Manchester City remain on course for the Treble after Ilkay Gundogan scored twice to give them victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley. Having already won the Premier League title, City now go into next Saturday’s Champions League final against Inter Milan in Istanbul with the opportunity to emulate United’s feat of 1999.
And City captain Gundogan was the big game match-winner again, assuring his place in history with the quickest goal in FA Cup final history, a stunning volley after only 12 seconds eclipsing Louis Saha’s strike for Everton after 25 seconds against Chelsea in 2009.
Manchester United equalised after 33 minutes when the video assistant referee ruled that Jack Grealish had handled, Bruno Fernandes coolly sending Stefan Ortega the wrong way from the spot.
It was Gundogan, as he does so often, who made the decisive contribution when he volleyed Kevin de Bruyne’s free-kick past United keeper David de Gea six minutes after the break to give City the FA Cup for the seventh time. Manchester City stand just 90 minutes away from the greatest season in their history.
With the league and FA Cup secured, next comes the chance to claim that elusive Champions League against Inter Milan. Should they succeed, they would become only the second English club to complete the Treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.
United, who did it 24 years ago, did their best to halt City’s bid, but the league champions had too much power – and in Gundogan, they had a player who revels in the pressure of the big occasion.
His two goals, including that stunning early opener, emphasised what a figure of significance he has become, assuring him of a special place when the story of City’s glory years is written.
And in John Stones, City have a player of the highest class in his latest role defined by Guardiola, one which allows him to advance into midfield and utilise all his composure and quality.
Istanbul and Inter Milan are next on City’s agenda and in their current relentless, irresistible mood, it would be more of a surprise if they did not complete the Treble than if they did.
Manchester United’s season ended in the bitter disappointment of a cup-final defeat by their neighbours, but any assessment must regard this as a campaign of progress under Erik ten Hag.
The Carabao Cup was United’s first trophy in six years, and they also returned to the Champions League. They may have settled for that after starting the season by losing at home to Brighton and then being humiliated 4-0 at Brentford. Ten Hag will now demand further reinforcements and improvements to push United forward in his second campaign in charge.
United are increasingly confident of signing Chelsea’s England midfield man Mason Mount, while a top line striker is a pressing priority, with Tottenham’s Harry Kane linked on a regular basis.
Ten Hag also needs to decide whether David de Gea should be his first-choice goalkeeper next season after another flawed display here that raised further questions.
De Gea was rooted to the spot for Gundogan’s opener then went down desperately slowly for the second, late to react to a volley that was not cleanly hit and even bounced in front of the Spaniard twice before he belatedly got a hand to it.
Captain Harry Maguire will surely be on the move as he has been marginalised by Ten Hag, who will regard this season as the platform to move United closer to where he wants them to be. It has been a good season – but one that will be followed by a busy summer.