A Tale of One City

June 1, 2023
5 min read

This weekend’s FA Cup Final is laden with narrative. Will City take the next step in their quest for treble glory? Or can their neighbours, the only English club in history to have achieved the unique feat to date, stop the charge? IST’s Rob Short previews the final and makes his prediction.

Full disclosure – I am a Manchester United fan. Following the 1998 World Cup, where I fell in love with football watching Zidane, Petit, Blanc & Barthez lift the trophy, I asked my family which club to support. Fatefully, given where my mother was born, Manchester United was the only answer.

My first season? We won the treble.

Quite apart from setting unrealistic expectations in my 9-year-old brain, it remains the most incredible achievement of any club side in English history. Even in the post-Fergie doldrums of the past 10 years, I have always been able to laud that over smug friends & rivals. There’s been threats to that, sure, but they’ve never felt real.

Until now.

Manchester City are odds on to complete the Treble over the next fortnight. Manchester United, one year into Erik ten Hag’s rebuild, and an Internazionale team filled with United rejects, are all that stand in the way of Guardiola’s juggernaut.

And they really are a juggernaut. They merciless chased Arsenal down, hounding them with simply relentless winning; a cat-and-mouse game where the mouse suddenly realised it was faced not with a simple domestic pet, but a robo-tiger, chewing through opponents at will. They swatted away Real Madrid, the serial Champions League winners, in the most dominant European display I can ever remember.

Do even the most diehard United fans really give us a chance? Yes (even I do!) but as much as my heart says it, my head is telling me to look at the reality. City have the closest thing to a cheat code up front in Haaland; the best Belgian export to these shores since Poirot in De Bruyne; and Pep.

Ah, Pep. The one that got away. Allegedly, he was Sir Alex’s pick to replace him at Old Trafford when the great man called it a day. Pep, despite promising not to accept another job before talking to Sir Alex, took the Bayern job. Through process of elimination, Fergie landed on Moyseh. The rest is history.

At his best, he is the best tactical mind of the past 25 years – maybe ever. At his worst, he overthinks everything. All United fans will be praying it’s a case of the latter on Saturday and Nathan Ake ends up playing up front with Haaland dropped.

It won’t happen. As you’ll see below, I believe a gallant United will lose and, sadly for me, City will go on to complete the Treble.

Rob’s Prediction

FA Cup // Manchester United 1 – 2 Manchester City

Champions League // Manchester City 3 – 0 Internazionale

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