Five big talking points from Man Utd’s FA Cup final win over Man City

Manchester United denied Manchester City back-to-back doubles after pulling off a shock 2-1 win in the FA Cup final at Wembley. 

United’s first-half display ultimately won the game, as goals from academy graduates Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo put them 2-0 ahead after a sloppy first-half showing from City.

The champions were shell shocked and despite creating several openings in the second half- mainly Erling Haaland’s effort that hit the woodwork and Julian Alvarez’s glaring miss- they struggled to break United down.

Andre Onana did gift City a late lifeline as Jeremy Doku’s strike squirmed underneath him at the near post, but United showed their resolve to get over the line and win their 13th FA Cup.

Here are the five things we learned from the game… 

United’s poor season ends with silverware 

For Erik ten Hag and Manchester United, it was a season to forget before today’s result. The club had recorded their worst ever finish in the Premier League era, had been dumped out of the Champions League in the group stage phase and were eliminated from the Carabao Cup in the round of 16. 

Everything was riding on today’s FA Cup final against a relentless Manchester City side who came into today’s final as heavy favourites and without a defeat since December. 

Nobody could have predicted this performance from United. They showed a level of grit and determination that has been absent virtually all season and when they went 2-0 up after a brilliant first-half performance, City looked rattled and found it difficult to work their way back into the game. 

Whether or not this performance will be enough for Ten Hag to keep his job remains to be seen.

Martinez and Varane make the difference 

United boss Erik ten Hag has consistently referred to injuries this season as the reason behind the club’s dismal form. The injury crisis has been most noticeable in defence, with United deploying 26 different back four combinations all season. The performance of Lisandro Martinez and Raphaël Varane this afternoon emphasised how much of miss they have been for Ten Hag this season. 

The pair were assured in possession, comfortable on the ball and capable of stepping into midfield in search of a line breaking pass. If both had stayed fit all season, United’s fortunes could have been different. 

United’s academy boys do the business 

In games of this magnitude, you always look to your big players, and for United right now, Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho are among those leading figures despite still being just 19 years of age. 

Garnacho was a constant threat for City’s backline, always offering runs in behind in the hope that something would fall his way. His persistence paid off when he capitalised on a calamitous mix-up between Josko Gvardiol and Stefan Ortega to tap into an empty net.

United’s other academy starlet then delivered a devastating blow to City, with Mainoo guiding home a composed finish after a slick move involving Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes. For all of United’s hardship this season, their academy graduates have been one of the few shining lights.

Ten Hag’s tactical setup pays off 

United’s box midfield worked so well against City today. With Scott McTominay and Fernandes ahead of Sofyan Amrabat and Mainoo, United were able to squeeze the space in the centre of the pitch and make it difficult for City to play between the lines.

City’s midfield were often forced wide with their passes, and at times United looked comfortable at the back. 

United’s pace on the counter-attack and efficiency inside the box ultimately created both their goals. Tactically, Ten Hag was spot on and deserves credit for how he nullified Pep Guardiola’s side.

City lack cutting edge 

Even when United raced into a two-goal lead, there was still an air of inevitability that City would somehow eventually score. However, the holders of the FA Cup were uncharacteristically off the pace in attack.

Granted, United’s defenders were impressive and Onana was called upon a few times, in particular his one-handed stretch to keep out Kyle Walker’s fierce effort in the second half.

But despite being sluggish, City still fashioned two big chances through Haaland and Alvarez. It was just not their day and Guardiola admitted after the game that tactically, he got it wrong.

City’s possession and territory in United’s half did increase as the game entered the latter stages and they eventually got on the scoresheet as Doku’s tame effort squirmed past Onana, a shot the United keeper really should have kept out. 

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