
De Bruyne was next to go close for City, when his left-footed shot whistled past the post after some excellent build-up play.
Against the run of play, United found a way back into the tie when a VAR check judged that Jack Grealish had handled in the box. Bruno Fernandes, cool as you like, sent Ortega the wrong way for his 14th goal of the season. In another unique quirk, the equaliser marked the first time that the starting captains for both sides have scored in an FA Cup final.
City restored their lead five minutes after the break courtesy of another Gundogan volley, this time with his left foot. De Bruyne chipped a free-kick to the edge of the box and although Gundogan didn’t hit it as cleanly as his first, the ball found its way through a sea of United bodies leaving De Gea with little time to react.
Gundogan thought he’d sealed his hat trick in the 70th minute, tapping in a Grealish pass across the face of the goal, but the offside flag was up. Immediately after, City were given a reminder that United were far from done when second-half sub Alejandro Garnacho cut inside the City box delivering an effort just inches wide of the post.
United pushed desperately for a late equaliser, and almost had one in stoppage time when Rafael Varane clipped the crossbar before Scott McTominay flashed his deflected follow up just over.
The FA Cup win is City’s seventh triumph in the competition. They’ve sealed the double, their second under Guardiola, can they make it a famous treble? Roll on next Saturday.
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