LONDON — Manchester City lifted the FA Cup thanks to a 2-1 win over Manchester United at Wembley (stream a replay on ESPN+, US only), and are closing in on the treble.
Ilkay Gundogan scored the quickest goal in the FA Cup final history after just 12 seconds, only for United to equalise before half-time through Bruno Fernandes’ penalty, awarded after a VAR check when Jack Grealish handled in the box.
Gundogan scored again six minutes after half-time with a second volley from outside the box to put City back into the lead, and United couldn’t find another equaliser after struggling to create many meaningful chances. Pep Guardiola’s team next head to Istanbul to face Internazionale in the Champions League final, looking to add the third and final leg of what would be a historic treble.
City have got the FA Cup to add to their Premier League title and a major obstacle of their way to the treble has been cleared. They’ve still got a Champions League final against Inter to come, but ask City fan which game they were most nervous about and, without doubt, it was this one.
Aside from an uncomfortable spell immediately after United’s equaliser, City were the better team and if they had taken more of their chances in the first 30 minutes, they would have been out of sight by half-time.
Guardiola’s team are the best in the world at the moment and they proved it again. Inter won’t just roll over in Istanbul next weekend, but it would be a major surprise if City don’t win their first Champions League title and complete the treble. They have dominated English football since Guardiola’s arrival in 2016 and winning everything in a single season would be the icing on the cake. Only Sir Alex Ferguson’s United have done it before nearly 25 years ago, but City’s class of 2023 are just 90 minutes away from taking their place in the history books. It’s so close.
City players have been joking that, at the business end of the season, Gundogan turns into “prime Zidane,” and at Wembley he did it again.
The Germany midfielder scored after just 12 seconds with a sweetly struck volley and then repeated the trick just after half-time. His second wasn’t as clean, but it still crept past David De Gea and inside the post. On the last day of last season, Gundogan scored twice as City came back from 2-0 down against Aston Villa to win 3-2 and pip Liverpool to the title. Fast-forward 12 months and he scored doubles against Leeds United and Everton in May as Guardiola’s team lifted the title again. Two goals against United makes it six goals in his past six games during City’s charge towards the treble, and you wouldn’t bet against him getting a goal against Inter. He’ll be 33 years old in October, but you can understand why Guardiola is so desperate for him to stay. Barcelona and Arsenal are keen to sign him as a free agent this summer, but he’s still making a crucial contribution for City in the biggest games.
Defeat in the FA Cup final shouldn’t detract from the progress United have made under Erik ten Hag this season, but it was more evidence that they are still a long way behind City. After conceding before they’d even had a kick, United looked lost for the first 30 minutes and were lucky that it stayed at 1-0 for so long. A Rodri header that rippled the outside of the net had the City supporters jumping out of their seats, while Erling Haaland had another good chance that he scuffed back to De Gea.
United were barely in the game before the VAR, David Coote, decided Grealish had handled in the box and created very little afterwards. City and United were separated by 14 points in the Premier League this season and it’s a lot of ground to make up in one summer — particularly if United don’t get a proven goal-scoring No. 9 like Harry Kane in the transfer window.
– The VAR Review: Grealish handball, Casemiro red card
Ten Hag wasn’t helped by injuries to Lisandro Martinez, Antony and Anthony Martial — three players who probably would have started against City — but there is still a big gulf between the two squads and it’s hard to see United breaking City’s dominance of English football anytime soon.
Ilkay Gundogan, MF, Man City: Now the record holder for the fastest goal in FA Cup final history. Always seems to turn it on in the run-in.
John Stones, DF, Man City: Playing in his hybrid role in defence and midfield, he was always on hand to offer another option and caused problems for United with occasional runs forward.
Stefan Ortega, GK, Man City: Faced a lot of pressure as a No. 2 goalkeeper picked for such a big game but he dealt with it well.
Victor Lindelof, DF, Man United: Let the ball bounce after Erling Haaland’s flick-on and Gundogan took advantage with a spectacular strike.
David de Gea, GK, Man United: Again struggled with his kicking and should have done better with Gundogan’s second goal.
Jadon Sancho, FW, Man United: Didn’t see much of the ball and didn’t impact the game when he did. Replaced by Wout Weghorst in the second half.
Gundogan to BBC Sport: “To win a final is always special. Every trophy is special. This group deserves it. We played really well, second half was amazing and we deserved to lift another trophy. Obviously we know how we want to play the kick off and we aim to do that, to go long for Erling and try to get a second ball. It just placed amazingly for me and I just had to hit it. Obviously it was a quite good strike.”
Fernandes to BBC Sport: “Everyone is down and it’s really difficult. We wanted to end the season in a different way but it wasn’t possible. We’ve made big steps for next season, it wasn’t a successful season overall but it was a good one. We have come back next season and try to win bigger trophies.”
Grealish, speaking to BBC Sport: “Unbelievable. It’s stuff you dream of when you’re a little kid. I was desperate to win one at Villa and now I’ve done it.
“I don’t even think it’s a penalty. I wasn’t even looking at it, I turned and it hit my arm but Gundogan saved me.
“The best thing about this team is we have a mix of everything. Everyone is confident, we’ve got older more experienced lads and the younger lads are learning too.”
– Man City tie Real Madrid for the most goals from outside the penalty area this season (22) in all competitions among teams from Europe’s top five leagues.
– Gundogan has three braces in his past six games for City after having just one brace in his previous 107 games in all competitions.
Manchester City: It’s Inter Milan for the Premier League champions as they look to complete the treble. The Champions League final takes place Saturday, June 10.
Manchester United: The season is over for the Red Devils.