Man Utd Stun Rivals City to Win FA Cup

Manchester United and beleaguered manager Erik ten Hag defied the odds and their critics to pull off a stunning FA Cup final victory over hot favourites Manchester City at Wembley.

Ten Hag went into this Manchester derby final with the growing expectation that he will be sacked by United’s new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, irrespective of the outcome.

If Ten Hag is to be dismissed, he will be going out on the back of the finest day of his two-year reign and United’s finest moment for years following a performance that was virtually unrecognisable from the dismal fare they have served up this season.

United’s triumph, which denied Premier League champions City a second successive domestic double, was built on an outstanding first-half display that brought goals from Alejadro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo.

Garnacho was the beneficiary of a mix-up between City keeper Stefan Ortega and Josko Gvardiol as he was left with an open goal on the half-hour while Mainoo crowned a sweeping move with a calm finish from Bruno Fernandes’ delicate touch nine minutes later.

City inevitably applied pressure in the second half, Erling Haaland hitting the frame of the goal, United keeper Andre Onana saving superbly from Kyle Walker and Julian Alvarez missing a great chance.

City substitute Jeremy Doku pulled one back with four minutes left but Ten Hag’s side held firm to record a famous victory and win a 13th FA Cup, their first since 2016.

Ten Hag was lifted off his feet in celebration by fiery defender Lisandro Martinez when the final whistle sounded on a truly remarkable FA Cup final.

The whole build-up was overshadowed by speculation that this would be Ten Hag’s final game in charge of United but Ratcliffe, the man who will be at the centre of that decision-making process, was too busy smiling at the end to contemplate that at this stage.

United have taken a rocky road to Wembley glory, beating Liverpool 4-3 at Old Trafford in the quarter-final with Amad Diallo’s last-gasp goal in extra-time, then narrowly avoiding embarrassment in the semi-final when they conceded a 3-0 lead to Championship side Coventry City before winning on penalties.

And United’s first-half display was as good as anything produced in Ten Hag’s tenure, with superb organisation allied to real threat.

Mainoo’s second goal was picture perfect as Marcus Rashford’s raking pass found Garnacho, whose cross was deftly touched into the young England midfield man’s path by Fernandes.

The 19-year-old was at the heart of it all. Mainoo, not just a goalscorer but a calm presence throughout, showing the big match temperament which makes him a serious contender to start England’s first game against Serbia at Euro 2024.

The man of the moment, however, was Ten Hag, derided as a busted flush simply waiting to be shown the door, who coaxed a top-class performance out of a United team that has struggled so badly but will now be in next season’s Europa League.

It was his second trophy at United after last season’s League Cup win. If Ten Hag is going, he goes out on a real high.

Man City suffer for rare off day

Manchester City’s hopes of becoming the first side to win successive Premier League and FA Cup doubles were undermined by the sort of off day they have rarely produced in recent months.

Pep Guardiola’s side, worthy league champions after their final-day win against West Ham United last Sunday, simply failed to fire and showed an unusual uncertainty when faced by a fearless Manchester United, especially in the first 45 minutes.

Keeper Ortega, who produced a magnificent cameo as a substitute at Tottenham in the title run-in, looked nervous here and had already caused a scare in his own area before an injudicious dash from goal panicked defender Gvardiol into a header that left Garnacho with the simplest of chances.

It summed up an out of character City performance, which brought midfield man Rodri his first loss in a City shirt in 75 games, stretching back to a defeat by Spurs in February 2023. A remarkable sequence for this outstanding player.

Even when City pushed after the break and tried to reach their usual levels they fell short, their luck out when Haaland hit the bar while Alvarez side-footed a simple chance wide of the post.

Footballer Of The Year Phil Foden was unable to provide the inspiration while a jaded-looking Kevin de Bruyne lasted less than an hour.

It simply was not City’s day and, for this season at least, they must be content with the Premier League after last season’s historic Treble of the title, Champions League and FA Cup.


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