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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City: Mainoo and Garnacho fire United to Wembley glory

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Manchester United are the 2023/24 FA Cup champions.

Erik ten Hag’s future is a secondary story now as he and his team will relish the moment after beating the very noisy neighbor’s, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, 2-1 at Wembley. Everyone stepped up on the day and did their job to frustrate the Premier League champions, holding them to very few chances, while executing perfectly on counter attacks to pull ahead and take control of the match.

The start was tense with City of course taking control of the flow. There was no real clear cut chance in the opening minutes but Garnacho did snap at a shot after a good spell of possession from United. They had a direct approach but did well on the ball early in the game when they did have the ball.

City’s attack floated like a boxer looking for a moment to strike and nearly found an opening after 25 minutes. Phil Foden clinically turned and sent Matteo Kovacic through. The Croatian found the ball but couldn’t find a teammate with a cutback pass across Andre Onana’s goal.

United’s direct approach went a bit more route one a few minutes later, with a searching ball over the top for Garnacho instead finding Nathan Ake’s head as Ortega Moreno came out to claim. The ball bounced perfectly for the Argentine forward to pass it into the empty net and United took the lead after a serious error by the league winners.

The lead was doubled a few minutes later with a pitch-perfect team goal, Bruno Fernandes and Garnacho both involved in setting up Kobbie Mainoo to make it 2-0 and stun the blue half of Wembley before the break.

United stayed on the front foot after the interval, with Rashford nearly pulling in a ball over the top and a penalty shout waved off after Rodri beat Scott McTominay to a pass across the box. It seemed to wake up City, who came back with a fury ten minutes in. Andre Onana had to make a save on a mishit by Foden and moments later Erling Haaland caused an earthquake with his shot hitting the crossbar.

Onana was called into action again a few minutes later to deny a thunderous hit from distance after Kyle Walker sent the ball toward the top corner. Onana was able to dive late and still get a hand to it, but the pressure was on as City kept firing away and pinning United back.

It took some great effort from the United players all across the team, but in particular we saw Marcus Rashford, Lisandro Martinez, and Raphael Varane each put in fantastic shifts after coming back from injuries to make the matchday squad. It means something special to play in a cup final, and for them you could tell they were going the extra mile whenever they were called upon.

Martinez and Rashford both exited around the 70 minute mark, with the former showing signs of fatigue. Rashford acted as one of only two real outlets for the Reds and his departure left some doubt about United adding a third goal. His link up play was exceptional on the day and helped them keep the ball forward.

That move resigned United to their defensive efforts, and if that didn’t turn them into a parked bus Jeremy Doku’s 87th minute goal certainly did. The winger cut inside onto his right foot and fired a low shot to Onana’s near post. He could have done better stopping it with a hand reaching the ball before it passed him into the net, but he didn’t see the ball until late.

Seven minutes of stoppage time came with the addition of another defender, with Victor Lindelof and Mason Mount replacing Scott McTominay and Alejandro Garnacho. The additional bodies crowded an already crowded Red box and there would be no last gasp equalizer for the sports washers.

The old FA Cup trophy is coming home to Old Trafford for the first time since 2016.

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