Ten Hag Faces Man Utd Judgement Day as Man City Eye History in FA Cup Final

24th May 2024

For the second successive season, Wembley will stage a Manchester derby in the showpiece fixture.

Last year, City beat United 2-1 in the final on route to an incredible treble-winning campaign that included Premier League and Champions League glory.

City remains England’s pre-eminent force, as they showed by clinching an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League title last weekend.

United left Wembley still optimistic about the future despite that defeat 12 months ago because Ten Hag had ended their 6-year trophy drought by winning the League Cup earlier in the season.

But the Red Devils return to north London shaken by a turbulent campaign that leaves the Dutchman fighting to save his job.

United finished 8th in the Premier League — their lowest final position since 1990 — and failed even to make it out of the Champions League group stage.

Ten Hag has blamed United’s woes on injuries, but that might not convince the club’s new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe to keep faith with him.

The Dutch coach reportedly caused friction among his squad after clashing with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, setting the tone for a series of embarrassing defeats against Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Fulham, Copenhagen and Galatasaray among others.

United only made it to the FA Cup final after blowing a 3-goal lead and surviving a penalty shootout against second-tier Coventry in a semi-final that underlined the flaws in Ten Hag’s erratic team.

England boss Gareth Southgate, former Chelsea manager, Mauricio Pochettino and Ipswich chief, Kieran McKenna, have all been linked with the Old Trafford job.

Ten Hag’s hopes of staying at United into a third season would be improved if they can spoil City’s bid to become the first English club to win both the Premier League and FA Cup two years in a row.

“I came here to win trophies,” Ten Hag said, adding “I’m just focusing on the job I have to do. That is first to win the game on Saturday and then keep going in the project.”

Beaten in six of the past seven Manchester derbies, United must lift the Cup for the first time in eight years to avoid their first season without European action since 2014/15.

A Europa League place is hardly the prize United fans dream of, but Andre Onana, the club’s goalkeeper, wants to repay their support with victory at Wembley.

Onana, who has endured an error-strewn first campaign at United, said: “It’s been a difficult season for them and for us.

“For me, it was difficult at the start and they were behind me so I’m very thankful. Let’s end on Saturday at Wembley. We will fight until the end.”

City’s dominant reign in the Premier League has extended to six titles in seven years, a dynastic spell that has led many pundits label them the greatest English team of all time.

Pep Guardiola’s men pipped Arsenal by two points after winning their last nine league games, leaving them on the brink of more history at Wembley this weekend.

“To do what we’ve done year in, year out, I don’t think many teams would be able to do that, especially in this Premier League,” City captain Kyle Walker said as he contemplated a potential second successive double.

Walker believes Guardiola’s drive and intensity are central to City’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for success.

“I think it starts from the manager, first and foremost. He’s addicted to winning. He is addicted and it rubs off on us,” he said.

Ominously for United, City playmaker Bernardo Silva said his side, who have won the FA Cup twice in the Guardiola era, are at their best when the stakes are highest.

“Sometimes at the beginning of the season when we don’t have that much pressure, the team relaxes when it shouldn’t and at the end of the season we always compensate for it,” he said.