Manchester City on track for a treble as they defeat Manchester United 2-1 in the FA Cup Final

Two Ilkay Gundogan goals saw Manchester City win the FA Cup Final

In their hunt for a historic treble, Manchester City ran out 2-1 winners in the FA Cup Final against city rivals Manchester United. In doing so, they won their 7th FA Cup title and ensured their second major trophy of the season.

Guardiola opted for a flexible 3-2-4-1 with John Stones again pushing into the midfield. Erling Haaland was the lone striker upfront with Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, and Jack Grealish behind the Norwegian.

For the Red Devils, Erik ten Hag chose a defensive lineup with Bruno Fernandes playing on the right wing. Fred was tasked with keeping De Bruyne quiet, starting alongside Christian Eriksen and Casemiro in the middle of the park.

A quickfire start from CIty meant that United was chasing the game within a minute of kickoff. A loose header by Victor Lindelof fell on Gundogan’s feet, whose first time-volley screamed into the top corner. David de Gea was left rooted to the spot but could arguably have done better.

Manchester City started the game as the dominant team. They created multiple big chances including a couple of Erling Haaland. However, some determined defending and sheer luck from United kept them in the game.

The Devils eventually found their way back via a penalty. On the receiving end of a long ball, Aaron Wan Bissaka was being defended by Grealish on the right of the penalty box. His header ended up hitting Grealish’s arm, which was technically in an “unnatural position.”

Fernandes calmly dispatched the penalty to help Manchester United equalize on the night

Referee Paul Tierney was asked to check the replay for himself and ended up awarding the penalty. Bruno was United’s brightest player until this point and slotted it away in the bottom left corner. Despite firmly being the second-best team, Manchester United had found a way back.

Six minutes later, De Bruyne had a penalty shout of his own turned down. It was the Brazilian Fred who had brought him down. Still, the equalizer seemed to open up the game. United had their best spell of the match.

In the 42nd minute, Eriksen’s delivery from a corner eventually broke to Raphael Varane, whose left-footed volley flew over the bar. The golden chance fell to a defender, which proved to be the final big chance of the half. 

Manchester City started the second half in exactly the way they started the first. They dominated the ball right from the start, and eventually went ahead again. It was the in-form Gundogan once again.

A Kevin De Bruyne free-kick from the right broke out to the German on the edge of the box. His first-time left-footed volley travelled through a crowd and sneaked past De Gea into the bottom left corner. For the second time in the game, Manchester United needed a fightback.

With his team trailing, it was ten Hag who made the first change of the match. The youngster Alejandro Garnacho was brought in to replace Eriksen, who found space hard to come by. Bruno moved towards the middle with Garnacho playing on the left.

Despite the change, it was City who created the better chances. Both Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were passengers until this moment and Garnacho brought in some much-needed spark but it never looked enough.

De Bruyne saw his left-foot shot saved by De Gea with his feet in the 62nd minute. With the Red Devils committing men forward, the game seemed to be opening up for the Sky Blues. Rashford tried a 25-yard shot in the 72nd minute but was nowhere close to the goal.

Chances seemed to be flowing, with Garnacho’s effort coming close to giving United another equalizer. He cut in on the left and let fly, something the 18-year-old has excelled at this season. Haaland received another big chance after a quick counter but missed his second sitter of the match.

While United were doing all they could, City had enough chances to go a couple of goals ahead. De Bruyne was brought off to a standing ovation from City supporters in the 76th minute and was replaced by Phil Foden.

Two minutes later, ten Hag made his second change of the match. Sancho had by far been the least involved attacker on both teams and was replaced by Wout Werghost in a big to add more directness while Scott McTominay was brought in to replace Lindelof in the 83rd minute. 

Then, United had to wait until injury time to get their next big chance. Garnacho whipped in a cross after running past two defenders on the left. The initial header by Raphael Varane was blocked and the ball then made its way to McTominay, who looped the ball tamely and Stefan Ortega was happy to touch it over the crossbar. 

Manchester United had missed yet another big chance and City only needed to see off what was remaining of injury time.

With that, Pep Guardiola’s team kept themselves on track to become only the second English team to win a treble of the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup. They will take on Inter next Saturday in the quest for the most important trophy. 

For Manchester United, the season comes to an end with a disappointing loss. They fought hard until the final whistle and were unable to produce a fairytale win to protect their 1999 treble achievement. Still, the Red Devils won the League Cup and qualified for next season’s UEFA Champions League marking a successful season that could have ended much better.