The final the media wanted

AND SO, we have an all-Manchester final for the first time in the FA Cup’s long history. City, in pursuit of the impossible treble, will take on United, who can complete a domestic double if they add to the EFL Cup they won earlier this year.

It is, commercially, a most attractive final and the Football Association will have no trouble accessing a global audience. Winning the semi-finals on penalties is an unsatisfactory way to decide a tie. Brighton had more than their fair share of possession and opportunities to score and they look a more complete team than Manchester United, but thems the breaks as they say.

There have been around 13 previous cup final derbies, although it does depend how you stretch the elastic to classify these games. There have been seven London derbies in the true sense of the word, although clubs like the Wanderers and Royal Engineers were London institutions.

The first was in 1967 (Spurs-Chelsea), the most recent Arsenal against Chelsea in 2020. Interestingly, Chelsea have been in four “Cockney Cup finals” and have lost the lot. There have been two Mersey finals, Liverpool winning both, and if you are liberal about the Birmingham area, West Bromwich Albion have been in four, three against Aston Villa and one against Birmingham. But, as every true Baggie will tell you, West Bromwich Albion is not in Birmingham!

It is a little surprising that City and United have not met before in a major final. In 1926 and 2011, they clashed in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and City won both. In 2020, both were in the semi-finals but both were beaten, City by Arsenal and United by Chelsea. The narrative, of course, will be all about City’s treble chances and at the moment, they are looking quite good. They still trail Arsenal, but the pendulum has swung away from the Londoners and it is almost “advantage City”. If they beat Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League, you have to fancy them to beat either of the Milan sides. And they will be favourites in the FA Cup final.

Spare a thought for Brighton, however. They have had an excellent season and played some tremendous football. Let’s hope they get the European football they deserve.

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