Manchester City took another step towards completing a famous treble after beating fierce rivals Manchester United 2-1 in the 2023 FA Cup final, as Pep Guardiola maintained his 100% winning record in domestic cup finals whilst in charge of the Cityzens.
If there were any nerves in City’s camp ahead of the FA Cup’s first all-Manchester final, İlkay Gündoğan more than settled them inside just 13 seconds, when he planted a sumptuous volley into the top corner, duly beating Louis Saha’s existing record for the competition’s fastest goal in a final (25s) set in 2009.
The United goal then faced a barrage of relentless pressure as City pushed for an early second, but for all their huff and puff, the English champions struggled to carve out clear-cut opportunities. And despite the one-way traffic, a Rodri header that rippled the side netting was about as close as Guardiola’s side came to doubling their advantage before half-time.
Despite their complete lack of attacking desire, United were gifted a route back into the game against the run of play, when Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s header brushed the fingers of Jack Grealish. Referee Paul Tierney missed the initial incident, but after consulting the VAR screen, he awarded United a penalty, which Bruno Fernandes duly converted.
City were visibly rattled by that equaliser, and could count themselves lucky to head into the break on level terms when Raphaël Varane spurned a glorious opportunity at the far post.
Much as they did in the first half, City came out smoking in the second. And United must have been sensing déjà vu, when the ball again dropped invitingly on the volley for Gündoğan on the edge of the area, albeit to no avail this time. Unfortunately for those Man United, history did repeat itself soon after, with the German’s blockbuster 51st-minute strike on a half-volley sneaking low into the corner and sending City’s near 35,000-strong contingent behind the goal into raptures.
While some may question David de Gea’s role in City’s second, United had their stopper to thank for the game not being out of sight moments later as he rebuffed a fierce De Bruyne strike. United were certainly pushing hard for a leveller, and substitute Alejandro Garnacho came within inches of finding one when he curled an effort agonisingly wide of .... There was also a late scramble that saw a red shirt head narrowly over the bar, as several blue ones survived an uncharacteristic moment of panic.
However, that proved to be the closest Erik ten Hag’s men came, as City locked down the second trophy in their quest for a legendary trilogy and how sweet it must have felt to claim it against their fiercest rivals, as their quest to emulate United’s treble of 1999 approaches its final chapter in Istanbul seven days from now.