Manchester City beat Manchester United in the FA Cup to keep their bid for a historic treble alive


Perfection can come in many forms and be interpreted in different ways. Manchester City have produced more polished performances under Pep Guardiola this season. There have been games where the team scored more and created more – yet City’s ability to dominate their opposition, to do enough to win when it matters, is as perfect as it gets on a football pitch. That’s why this team continues to chase history this season.

As the 2-1 scoreline would suggest, this FA Cup tie between bitter rivals City and Manchester United was a tense affair. A win for the blue side of Manchester was never a foregone conclusion. United had chances, but City had the composure, the know-how, the class.

Two goals from captain İlkay Gündoğan – in the first 12 seconds after kick-off for the fastest in FA Cup history – secured a victory that gave City their second trophy of the season and kept the club’s bid for a treble alive Premier League. the FA Cup and the Champions League.

This Saturday Wembley, next Saturday Istanbul, where City could become only the second English team to lift all three major trophies in one season if they beat Inter Milan in the Champions League final. The other club to achieve this feat? Manchester United in 1999, which explains why it was no ordinary FA Cup final.

For a competition that has arguably lost its luster over the years, the plot lines that came together in this match moved this oldest cup tie back to the fore in English football: a first FA Cup final between these two city rivals, which wants to defend the legacy, the other knowledge of victory would be decisive during an era that dominated English football.

But despite what Pep Guardiola has achieved with City, the Premier League was wrapped up a few weeks ago for a fifth title in six seasons and this was a second FA Cup – and 11th trophy overall – in his seven-year spell at City has never won the Champions League. It is the trophy that the club craves the most.

Such is the caliber of the squad that Guardiola has assembled, they are favorites to win in Istanbul. After the defeat, United manager Erik ten Hag described Guardiola’s side as the best in the world and few would disagree with that claim.

Only Inter can now stop City from sporting immortality, making this defeat particularly bitter for United and their fans.

“Now we can talk about the treble,” Guardiola told reporters after the match.

Guardiola had said before the match that United were a dangerous opponent because the club’s legacy was on the line, there were past achievements to protect. However, while United were once the most ruthless trophy hoarders in English football, dominating those golden years under Alex Ferguson, this is the era of Guardiola’s City.

United still have global appeal, which City are yet to match, and under manager Ten Haag the team has improved – now more consistent, qualifying for next season’s Champions League and winning the League Cup earlier in the season.

Although United only had three shots on target during the game, the Dutchman told reporters afterwards that he was pleased with his side’s performance and that “another day we could have won this game”.

“I have only one plan and that is to improve this club and improve this team,” he added. “I will fight for it. I have my ideas, but also, as I said, I have to work with my staff, my players, I have to be better next season.”

But the truth is, United have a lot to do to be a match for a City team that has finished above them in the league for the past 10 years. Arguably, there is plenty for Ten Haag to do to turn United into a team that could challenge City for the title next season.

It looked like the gulf would become evident in the final score of this game when City took a stunning lead, silencing the red half of the pitch on a sunny London afternoon.

The sounds of the national anthem had not yet fully settled into the airwaves when City captain Gundogan produced a moment of mastery that will live long in the memory, putting City ahead with a superb volley from outside the area with less than a minute left.

The move started with goalkeeper Stefan Ortega whose long-range kick was headed to Kevin de Bruyne by Erling Haaland. The Belgian found Gudogan and before the United defense could calibrate the ball was in the back of the net.

City threatened to relax afterwards – Haaland twice went close, while De Bruyne also took aim at a strained David de Gea – but in the 33rd minute luck turned in United’s favour.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) deemed Jack Grealish to have handled the ball in the penalty area, allowing Bruno Fernandes to coolly tap home to level a match that was threatening to go one way.

But just like in the first half, City exploded after the break – Gundogan putting Guardiola’s side in front again. It was another volley and although it scored less for artistic value than his first, its importance should not be underestimated as it not only secured a league and FA Cup double for the second time in the club’s history, but kept City on course. for greatness.

Twenty minutes later, Gündoğan thought he had a hat-trick only to have his goal ruled out for offside, but in the end it didn’t matter.


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