This is a preview for arguably the biggest FA Cup Final buildup since its conception in 1871 with what is at stake.
A Manchester Derby for an FA Cup final is unheard of before. In the 2000s, the Manchester clubs are the two most successful in England. The Red Devils were dominating the first decade before passing the torch (begrudgingly) to the Citizens who are at the top until now. However, they never met on an occasion as big as what will unfold on Saturday.
To find the last meeting close to significance as this one, you have to go back eleven years to the 2011/12 season when Kompany towered over United’s defence to head in from a corner to give the upper hand in the Premier League race to City who eventually won it through the infamous Aguerooo moment.
We are a paragraph in, and we have not even mentioned the significance of the match being a derby. From ‘Noisy Neighbors’ labelling to Teves’ ‘Welcome to Manchester’ poster, it is a derby filled with passion, competitiveness and loathing (in a footballing sense). A fan would crave to watch their team get one over their fierce rival at any match, let alone at a tournament final held in high regard like the FA Cup. The winner will have the momentum to carry into next season.
It would be Man United’s 13th title should they win it, which is just one less of the team with the most: Arsenal, 14. Man City will aim to add their 7th to their increasingly impressive trophy collection. But this match, which will be remembered for years, is not just about silverware; it is about something MUCH MORE RELEVANT.
It is only fair to start with the newly crowned 3-peat champions of the Premier League, Manchester City. What an impressive season they are having! They started slow by their standards, almost giving Arsenal, their competitors, too much comfort before blazing past them. During their run, they registered twelve consecutive wins and sixteen games undefeated, which lasted until the last gameweek against Brentford. Elsewhere, they have booked their place in the final of the Champions League after convincingly defeating the experts Real Madrid. They will face Inter Milan in the final, a tie they are huge favourites on.
The Sky Blues are very close to accomplishing a Treble, a feat only managed by, you guessed it, Manchester United. The other side of Manchester would love to damper their parade and remain the only side to have won the three biggest trophies you can win as a football team from England. Even though it is still a tough ask, they are also the favourites against United. At their very best, they look unstoppable, and Pep would be looking to serve just that.
The Carabao Cup champions had a great season when you consider the issues they had to deal with. They started poorly, losing by an aggregate of 6-0 in their first two league games. There was the whole Ronaldo messy affair that Erik ten Hag had to deal with. He was also scrutinized for not picking his captain Maguire and instead playing the 5’9” Argentian defender Lisandro Martinez. There were some damaging defeats, 6-3 and 7-0 to Manchester City and Liverpool, respectively, to mention a few.
Eventually, they went on an impressive run that made them sit comfortably in the top 4 until they had to fend off a late surge from Liverpool. Besides going all the way in the Carabao, they got into the Quarter Final stage of the Europa League, where they started two goals to the good before seeing it slip away at the hands of Sevilla.
Altogether, it is a massive progress on a disastrous previous season. However, as Ten Hag said, there is still a game to go, and it’s a big one. It is an opportunity to stop Man City from doing their treble while also winning silverware. Although Bruno came forward and denied these allegations and said it’s all about the trophy – not thwarting City’s jubilation, it is safe to assume the treble prospect will be playing a part in their mind.
They were injury free during the run into the end of the Premier League. Because of niggles, a few players are slight doubts for the final. These players include Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Dias, Jack Grealish and Manu Akanji. When asked about their absence, Pep said: “We had four, five players with niggles, not injuries. They were not fit for a few days.” When asked about their return, he said: “I don’t know. Wednesday they will train, or recovery session. Hopefully, right now, I don’t know.” He proceeded to say: “ I think they will be ready,” which will be a huge relief for City fans.
Predicted lineup: Ederson; Walker, Akanji, Dias, Stones; Rodri, Gündoğan, De Bruyne; Silva, Haaland, Grealish
After a season embroiled with injuries here and there, Man United will be glad it is ending. They were playing games almost every 3 to 4 games, which is a tough ask for a squad not as deep as the likes of Man City. Most of their injury records have been resolved, but this game comes too soon for ‘the Butcher’ Lisandro Martinez, Marcel Sabitzer and Donny van de Beek.
The fresh disappointment was the injury Antony sustained during the game against Chelsea. He was stretched off, after what was most likely an ankle injury after a tackle from Chalobah. The gaffer described it as looking ‘serious’ post-match. On Sunday, his update was optimistic. Despite clips emerging of the Brazilian walking on crutches, Ten Hag said: “The first assessment is not too bad, and [there is] a good opportunity he is available for the Cup final next week.” Martial, however, is ruled out due to a hamstring injury after the Fulham match.
Predicted lineup: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Shaw, Malacia; Casemiro, Fred, Eriksen; Fernandes, Rashford, Sancho
Man City 1-2 Man United
I feel like United will give it their all defensively before nicking a late goal to win the FA Cup Final at Wembley, hopefully. I have been unbiased so far; give me a break.
Illustration by Jamie Brazier
Yellowww! Football, eh…