FA Cup final becomes Erik ten Hag's finest hour as Man Utd beat Man City

Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of the 143rd FA Cup final, the second in succession between Manchester City and Manchester United and the first to feature the same two teams in back to back seasons since Blackburn Rovers beat the Spiders of Queen’s Park for the second time at Kennington Oval in 1885.

Manchester City, in pursuit of consecutive Doubles and their third overall, are overwhelming favourites given their superiority in talent and experience, their eight years of refinement, outstanding FA charges notwithstanding, under Pep Guardiola. They won 3-0 at Old Trafford in October and 3-1 at the Etihad two months ago, helping them to a 31-point advantage over United by the season’s end. Ten Hag did beat them once, in January 2023, and they were competitive in a relatively dreary Cup final last June, when Alejandro Garnacho should and Raphaël Varane could have equalised at the death.

Whatever the outcome for Manchester United, it has been widely leaked that the Ineos men now calling the shots will sack Ten Hag regardless of result. Being potted by Manchester United in the past 11 years does not make you a bad manager or a bad person. They have been badly run in epic proportions, even in Sir Alex Ferguson’s latter years when he managed to pull of the greatest con trick of them all by winning his final title because Roberto Mancini lost the dressing room at City and Chelsea went to war with their fans by appointing Rafa Benítez as interim manager.

He has made many mistakes, notably in recruitment from the Eredivisie, but has also suffered an injury epidemic that cannot solely be his fault. It has ruined his chances of having them play like his excellent Ajax side, the style that earned him the job, on more than a handful of occasions. Today he starts yet again without a recognised left-back. Both  Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia are unavailable, as is Harry Maguire, but Victor Lindelof, Mason Mount and Anthony Martial are all in contention for the bench. For City, Ederson, who broke an eye socket in their penultimate league match against Tottenham is out but likely would not have played anyway. Stefan Ortega, who saved their bacon against Spurs and thwarted Varane last year at Wembley, has been first choice in domestic cup games for two years. 

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