Manchester United defeat neighbours Manchester City in Emirates FA Cup Final

Saturday 25 May 2024
Bruno Fernandes lifts the Emirates FA Cup following Manchester United's 2-1 win over Manchester City

Manchester United pulled off a thrilling Emirates FA Cup triumph as teenage sensations Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo inspired a 2-1 win against rivals Manchester City.

Garnacho took advantage of a City mistake to put United ahead on the half-hour before Mainoo calmly doubled their lead, as the Red Devils stunned Pep Guardiola’s domestic double hopefuls in the first half.

City laid siege to United’s goal after half-time and hit the cross-bar through Erling Haaland, before substitute Jeremy Doku set-up a grandstand finish with a low shot into the bottom corner in the 87th minute.

However, United held firm to win the 13th Emirates FA Cup in their history, moving to within one of Arsenal’s record, and book their place in next season’s Europa League.

This marks their second trophy under manager Erik ten Hag and comes at the end of a wild Emirates FA Cup journey. United required extra-time to beat rivals Liverpool 4-3 in a pulsating quarter-final and then penalties to see off Coventry City in the semi-finals following a sensational 3-3 draw.

While this did not quite match those matches for drama, it was a nail-biting final and a fine way to end a difficult season for United that saw them finish eighth in the Premier League, 31 points behind champions City in the table.

City have the Premier League trophy to show for another excellent campaign but missed out on the chance to become the first side in English history to win back-to-back league and cup doubles.

Last year’s Emirates FA Cup triumph came against the very same opponents and this marked the first repeat final since 1885. That day, City scored after just 12 seconds – Ilkay Gundogan’s spectacular volley sending them on the way to a 2-1 win – and this match threatened an equally explosive start.

First, a long United pass forward sent Marcus Rashford through on goal but City captain Kyle Walker raced back to deny him a shot inside the box. Seconds later at the other end, Lisandro Martinez barged Haaland over in the penalty area, prompting claims for a City spot-kick.

United were content to sit back and pin their hopes to the counter-attack, and that almost bore fruit in the eighth minute when Bruno Fernandes found Garnacho inside the penalty area, but the winger shot straight at Stefan Ortega.

While that was a difficult opportunity, his next was gift-wrapped by some slack City defending.

Diogo Dalot sent a long and high ball upfield for Garnacho to chase, though City seemed to have it covered with Josko Gvardiol in front of the winger and Ortega rushing out of his goal. However, a lack of communication resulted in a costly error, as Gvardiol headed the ball over Ortega’s head and left opportunist Garnacho a simple tap-in.

With that, the mood changed. United were suddenly alive to every ball and confident enough to press City higher up the pitch, and, with the defending champions a touch off their best, it paid dividends.

Garnacho escaped City’s defence again and crossed for Rashford to tap into an empty net, sparking wild celebrations in the east stand that quickly were cut short by an offside flag. Nonetheless, City were warned, but – much to Guardiola’s frustration - they failed to listen.

Two minutes later, United cut City open with a scything move from left to right. It started with Rashford’s pin-point cross-field pass to Garnacho, who had time and space to pick a pass to Fernandes, unaccompanied on the edge of the box.

City defenders rushed to close down a potential shot, but the United captain brilliantly flicked the ball on to an unmarked Mainoo, who shot low and hard across Ortega and into the bottom corner. Suddenly, United were in firm control and City desperately playing catch up.

In response, Guardiola wasted no time in re-setting his team at half-time, sending the pacey winger Doku on in place of midfielder Mateo Kovacic in an attacking substitute.

The Belgian’s direct dribbling added an instant threat he twice went close to an assist with a pair of slippery cut-backs, first for Phil Foden, who scuffed his shot, before another later found Erling Haaland, whose vicious shot smacked the cross-bar.

Those 30 all-action seconds transformed the mood, with City - and their vocal fans behind the goal - growing in belief.

Walker reacted with a howitzer of a shot from 30 yards that forced Andre Onana into a sensational save, before another City substitute – Julian Alvarez – shot narrowly over the bar when well-placed inside the box. United were on the ropes.

Alvarez then wasted another fine opportunity, as he raced on to a sublime Foden pass inside the box but slid his shot wide of Onana’s right-hand post from just 10 yards out.

Walker forced Onana into another save with a snarling long-range shot, but City’s charged started to flatline as full-time approached.

However, Doku sparked a nail-biting finale when he drifted onto his right foot on the left wing and beat Onana at his near-post with a low shot from the edge of the box.

But they failed to create another major opportunity and United survived to the final whistle, sparking jubilant celebrations in the red halves of Wembley and Manchester.

By FA Staff