United edge City in Manchester derby final to clinch FA Cup

FA Cup Final : Manchester City 1 v Manchester United 2

IMPROBABLE. Against all odds. But Manchester United underlined that nothing is certain in football, not least in the world’s oldest knockout competition where romantic upsets are very much woven into its fabric.

Prior to the game, all talk centred around the feverish speculation that Erik Ten Hag would be removed regardless of the outcome of the final. But it would take a brave board to announce that decision after a tactical masterclass from the Dutchman to outmanouvre his more celebrated Catalan counterpart.

Manchester United had the measure of their city rivals for much of the first half, employing a rigid man-to-man system that nullified the combined threats of Kevin De Bruyne, Eerling Haaland and Phil Foden.

The Old Trafford outfit had conceded an alarming number of shots throughout the season, with opponents seemingly able to run through their midfield at will. But not today as the men in red kept their shape and remained tight and disciplined without the ball.

They pressed the cup holders effectively and their counter attacking tactics worked a treat against a City team looking bereft of ideas and quite possibly worse for wear possibly after massive post-league title celebrations last week.

United took the lead on the half hour after a catastrophic mix up between City’s Stefan Ortega and Josko Gvardiol allowed Alejandro Garnacho to slip the ball into an unguarded net. Things got progressively worse nine minutes later when City were again sliced open by United’s clever counter attack.

A move sparked by a beautiful cross field pass from captain Bruno Fernandes was coolly finished off by youngster Kobbie Mainoo.

City were well below their par with many of their big names not able to influence the game as they usually do. This remained the case until the introduction of Jeremy Doku whose constant trickery down the left flank finally gave the United defence something to think about.

His 87th minute goal though came a little too late as United hung on for a famous cup triumph. Alongside a much needed trophy, the victory also propelled them into the Europa League.

Is it enough to save Ten Hag’s job? Probably not but he will always have this moment to cherish. – May 26, 2024


Main photo credit: The Guardian


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