Man City 1-2 Man United: Red Devils lift FA Cup in face of Ten Hag speculation

Erik ten Hag orchestrated the perfect game plan, executed just as perfectly by his players, to upset Manchester City 2-1 in the FA Cup final and perhaps his final act as manager of the club.

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A report emerged on Friday that the decision to fire Ten Hag, regardless of Saturday's result, had already been made, only for Man United to turn in their best performance of the season (and maybe Ten Hag's two-year tenure). The Red Devils defended tenaciously with all 11 players anytime Man City had the ball — which was most of the time — and were quick to break on the counter as soon as they won the ball back.

So, you’re telling me Man United were capable of this all along?

Sounds simple enough, but then you consider that most (if not all) of their last 35 opponents, who combined to beat them zero times in 90 or 120 minutes, might have had a similar idea without matching United's execution. It was the kind of collective buy-in that was clearly missing throughout the 2023-24 season, as they finished 8th, 31 points behind the now four-time reigning champions. It was the kind of commitment that would have carried them at numerous points when scrutiny reached a fever pitch.

It was the kind of spirited performance that would typically signal a team still very much playing and fighting for a manager they hope will be given a little more time. Only, that wasn't the case for most of Ten Hag's time (so far) at the club, and it leaves Man United's fans (let alone the new owner with a decision to make) in a real conundrum. But first, an open-top bus parade through the streets of Manchester?

It was all City early on, as they held 75 percent of possession in the first half, though they did very little with it in the opening half-hour, at which time United stepped up their tempo and directness after winning the ball. Cue the game's opening goal, as Josko Gvardiol and Stefan Ortega misread how to best deal with Diogo Dalot's long ball behind City's defense. Ortega came all the way out, Gvardiol thought he'd be hanging back, and Alejandro Garnacho was all by his lonesome with the ball at his feet.

United's second goal was more a thing of beauty, with Garnacho breaking down the right wing and finding Bruno Fernandes atop the penalty area. Rather than take a touch to settle and survey his options, Fernandes kept the ball moving into space with a blind, first-time through ball to Kobbie Mainoo on the back side. Mainoo and ball arrived in unison and the 19-year-old slotted a cool finish to the far post.

Jeremy Doku pulled one back for Man City late in the second half when Andre Onana couldn't handle his bouncing shot at the near post, but that's as close as Pep Guardiola's side would get. Previously, Guardiola had won all six of his domestic cup finals (two FA Cups, four League Cups) as Manchester City manager. The defeat also snaps Rodri's incredible 74-game unbeaten run in games he played.

"Who's going to be the manager next season?" can wait a few days, because the one still in charge has earned a proper celebration.

Player ratings - Man City vs Man United

Man City vs Man United player ratings
Man City vs Man United player ratings

Manchester City vs Manchester United highlights, final score: 1-2

Goalscorers: Alejandro Garnacho (30'), Kobbie Mainoo (39'), Jeremy Doku (87')

GOAL - Man City 1-2 Man United: Andre Onana lets Jeremy Doku’s near-post shot in (87')

GOAL - Man City 0-2 Man United: Kobbie Mainoo finishes Bruno Fernandes’ brilliant setup (39')

GOAL - Man City 0-1 Man United: Alejandro Garnacho scores after Josko Gvardiol, Stefan Ortega mix-up (30')

Man City starting lineup

Ortega — Walker, Stones, Ake, Gvardiol — Rodri, Kovacic, De Bruyne — Silva, Foden, Haaland

Man United starting lineup

Onana — Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Dalot — Amrabat, Mainoo, McTominay — Garnacho, Fernandes, Rashford

How to watch Manchester City vs Manchester United live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday (May 25)
How to watch: ESPN+

Focus on Man City, team news

OUT: Ederson (face)

Focus on Man United, team news

OUT: Tyrell Malacia (knee), Luke Shaw (thigh), Mason Mount (undisclosed), Harry Maguire (undisclosed), Victor Lindelof (thigh), Anthony Martial (groin)