LONDON (AP) — The second leg of Manchester City’s treble mission is secure.
Add the FA Cup, after a 2-1 win over great rival Manchester United on Saturday, to its latest Premier League title.
Now only a first ever Champions League title stands between City and immortality in English soccer.
“We’re in a position,” City manager Pep Guardiola said, “that we’ll probably never be in again.”
Ilkay Gundogan scored two goals — the first inside 13 seconds, for the quickest in 142 years of FA Cup finals — to lead City to a 16th trophy since 2011 in what is looking like the crowning season in the tenure of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.
If the Germany midfielder’s opener, a perfectly executed volley from the edge of area, was probably his best goal of his seven years at City, his 51st-minute winner at Wembley Stadium might be one of his scrappiest.
This time it was a volley with his left foot after being picked out by Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick from the right wing. The ball bobbled between two United defenders and squirmed past goalkeeper David De Gea, who might have been slightly unsighted but should have done better.
United was looking to protect its proud status as the only team to win the league-FA Cup-European Cup treble, in 1999, and equalized against the run of play through a penalty by Bruno Fernandes in the 33rd minute.
Late pressure saw United hit the crossbar through Raphael Varane. The team needs a favor from Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul next Saturday to thwart’s City’s treble bid.
“What a privilege — we are one game away,” Guardiola said.
City’s class of 2023 became the 13th team in English soccer history to clinch a league-and-FA Cup double. It has happened twice under Guardiola, who has won 13 trophies in his seven years at the club and 34 in his managerial career.
The latest haul of titles has come in the same season the club was charged by the Premier League with more than 100 breaches of financial rules. City denies the charges and the players certainly weren’t thinking of them after the final whistle blew as they ran from the halfway line and jumped for joy in front of their fans waving blue and white flags.
Right at the heart of the celebrations was Gundogan, who — as it stands — will be leaving City after the Champions League final because he is out of contract. He would depart as a club great and a FA Cup record-breaker.
The opening goal was timed by British broadcaster BBC at 12.91 seconds and came after Gundogan, City’s captain, took the kickoff himself. He passed the ball back to goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, who booted it forward for Erling Haaland to flick on. United defender Victor Lindelof could only partially clear to Gundogan, who volleyed in right-footed from 20 meters.
“We aimed for that, to aim for Erling and to try to get the second ball quick,” Gundogan said.
The goal jolted United, which was outplayed until a controversial decision to award a penalty against Jack Grealish for handball as he raised his arms while jumping to block a header into the box by United defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Play continued and there were few on-field appeals by United’s players, but the incident was reviewed by VAR and a penalty was awarded after the referee looked at the pitchside monitor.
Fernandes sauntered up to the ball and sent Ortega the wrong way.
Gundogan ultimately had the final say, just like he did in City’s final game of last season when he scored two late goals to complete a turnaround from 2-0 down against Aston Villa and clinch the Premier League with a 3-2 win.
United was looking to clinch a double of domestic trophies in Erik ten Hag’s first year in charge, having won the League Cup in February, but more importantly ensure its class of 1999’s legacy was preserved.
The 142nd FA Cup final — the first between the two Manchester clubs — was largely one-sided, though, and Ten Hag conceded his team was beaten by “the best team in the world.”
United’s players stayed on the field and watched as City walked up the steps to collect their winners’ medals from Prince William.
“You have to feel it in your stomach,” Ten Hag said. “It has to be the fuel.”
All roads lead to Istanbul as Guardiola and City chase another piece of history.
“We have to win the Champions League,” he said, “to be recognized how the team deserves to be recognized.”
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