Manchester City completed the second part of their quest for a remarkable treble when they overcame fierce rivals Manchester United to claim the FA Cup at a sun-drenched Wembley Stadium, in front of a crowd of over 83,000.
Pep Guardiola’s incredible team got off to the best possible start, taking the lead after just 13 seconds, when captain Ilkay Gundogan crashed home a stunning volley to score the fastest goal in FA Cup final history.
United got a lucky break mid-way through the first half when VAR intervened and ruled that Jack Grealish had handled the ball and a penalty was awarded, which the Red Devils skipper Bruno Fernandes converted in his usual casual manner.
City stepped up the pressure after the interval and re-took the lead through another Gundogan strike, although there will be question marks over United’s keeper David de Gea, who got a hand to the shot and probably should have made the save.
It was enough to settle the first ever FA Cup final Manchester derby, and the sky blue outfit now switch their focus to the Champions League and trying to match the feat accomplished by their neighbours 24 years ago, when United won all three trophies under Alex Ferguson.
The double winners go to Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium in seven days time to take on Inter Milan, and will go there as most people’s favourites to lift the cup.
Route One football for a change
It was a stunning start from the Premier League champions, one that probably even surprised themselves. Straight from the kick-off the ball was played all the way back to goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, the number two stopper, who Guardiola had remained loyal to, after picking him for all the previous rounds.
He hit a 60 yard kick up to star striker Erling Haaland, who won the header and the loose ball dropped perfectly to Gundogan to hit the most delicious of volley’s from around 25 yards, which left De Gea rooted, as it flew past him to give City an amazing start.
It was wonderful technique from a player who has performed brilliantly since the turn of the year. It immediately became the fastest goal the cup final has ever witnessed, beating Louis Saha’s opener after 25 seconds for Everton against Chelsea, back in 2009.
Shocking VAR decision
On that occasion the Londoners fought back to lift the trophy, and United may have been thinking they could create a repeat when out of nothing they were handed a way back into the match.
A cross from the right landed harmlessly into the arms of Ortega, but referee Paul Tierney was alerted by his VAR colleagues to a possible hand-ball.
As the ball came in it flicked off the fingers of Grealish, making little or no difference to where it ended up, but such is the nonsense around the rules, common sense no longer can be considered and technically it had to be given as a handling offence,so as a consequence United got the decision.
As is his way, Fernandes coolly put away the spot-kick and somehow had drawn his side level, after hardly stringing two passes together in the first 20 minutes. Manchester City though are nothing but resolute, and shook off the disappointment to gradually take a firm grip on proceedings.
Second for the skipper
They were rewarded early in the second period when from a Kevin de Bruyne free-kick wide on the right, the ball was deliberately floated to Gundogan lurking alone around 20 yards from goal. He sent a left foot strike towards goal, but this time lacking any sort of pace.
However, as it passed through a crowd of bodies, De Gea seemed slow moving across and was unable to prevent the ball nestling in the bottom corner of the net. It was poor goalkeeping and handed the initiative firmly back to City.
United introduced 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho, and he definitely added some spark, and went very close to forcing an equaliser with a shot that drifted just past the post. After 5 minutes of stoppage time the final whistle sounded, and an emotional Guardiola embraced his players, as they completed a domestic double.
United need not be too disappointed
For United, it was obviously a hugely disappointing defeat, but for them it has been a successful season, lifting the Carabao Cup and securing a Champions League place.
Manchester City now go in search of a magnificent treble on Saturday 10 June, when they tackle Inter Milan in Turkey’s National Stadium. They will take great confidence from this win and the Italians will have to find something major, or have a huge slice of luck, to stop this special team creating another piece of history.