Ilkay Gundogan conjured two magical volleys to win a tense and tight FA Cup final against Manchester United and secure the double for Manchester City. Now the Cityzens have just one more step to take on their stairway to a heavenly treble.
Gundogan scored the fastest goal in FA Cup final history with an outstanding strike after only 13 seconds at Wembley, and after Bruno Fernandes had pulled United back into contention from the penalty spot, the German struck again, meeting Kevin De Bruyne’s free-kick and beating a lacklustre David de Gea.
While De Bruyne and Gundogan were City’s outstanding performers, the finger will again be pointed at United’s goalkeeper, who ended a poor season on a miserable note. But United showed character to overcome their nightmare start and pushed City all the way, with Scott McTominay and Alejandro Garnacho coming agonisingly close to equalising and forcing extra-time.
GOAL breaks down the winners & losers from Wembley Stadium…
WINNER: Ilkay Gundogan
If this is to be Gundogan’s last game for City in England, it was the perfect way to go out. The Germany midfielder etched his name into FA Cup history by scoring the fastest goal in a final in the competition’s 151 years. And what a finish it was – his volley took everyone in the stadium by surprise, including De Gea, who watched motionless as the ball ripped into the net. His second goal was another volley, even if he benefited from a very slow reaction from De Gea.
Gundogan’s contract expires on June 30 and while Pep Guardiola wants to keep him, the midfielder feels like he has done his service. No-one could argue with that after scoring twice to win last season’s title and now slaying City’s biggest rivals with another double.
LOSER: David de Gea
The Spaniard capped a season to forget with another dismal performance. As his kicking is not up to the standards of the modern game – he gave the ball away on a few occasions with hopeless punts straight to City players – he only has his shot-stopping ability to fall back on.
And he keeps on letting in shots he should be saving. He was left stunned by Gundogan’s lightning-quick opening strike, but will be very disappointed not to have kept out the second goal.
It was another bad piece of goalkeeping to file alongside costly errors against Brentford, Sevilla, Everton and West Ham from across the campaign, and his overall performance underlined United’s need to go and sign a young ‘keeper to compete for his place next season.
WINNER: Kevin De Bruyne
By his own high standards, the Belgian had a poor first half. He kept over-hitting passes and could not dictate the game in his usual way. Everything changed in the second half, though, as he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
His nifty footwork fooled Fred into fouling him early in the second period, and he dusted himself down to deliver the perfect cross for Gundogan to strike for the second time. His down-then-up display showed that not only is he one of the most talented players to have graced English football, he also has a highly resilient mentality.
LOSER: Marcus Rashford
The United striker grabbed the winner in the last Manchester derby, but he was barely involved in the final. He had the misfortune to start as centre-forward, where he is not nearly as dangerous as when playing on the left of the attack.
He had only one shooting opportunity, a weak header which dribbled hopelessly wide, and United’s best prospect of an equaliser lay in substitute Alejandro Garnacho. As United’s only Mancunian to start the game, he will desperately disappointed not to have had a bigger impact in the biggest match of the season.
WINNER: City’s treble dreams
Guardiola’s side are now just one step from footballing immortality. And although the Champions League is the trophy the coach and club crave the most, this FA Cup final presented arguably a bigger psychological barrier than next week’s final against Inter in Istanbul.
For all of City’s recent dominance over United, the thought of losing to their neighbours makes them sick in the stomach. Witness how, despite making a dream start, they crumbled late in the first half and for a few moments were on the ropes.
They eventually overcame that mental hurdle and showed a lot of spirit to see out the win. They can now head to Turkey for their date with destiny free from the anxiety of having to face their local rivals.
LOSER: Man Utd fans
While their noisy neighbours have been causing a real racket in the last 12 years, United could at least cling to the fact they were the only English team to ever win the treble. But that status is now fading fast and, with City odds-on-favourites to beat Inter in Istanbul, this was the Red Devils’ best chance to stop City equalling their so-far unique achievement in 1999.
No wonder the United fans deserted Wembley as soon as the final whistle went. When United were going for the treble, City were in the old Division Two, but now the team they used to look down on are 90 minutes from equalling their finest achievement.
WINNER: Alejandro Garnacho
The Argentine might have hoped for a starting berth when Antony was ruled out through injury, but once more he had to wait his turn from the bench. Just the sight of him warming-up galvanised the United fans, and proved to be their best hope of finding a second equaliser.
He was inches away from scoring with his curling effort and his mere presence in the box in the final minutes seemed to unsettle City. Garnacho has had an outstanding breakthrough season and next year he will surely get more opportunities in the starting XI.
United fans might well wonder if things would have turned out differently had he started here, though.
LOSER: Christian Eriksen
The Dane kept his place in the starting XI despite Fred coming in, but he could not cope with City’s intensity and was overpowered by De Bruyne in the second half. He is frequently the first player to be substituted and does not have the stamina to finish matches, particularly against top-level opponents.
The fact that he is even a Manchester United player is something to celebrate less than two years after having a cardiac arrest on the pitch during the European Championship. But the reality is that Eriksen will struggle to hold down a regular place in the team next season, especially if Mason Mount arrives. — Goal