Manchester City won the 2019 FA Cup Final at Wembley, but the match was far from classic. Photo: Getty Images/Chloe Knott-Danehouse.
The embarrassing truth about FA Cup finals at the redesigned Wembley is that too many of them were terrible. Since the twin towers gave way to the triumphal arch in 2007, the stadium has hosted 15 such exhibits, but only six of them have both sides scored. Even last year, when Chelsea, then European champions, faced a Liverpool team chasing a quad, the rivalry was reduced to 120 minutes without goals. The stage may be majestic, but the quality of the gala performance usually leaves much to be desired.
The Manchester Derby, the first of 142 chapters of the national championship's biggest event, offers a much more savory recipe. . Treble-chasing City against United players desperate to defend their club's reputation as the only one in England to achieve such success? It's a great match, even if the maintenance staff at the M6 have reason to disagree.
It has been 100 years since the final was first held at Wembley, making the venue a glittering stronghold of English sport. But to be honest, the most memorable moments are Blackpool-Bolton-3 in 1953, Coventry's shocking overtime victory over Tottenham Hotspur in 1987, or Crystal Palace's 3-3 draw. , which forced the replay of Manchester United in 1990, were played for the original stadium rather than its more corporate successor.
Steven Gerrard celebrates Liverpool's victory over West Ham in the last great FA Cup final in 2006 in Cardiff. /David Davis
Liverpool's victory over West Ham in 2006, undoubtedly the best final of the 21st century, took place in Cardiff while the Wembley Mk II was still on the construction site.
If you try to remember the defining football performances at the new model Wembley, soon you'll start dwelling on Steve McLaren and his umbrella in that grim defeat against Croatia in 2007 or the unbridled horror of the Euro 2021 final.
Perhaps the best moment was that of the Lionesses, whose dizzying European glory last summer served as a stark counterpoint to the chaos that ended the men's tournament 12 months ago.
The City vs. United high-summer classic promises a far nobler addition to contemporary Wembley folklore.
Even as Wembley was being reimagined, Lord Foster, the architect who orchestrated it all, acknowledged that “the challenge of reimagining Wembley for the new century was to build on its extraordinary legacy and in doing so create a place that would be magical.” Whether this grandiose billing has already been done is debatable. For the ingredient that best explained the fans' emotional attachment to the old Wembley was nostalgia.
The place was redolent of the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, the 1948 Austerity Olympics, the miracles of 1966, the joy of Sir Matt Busby at the European Cup in 1968, the visit of Pope John Paul in 1982, and so many great events. Between them is the FA Cup final.
Coventry City's Keith Hoshen equalized against Spurs in one of the best finals at the old Wembley Stadium 1987 Credit & Copyright: PA
Much of the iconography of the final day of the Cup – the tower, the 39 steps players had to climb to claim their prize in the royal box – is gone, replaced by VIP boxes offering lavish dining so many guests struggle to make it to the second half. . .
At least the magic of the name is preserved. Eric ten Hag, who has already won Wembley this season, describes it as “probably the best stadium in the world”, capturing his imagination so much that he insists that United have the same dressing room as during their success in the League Cup. /p>
For this is the last call for the same brilliance on the field as on paper. One of Pep Guardiola's previous FA Cup successes, a 6-0 win against Watford in 2019, was notable less for the performance itself than for the manager's blunt response to the financial fair play question that followed. “Honestly, do you think I deserve such a question?” he fumed.
City's accounting scrutiny continued, as did the club's vehement denials of wrongdoing. For one day, however, the focus is on the allure of the lamp, the clash of the nouveau riche in sky blue and faded titans in red.
What a day promises to be for Erling Haaland, who didn't even live to see United's treble in 1999, but who holds sporting immortality in his hands. And what a day potentially awaits Ten Hag, who could potentially end the season of false dawns and intrigues to capture the second trophy.
This is one match whose seething storylines sell themselves. Wembley, who have yet to host an FA Cup final truly worthy of the marvelous arch at the top, needs them to boil.