Despite the worst Premier League season, Man United could lift some silverware if they beat City

Despite the worst Premier League season, Man United could lift some silverware if they beat City
Casemiro (L) and Sofyan Amrabat of Manchester United in action against Anthony Gordon (C) of Newcastle during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Newcastle United in Manchester, on 15 May 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE/PETER POWELL)

In the FA Cup final against Manchester City, Man United have an opportunity to win two trophies in two seasons. Yet in spite of being one of the most decorated clubs in global soccer, trophies have been elusive for Manchester United in recent years.

Manchester City and Manchester United are set to battle it out for the FA Cup for the second successive season. The neighbours booked their spots in the decider of the oldest domestic cup competition in the world by fending off Chelsea and Coventry City respectively.

City are the defending champions after defeating their rivals 2-1 during the 2023 final a year ago. They also come into the final buoyed by being crowned English Premier League champions for a record fourth season on the spin.

By contrast, United have had a hauntingly horrible season – finishing a lowly eighth in the 2023/2024 league campaign. It’s the lowest the Red Devils have placed in the Premier League era (since 1992). During Alex Ferguson’s tenure as manager, the red side of Manchester never ended a single season below third spot in the Premier League.

Ironically, during that period of dominance by Ferguson’s Red Devils – the “Sky Blues” measured their own success by whether they ended a season above or below tenth spot. Anything above that was City overachieving. How things have changed in the last 15 years or so.

Manchester City vs West Ham United in Etihad Stadium, Manchester, on 19 May 2024. Erling Braut Haaland in action with West Ham United’s Tomas Soucek. (Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith)

Skywards or downward spiral?

Backed by the billions of United Arab Emirates royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, City have shot to the sky akin to a SpaceX spacecraft. Inversely, United have mirrored a deflated balloon with their downward spiral since Ferguson’s departure.

Whereas United won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four Carabao Cups, and two Champions League titles during Ferguson’s nearly three-decade stay in Manchester – since his departure, departure silverware has been scarce.

Portuguese great José Mourinho led the Red Devils to a Carabao Cup and Europa League double in the 2016/2017 season. 

Then the club went through a barren run, before claiming just a third major trophy since Ferguson’s retirement. This came when Dutchman Erik ten Hag orchestrated a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United in the Carabao in 2023, ending a six-year silverware drought for the Red half of Manchester.

Read more in Daily Maverick: History-making City under dark cloud until pending Premier League charges are dealt with 

Heading into a third domestic final in two seasons, Ten Hag is confident that his charges can curtail City’s super-charge to another memorable season.

“It’s all about trophies and we have a huge opportunity to win a trophy. In the last 10 years [there have not been] many trophies in this club. But we have an opportunity to win two trophies in two years,” United manager Ten Hag said ahead of Saturday’s final.

“In a season that’s not [gone] our way, we are there. We have an opportunity and it will never be easy. But we have to go for it and we will go for it. We have to believe it as we did last season. And as we know, often against good opponents, we play our best football, and I expect us to do this on Saturday.”

Manchester United Manager Erik Ten Hag on 6 May 2024 in London. (Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Defending champions City

For defending champions City, victory in the final will be an opportunity to complete a domestic double, following their historic Premier League triumph.

Considering that they are undefeated in their last 11 matches in the FA Cup, they are clear favourites. Only Blackburn Rovers, who recorded 20 consecutive wins in the 19th century and Chelsea – with 13 between 2009 and 2011, have more Cup victories in a row.

“It is an absolute privilege to be here with a chance to win this beautiful trophy once again. Last season we played United here in the first ever Manchester derby in a Cup final,” said City’s Spanish mentor Guardiola.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Man City in pole position ahead of critical Premier League curtain call

“To be back less than 12 months later, facing United again, is amazing. We have prepared really well this week. We have studied United and our training sessions have been really good. My players look focused and ready. I can’t wait for the game to start,” stated the tactician.

The match between United – who are chasing a rare trophy – and City – who won the FA Cup as part of a historic treble last season – kicks off at 4pm SA time on Saturday, 25 May. DM     


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Syd Boston says:

    It’s going to be the first time in history that the same two English clubs have met in consecutive FA Cup finals and the first time since the late 1800s, when Blackburn Rovers and Scottish side Queen’s Park came face to face, back-to-back, that it’s happened at all. Following Leverkusen’s Uefa Europa final defeat at the hands of Atalanta, is this to be a week of surprises? They say that the form book goes out of the window on these occasions, although it’s hard to look beyond City. Hope it’s a good watch…

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