We look ahead to the 2023 FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday with our Manchester City vs Manchester United prediction and preview. 

Manchester City vs Manchester United: Quick Stats

  • The Opta supercomputer makes Man City huge favourites to win in 90 minutes, giving them a 63.4% chance of lifting the FA Cup. 
  • If Man Utd lose, they’ll have lost more FA Cup finals (nine) than any other club. 
  • Victory for the Red Devils will see them do the domestic cup double for the first time, having already scooped the League Cup this season. 

Match Preview

Manchester United and Manchester City will contest arguably the most-anticipated FA Cup final in recent memory at Wembley on Saturday. A single match it may well be, but its significance stretches beyond just this weekend given the wider context of the achievement City are chasing. 

United’s status as the only English team to ever achieve the treble – that’s the top tier league title, FA Cup and European Cup/Champions League – has come under real threat in the past couple of years, and many would consider City near certainties to match that feat this season after winning the Premier League. After all, they’re firm favourites on Saturday and against Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League final a week later. 

Fitting, then, that United can have a direct say in the matter. The first ever major final between the two neighbours will have Pep Guardiola’s side looking to further their all-conquering ambitions, while Erik ten Hag hopes to lift a second trophy in what would subsequently be perceived a very positive first season, if it isn’t already.  

“I understand, of course, the feelings from the fans about it,” Ten Hag said of the final and City’s treble chase. “We will do everything to give them the second trophy – everything that I have, everything the team has, the staff have, we will give everything to get it done.” 

Man Utd are the only English team to win the treble

United beat Newcastle United in February to win the EFL Cup, meaning victory on Saturday would see them clinch a domestic cup double for the first time ever. But City are different beast. The way they simply – well, that’s how it seemed – elevated their level when it mattered most in the Premier League title race was hugely impressive, racking up 12 wins on the bounce to leave Arsenal in their dust. Now they can become only the third club to win a league and FA Cup double more than once if they are successful at the weekend.  

Such occasions may not be quite as frequent for United as they once were during the Sir Alex Ferguson era, though historically they are a club used to going deep into the competition. This will be their 21st FA Cup final, a joint record with Arsenal. 

Of course, the flipside to that is a defeat on Saturday will mean they’ve lost more FA Cup finals than any other team (nine), but it’s surely better to have reached that stage than not, right? 

Either way, the task ahead of United is seismic. City are the highest scorers (17) in this season’s FA Cup and potentially 90 minutes away from lifting the trophy without conceding once, something no team has done since Bury in 1903. 

On top of that, City dominated our Premier League Team of the Season, with Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Manuel Akanji and Ruben Dias all enjoying stellar campaigns. United had no representatives, though with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes, they clearly have weapons that can hurt the EPL champions. 

Premier League Team of the Season 2022-23

Most United fans will hope some City stars are ruled out before the weekend, and Guardiola has suggested Dias, De Bruyne and Grealish are among those doubtful. Given his track record, however, it wouldn’t be remotely surprising to see all three named in the starting XI. 

Ten Hag will be without Anthony Martial and Lisandro Martinez, while the availability of Brazil winger Antony remains unclear after he was carried off on a stretcher during the win over Chelsea last week. 

Last Meeting

Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City: 14 January 2023 (Premier League) 

Man Utd vs Man City January 2023, xG map

City have beaten United 6-3 this season – a game that saw both Erling Haaland and Phil Foden score a hat-trick, though much has changed since that remarkable October head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium. Namely, Ten Hag’s side prevented their rivals doing the double over them, with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford showing United’s progress in terms of team cohesion and tactical adaptability. 

United refused to fall into the trap of pressing high and chasing City around the pitch. Their total of five pressed sequences was only lower (three) in the September defeat of Arsenal, while their average possession start position of 33.7 metres from their own goal was the deepest recorded by United this term, and well below their season average (42.7m). 

Their focus was on defending deep and attacking quickly, directly. They registered five direct attacks over the course of the game, which was the joint-most they managed in a single Premier League game across the season.  

Man Utd long passes vs Man City in January

One of those situations resulted in the equaliser as well – albeit in controversial circumstances. Having fallen behind to Jack Grealish’s header with an hour played, United levelled 18 minutes later. Casemiro’s long pass in behind the City defence appeared to pick out the run of Rashford, but after realising he’d be offside if he touched it, the England forward let it go for Fernandes, who emphatically swept past Ederson. 

It was initially disallowed for offside against Rashford, much to Fernandes’ fury, but the goal was then allowed to stand despite the United attacker appearing to interfere with play even without touching the ball.  

Rashford then completed the turnaround himself a few minutes later, prodding in from Alejandro Garnacho’s well-placed low cross to become the first Man United player since Cristiano Ronaldo in April 2008 to score in seven successive appearances. 

It also took United to nine consecutive wins in all competitions, at the time their longest run since one of nine in December 2016 and January 2017 under José Mourinho.  

