The 142nd FA Cup final will see a Manchester derby take centre stage for the first time beneath the famous arch of Wembley Stadium as treble-chasing Manchester City lock horns with bitter rivals and EFL Cup winners Manchester United on Saturday afternoon.
While the Citizens are seeking to lift England’s oldest trophy for the seventh time in their history, the Red Devils are hoping to get their hands on the prestigious prize for a 13th time.
Four years on from winning the first-ever domestic quadruple in English football, history beckons once again for Man City as they endeavour to become the first English team since rivals Man United in 1998-99 to win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season.
The Citizens already have one trophy in the bag after clinching the top-flight title for a third successive year and for a fifth time in six seasons, with Pep Guardiola’s side ending the Premier League campaign five points clear of their nearest challengers Arsenal.
With one eye on their pursuit of the treble, a much-rotated City side were beaten 1-0 at Brentford in their final league fixture of the season last Sunday, a result that ended their exceptional 25-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Nevertheless, Guardiola has wisely managed the minutes of his first-team stars over the last two weeks and hopes they have taken his advice on briefly ‘disconnecting’ from the rigours of their hectic schedule in preparation for Saturday’s behemoth battle with their bitter rivals.
A journey to Istanbul for a Champions League showpiece event with Inter Milan awaits in a weeks’ time, but Man City’s focus is now on the FA Cup and their 12th final in the competition. The Citizens have won six and lost five of their previous 11 FA Cup finals, most recently romping to a remarkable 6-0 victory over Watford in 2019 – the joint-largest winning margin in cup final history.
Man City have seen off Chelsea, Arsenal, Bristol City, Burnley and Sheffield United – beating the latter 3-0 in the semi-finals courtesy of a Riyad Mahrez hat-trick – to book their Wembley appearance, with Guardiola’s side yet to concede in this year’s competition; only Preston North End in 1889 and Bury in 1903 have ever won the FA Cup without conceding a single goal.
The Citizens, who are also the highest scorers in this season’s FA Cup with 17 goals, have a perfect record in major domestic cup finals under Guardiola – winning five in total since his arrival in 2016 – although they have lost four of their last six visits to Wembley and have failed to score in three of those.
The carrot of FA Cup glory against Man United to boost their treble hopes is certainly alluring, but Man City will not take their opponents lightly on Saturday after losing 2-1 at Old Trafford in the most recent derby showdown in January.
Indeed, Man United enter their 21st FA Cup final – the joint-most of any team in the competition’s history along with Arsenal – in buoyant mood after winning their last four Premier League matches to secure third place and Champions League football for next season, albeit finishing 14 points behind champions Man City.
The Red Devils followed up an emphatic 4-1 home victory over Chelsea a week last Thursday with a 2-1 final-day win against Fulham on Sunday, with goals from Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes turning the game on its head after Kenny Tete had opened the scoring.
After beginning the 2022-23 campaign with harrowing losses to Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford back in August, few would have envisaged Man United bouncing back in such impressive fashion, and after guaranteeing a top-four finish, Erik ten Hag is seeking to steer the club to their first-ever domestic cup double.
The Dutchman, who has been labelled an “exceptional manager” by Guardiola, ended United’s six-year trophy drought by guiding his team to EFL Cup glory at the end of February, beating Newcastle United 2-0 at Wembley, and the Red Devils will certainly take great pleasure in halting Man City’s pursuit of the treble by winning the FA Cup on Saturday.
Man United are competing in their first FA Cup final for five years after successfully navigating their way past Everton, Reading, West Ham United, Fulham and Brighton, winning their first four ties by a 3-1 scoreline before eliminating the Seagulls in a nerve-racking penalty shootout following a goalless semi-final draw after 120 minutes.
The Red Devils last had their hands on the FA Cup in 2015-16 when they required extra time and a late Jesse Lingard winner to beat Crystal Palace 2-1, two years before losing 1-0 to Chelsea in their most recent final in the competition.
Only Arsenal (14) have ever won the FA Cup on more occasions than Man United (12), although the latter do hold an unwanted record for the joint-most defeats (eight) in the competition’s showpiece event along with both Chelsea and Everton.
Man United will, on this rare occasion, head into Saturday’s final as slight underdogs having lost three of their last four derby clashes with Man City by an aggregate score of 12-4, including a heavy 6-3 Premier League defeat earlier this season.
However, they can take some inspiration from their FA Cup head-to-head record with the Citizens as they have won five of the last six meetings with their noisy neighbours, most recently winning 3-2 away from home in January 2012 – the only exception being a 1-0 semi-final loss at Wembley in 2010-11.
Manchester City FA Cup form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
Manchester United FA Cup form:
Manchester United form (all competitions):
We say: Manchester City 2-1 Manchester United
Whether we see an end-to-end classic or a more closely-fought contest remains to be seen, but Guardiola and Ten Hag should have few problems motivating their players for arguably the biggest Manchester derby in history.
One of these teams is guaranteed to lift a second trophy of the season, but we believe that the superiority that Man City possess in all departments, particularly in attack with the presence of Haaland, will come to the fore, with sky blue ribbons to be attached to this year’s FA Cup.