Man United beats stubborn Coventry City to reach FA Cup final

Manchester United will play Manchester City in the FA Cup final for the second time in a row after overcoming a stubborn Coventry side on penalties on Sunday.

The Championship side roared back from 3-0 down and had the early advantage in the penalty shootout at Wembley but Callum O’Hare and Ben Sheaf failed to convert, leaving Rasmus Hojlund to slot home the winning spot-kick.

A quite remarkable contest only got that far because Victor Torp’s effort in injury time in extra time was ruled out for offside by video assistant referee Peter Bankes.

But after Bradley Collins saved United’s first kick, from Casemiro, Andre Onana denied Callum O’Hare, then unsettled Ben Sheaf with some verbal jousting – and the Coventry captain missed – allowing Rasmus Hojlund to win it.

What the watching United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe made of it would be interesting to know. Thirty-four years ago, Mark Robins’ goalscoring heroics in the FA Cup kept Sir Alex Ferguson in a job. Who knows what damage Robins’ Coventry side have done to Erik ten Hag’s chances of keeping his?

United thought they were cruising to a repeat of last season’s final with neighbours Manchester City when they led 3-0 thanks to goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

But in front of Ratcliffe, who had completed the London Marathon earlier in the day, co-chairmen Joel and Avram Glazer and new technical director Jason Wilcox, United imploded and Coventry took full advantage.

After Ellis Simms and O’Hare reduced the deficit, Haji Wright kept his nerve in stoppage time to score from the spot and send the game into extra time.

For a brief moment, Torp allowed delirious Coventry fans to believe their team were coming back next month to try to emulate the Sky Blue heroes of their 1987 triumph over Tottenham.

It was not to be. But when it was all over, it was the Championship players who were taking the acclaim of their fans as Ten Hag and his players rather sheepishly made their way to the dressing rooms.

Final repeat but questions for Ten Hag’s team

It is only the second time in the competition’s history that the same two teams have reached successive finals.

Blackburn Rovers beat Queen’s Park at Kennington Oval in 1884 and 1885.

United will hope to prevent City enjoying similar success after a 13-second opener from Ilkay Gundogan paved the way for a Blues victory 12 months ago.

The win keeps alive Ten Hag’s hopes of lifting silverware in both his seasons as United manager.

Yet the win just brings more questions for him.

For an hour, United were dominant and in control, with Casemiro excelling in central defence.

Then, not for the first time in recent weeks, they found the self-destruct button and hit it hard.

Even for a team who led deep into stoppage time at Brentford and drew, and led deep into stoppage time at Chelsea and lost, this was a new low.

And it all coincided with Alejandro Garnacho’s departure.

The Argentine wideman had to apologise for liking a couple of social media posts in the wake of the 2-2 draw at Bournemouth on 13 April, when he had been substituted amid Ten Hag’s hints he was not quite fulfilling his role properly.

Garnacho did not appear impressed to be replaced at Wembley either and walked slowly to the touchline, although he did at least acknowledge his manager on the way off.

It can only be wondered what he was thinking about the carnage in front of him.

Simms’ first-time effort should have been nothing more than a consolation.

Instead, United lost their shape, made rash decisions and found themselves exposed.

O’Hare’s goal required a huge slice of fortune but he was given too much time to shoot.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was scurrying across the United box in a panic when he got his arm in the way of a cross that would have created a problem for his team anyway, but gave them an even bigger one as the contest went into extra time.

Beaten but brilliant Coventry
This was a day Coventry fans will remember forever, not far behind the epic 1987 final victory.

It was made all the more magical because of the pain the club have experienced in recent times, shunted into groundshares with Northampton and Birmingham amid a row with the club’s ownership and their landlords.

That trauma must have been in many minds as the players applauded their noisy and colourful support at the end.

Whilst the United end was virtually empty, thousands of Coventry fans remained and cheered as defender Joel Latibeaudiere gave a TV interview.

Robins is not given to displays of emotion and seemed quite calm at the end.

But inside, he must be a mixture of pride and agony, knowing how close his side had come to being the first Championship team since Cardiff in 2008 to reach the final.


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