Previous Meeting Line-ups 

Man Utd: David de Gea, Tyrell Malacia, Raphaël Varane, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen, Fred, Casemiro, Antony Martial, Marcus Rashford. Used Subs: Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martínez, Antony, Scott McTominay, Alejandro Garnacho. 
Man City: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Nathan Aké, Joao Cancelo, Rodri, Manuel Akanji, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Erling Haaland, Riyad Mahrez. Used Subs: Jack Grealish. 

Recent Form

City ended the Premier League season with one point from their final two matches. On matchday 38, Brentford beat them 1-0 to become only the fifth team to complete a league double over Guardiola, after Chelsea (2016-17), Wolves (2019-20), Manchester United (2019-20) and Spurs (2021-22). That was also City’s first defeat since February, ending a 25-game unbeaten run.  

Four days earlier, Brighton tallied 20 shots against City in a 1-1 draw; only Wolves (21 vs Man City in December 2019) and Atlético Madrid (22 vs Barcelona in March 2009) have ever registered more attempts in a top-flight match against a side managed by Guardiola. 

Brighton vs Man City xG map, May 2023

Some might have considered it an inauspicious end to the campaign, but how much can we really read into that? After all, they’d already won the Premier League title, so few could blame them for taking their foot off the pedal somewhat. 

But it does raise the question of how easy it is to then just suddenly turn things on and be back firing at 100% ahead of the FA Cup final. United haven’t had the ‘luxury’ of their position being decided before the last game of the season. 

Sure, Champions League qualification was the focus and they secured that with a game to spare, but there was undoubtedly a desire to finish in third ahead of Newcastle United, and Sunday’s 2-1 win over Fulham ensured that was the case. 

Beating Marco Silva’s side saw United end the campaign with four wins on the bounce, a necessary improvement after winning just two of their previous seven matches inside 90 minutes.  

Key Players

Manchester City: Erling Haaland 

When Haaland signed for City from Borussia Dortmund last year, there was a school of thought that he’d not necessarily make a huge difference to the club over the marathon of a Premier League season; rather, he’d come into his own in knockout football when the margins are much finer. 

Given the fact he scored a record 36 Premier League goals, it’s perhaps a little more difficult to accept the idea he was irrelevant in the title defence. Though, for argument’s sake, let’s just recognise that City probably could’ve won it without him. 

In that sense, then, the next week or so promises to be key for Haaland. He’s fired them to two finals, and this is the point in the season that his quality in front of goal is supposed to give them a dimension they’d not had before – or at least not since Sergio Aguero was in his prime. 

Among the host of records Haaland has broken, he’s the first player in Premier League history to break the 50 goals (52) barrier and surpass 60 goal involvements (61) across all competitions in a single campaign.  

It feels like the sort of individual season that should yield something similarly historic or significant for the collective, such as the treble. Taking the opportunities to secure such a feat will likely be his burden to bear over the next two games. 

Erling Haaland's Manchester City goals

Manchester United: Bruno Fernandes 

For many, the obvious star of United’s season has been Rashford. He wouldn’t have won two prizes at the club’s awards ceremony if there wasn’t that perception. 

But there’s certainly an argument to be made that Fernandes has actually been their most consistent performer, with the Portugal international seemingly back to his influential best after attracting plenty of criticism in 2021-22. 

Bruno Fernandes's sequence involvements

Fernandes’ tally of eight assists was bettered by eight players in the Premier League this term, though his expected assists (xA) of 10.7 ranked only behind De Bruyne (14.1) and Kieran Trippier (11.8).  

That difference of -2.7 between xA and assists is the fourth-biggest negative differential in the top tier in 2022-23, so this suggests Fernandes has been let down by sub-par finishing on a regular basis. 

Nevertheless, there’s no question about Fernandes’ quality and creativity, with no one tallying more chances created in total (119) or from open play (98). In fact, the latter is 30 more than anyone else (De Bruyne, 68). 

On top of that, Fernandes’ style of play fits in well with the way United set up to beat City in January by going direct and looking for Rashford’s runs, as the former Sporting CP star attempted 201 long passes in the Premier League this term, the sixth most of all midfielders. 

Bruno Fernandes' long passes in the Premier League this season

Manchester City vs Manchester United Prediction 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, City are considered huge favourites for this. The Opta supercomputer gives them a 63.4% chance of winning the game over 90 minutes. 

United, on the other hand, have just a 16.5% probability of securing a domestic cup double in regulation time.  

The model reckons there is a 20.1% likelihood of the game going to extra time, and potentially to penalties. Although it’s not possible to provide a prediction of which way the game would go in either eventuality, clearly most would fancy City to get the job done over 120 minutes. 

As for penalties, no team has ever been involved in shootouts both in the semi-final and final of a single FA Cup campaign – United needed such a scenario to get past Brighton in the last round. 

However, given City’s quality in general play, United might suddenly feel the playing field is levelled if they can take the game to spot-kicks. 

FA Cup final prediction

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