Manchester City finds themselves on the verge of an unprecedented treble after a resounding victory in the FA Cup final against Manchester United. With only 12 seconds on the clock, Ilkay Gundogan scored the quickest goal in FA Cup final history, setting the stage for a remarkable clash. Although Bruno Fernandes’ first-half penalty canceled out Gundogan’s early strike, City’s captain, with a seemingly weak shot from outside the 18-yard box, managed to secure a 2-1 win over Erik ten Hag’s team. This result now propels Pep Guardiola’s side into a momentous Champions League final encounter against Inter Milan next Saturday, with the opportunity to become only the second English team to achieve the treble.
The first English team to achieve this feat was none other than Manchester United, back in 1999. United, aware of the challenge they faced as a roadblock to City’s pursuit of matching their illustrious accomplishment, failed to secure their predecessors’ legacy.
United’s tactics, which largely relied on hit-and-hope strategies and occasional long-range attempts, proved insufficient against the relentless City team. Looking ahead to the upcoming clash in Istanbul, Inter Milan will need to devise a superior game plan and rely on their exceptional players if they wish to deny City the European Cup. However, there is an air of inevitability surrounding the prospect of the trophy being adorned in sky blue ribbons, echoing City’s triumphs in the Premier League and FA Cup this season.
Reflecting on the team’s success, Guardiola expressed his satisfaction, stating, “We can now talk about the treble. Of course, we still have to win the Champions League, but we performed exceptionally well for our city and our fans. We find ourselves in a unique position that may never come again.”
The path to City’s potential treble has been paved by various factors, including Guardiola’s tactical prowess, the exceptional performances of striker Erling Haaland, and the midfield strength provided by players like Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, and Rodri. Regardless of the opponent or challenge they face, City has displayed a remarkable ability to secure victories.
Teams daring enough to challenge City have found themselves torn apart, as Real Madrid experienced in their 4-0 Champions League semifinal second-leg demolition last month. Attempts to sit deep and frustrate the opposition have proved futile, as City’s relentless attacking waves pass opponents into submission.
Manchester United attempted a different approach, deploying Fred to man-mark De Bruyne and nullify City’s driving force. However, this tactic inadvertently provided Gundogan and Rodri with acres of space in midfield, while auxiliary midfielder John Stones also posed an unsolvable problem for United.
Although United managed to gain a foothold in the game and cause chaos midway through the first half, with Fernandes and their forwards stretching the City defense, their efforts resembled a journeyman boxer throwing aimless punches in the hope of landing a significant blow. United eventually tired themselves out, and once City regained the lead, there was never a genuine sense of them conceding again. United made sporadic flurries, with substitute Alejandro Garnacho injecting pace and purpose, but City always maintained a comfortable distance.
City’s record speaks for itself, with just one loss in their past 27 games, a 1-0 defeat at Brentford on the final day of the Premier League season, where Guardiola opted to rest key players in preparation for the FA Cup and Champions League finals. They have not only triumphed over their rivals but also inflicted heavy defeats upon them. Arsenal, Liverpool, and Madrid have all conceded four goals against City in recent weeks, leaving Inter Milan with a daunting task ahead.
While United managed to avoid a devastating defeat,
their loss serves as a reality check that demands attention. Even when City is not at their best, they possess the winning mentality that enables them to emerge victorious. Teams like United should be capable of summoning that extra something to defeat City when the opportunity arises.
City’s dominance has created a significant gap between themselves and their competitors. The challenge now lies with the chasing pack to find a way to catch up. However, as it stands, City continues to find ways to overcome any obstacles in their path. The expectation is that they will once again prevail against Inter Milan next week.
As history beckons, the joy of achieving the treble while denying United the chance to claim it as their own adds an extra layer of sweetness to City’s impending triumph.
With two down, one to go, the football world awaits the outcome with bated breath.