A pair of Ilkay Gundogan volleys – including one after just 12 seconds – propelled Manchester City to their seventh FA Cup crown with a 2-1 win over bitter rivals Manchester United in the Wembley sunshine.
In what may well have been his penultimate game for the Premier League champions, Gundogan struck twice either side of a controversial Bruno Fernandes penalty to keep Man City’s hopes of a domestic and continental treble alive, while denying the Red Devils an EFL Cup and FA Cup double.
Following the customary pre-match ceremony and handshakes from Prince William, Gundogan all but cemented his status as Man City royalty, extending his marvellous end-of-season streak with a record-breaking opening goal, and a brilliant one at that.
A long ball from cup goalkeeper Stefan Ortega met the head of Erling Braut Haaland, and the Norwegian’s knock-down met Kevin De Bruyne, who proceeded to set up Gundogan to unleash a spectacular volley into the top corner past a dormant David de Gea.
At just 12 seconds, Gundogan’s strike was the fastest-ever goal scored in an FA Cup final – beating the previous record of 25 seconds held by Louis Saha for Everton against Chelsea in 2009 – and Pep Guardiola’s side continued to dominate proceedings henceforth.
De Gea was left rooted to the spot once again in the fourth minute, as Rodri rose highest to meet a De Bruyne free kick, but the Spaniard’s header rippled the side netting – some in the Citizens’ end thought that his effort had nestled into the corner.
Haaland soon squandered a couple of half-chances before the first drinks break, as Erik ten Hag welcomed the opportunity for a debrief, and that respite would prove priceless for the Red Devils.
A Man United attack had seemingly fizzled out after Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s header into the box took a nick off Jack Grealish, but as play resumed, David Coote instructed Paul Tierney to look at the screen, where replays showed that the ball had flicked off Grealish’s finger.
There was little that the English attacker – who was in very close proximity to the ball – could have done, but Tierney pointed to the spot upon a VAR review, and Fernandes calmly sent Ortega the wrong way to level the scores.
The Red Devils’ celebrations were overshadowed by a projectile being thrown from the Man City end and striking Victor Lindelof in the ace – Casemiro and Fernandes both gave the Citizens fans a piece of their mind as those in red found their voice again.
Man City soon appealed for their own spot kick after a tangle between Fred and De Bruyne, but those calls fell on deaf ears, and the Red Devils had a magnificent chance to take the lead in the 42nd minute as Casemiro headed a corner onto Raphael Varane, but the centre-back’s volley was high, wide and not very handsome.
However, soon after the restart, Ten Hag’s side made the fatal mistake of allowing Gundogan time and space on the edge of the box, and Man City’s lead was restored six minutes into the second half.
De Bruyne floated a free kick to the edge of the D, where Gundogan was waiting, and the 32-year-old connected with another volley – albeit a much more tame one in comparison to his first – but his effort sailed through a sea of bodies and trickled into the back of the net.
De Gea got a hand to Gundogan’s strike, but the Spaniard could only palm the ball further into the bottom corner, and the treble-chasing Citizens smelled blood as they sought to add to their lead.
The feet of De Gea denied De Bruyne in the 61st minute, and the Spaniard was required again to keep out Haaland’s fierce low strike from 12 yards in the 71st minute; Gundogan pounced on the follow-up but was denied an FA Cup final hat-trick by the offside flag.
The Red Devils were not throwing in the towel, though, as just one minute after Gundogan’s disallowed strike, substitute Alejandro Garnacho fired just wide of the post with a fine curling effort.
City largely kept Man United in check with ease, but Pep Guardiola’s side survived an almighty scare in added time, as Ortega deflected a close-range Raphael Varane effort onto the bar before Scott McTominay headed the rebound onto the roof of the net from a couple of yards out.
With the Premier League and FA Cup already in the cabinet, Man City now turn their attention to next Saturday’s Champions League final against Inter Milan in Istanbul, and Guardiola’s side will also take on Arsenal in the Community Shield ahead of the 2023-24 season after scooping a domestic double.
Meanwhile, a dejected Man United are left to reflect on an otherwise positive first season under the tutelage of Ten Hag, having triumphed in the EFL Cup while sealing a return to the Champions League with a third-placed finish in the top flight.