2023 FA Cup Final Showdown: Manchester Derby
As the grandest stage of English football prepares for the first all-Manchester FA Cup Final in its rich history, the tension is palpable. Manchester City and Manchester United, two eternal rivals, are set to clash on the hallowed turf of Wembley this Saturday at 1500 BST.
The mighty amphitheatre of Wembley is expecting a throng of 90,000 spectators, a full house in spite of the national rail strikes that have thrown a spanner in many fans’ travel plans. With many having to adjust their journeys to London, the atmosphere is set to be electric and fervent.
Duel of Champions: Manchester City vs Manchester United
Pep Guardiola’s City brigade, fresh from a Premier League victory, and looking ahead to a Champions League final against Inter Milan on 10th June, are firmly set on a trail for an incredible Treble. On the other side of the Manchester divide, United, victorious over City earlier this season, are keen to pair their Carabao Cup glory from February with an FA Cup triumph, culminating in a domestic cup double.
“We want to win a cup, it is not about stopping them,” said United’s Dutch manager, Erik ten Hag. “We have a great opportunity. Wembley is probably the best stadium in the world and to be there in the cup final is really exciting.”
Guardiola has raised eyebrows by choosing to play second-choice keeper Stefan Ortega, who has seen action in all five of City’s FA Cup matches this season, over first-choice Ederson.
Wembley’s Traditional Kick-off Returns
This year’s final sees a nostalgic return to the traditional 15:00 BST kick-off, a tradition not observed since Manchester City’s 1-0 triumph over Stoke City in 2011. The shift in time has been designated by the London’s Metropolitan Police due to the high-risk nature of the match, ensuring security is paramount.
The FA Cup final traditionally graces May, yet this year it will play out in June. This unprecedented shift is due to fixture congestion caused by the World Cup in Qatar last November and December. This means the spectacle takes place a mere 70 days before the start of the 2023-24 Premier League season on Saturday, 12 August.
Football aficionados gearing up for this domestic football extravaganza are being urged to use separate routes and motorway service stations to curtail disruption. Given the planned train strike, major congestion is expected, further increasing the challenges fans face en route to Wembley.
Uncertainty shadows United’s attacking force as France forward Anthony Martial is ruled out due to a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Brazilian winger Antony’s appearance is doubtful as he was carried off on a stretcher during their 4-1 win over Chelsea on 25 May.
Meanwhile, Guardiola confirmed that Ortega will start in place of Brazilian keeper Ederson. City fans can breathe easy as Jack Grealish and Kevin de Bruyne have both returned to training, bolstering the team’s attacking options.
City’s Historic Treble Quest
City have a chance to emulate the remarkable accomplishment of Sir Alex Ferguson’s United in 1998-99 by winning the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League in a single season. Erling Haaland, the formidable striker from Borussia Dortmund who has netted 52 league and cup goals since joining City, expresses his dream to achieve this historic treble in his first season with Manchester City.
United, on the other hand, are battling for their 21st FA Cup final, potentially setting a joint-record with Arsenal for the most in the competition’s history. Regardless of the outcome, United’s trajectory signals a season of progress for Ten Hag and his players.
The Manchester Derby is set to paint Wembley in hues of excitement, rivalry, and historic accomplishment. In this high-stakes FA Cup final, glory isn’t just on the line, it’s up for grabs.