Manchester City have won the 2019 FA Cup with a 6-0 victory over Watford at Wembley.
The win seals the domestic treble for Manchester City, the first of its kind in the English men’s game. Sure there have been domestic doubles, where teams won the Premier League and FA Cup (Man Utd 1994, Arsenal 1998, Chelsea 2010) and even a few instances where teams won both the FA Cup and League Cup in the same season (Arsenal 1993, Liverpool 2001 Chelsea 2007). But no one had ever captured all three domestic trophies in one season.
Yet that is exactly what Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City just did. They arrived at Wembley on the precipice of history and took a massive leap into the unknown, landing on solid ground as a side that now must be considered one of the greatest in English football history.
And what an incredible way for them to actually seal their victory. A six goal thrashing to equal the biggest-ever win in an FA Cup final (a win that came back in 1903). A win achieved thanks to a truly scintillating display that was in many ways the “ultimate” Guardiola performance.
This was a match that started with many people scratching their head at Pep Guardiola’s chosen first XI. He left Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne on the bench, electing to start Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus. That was a shock, but unsurprisingly City played so well and so harmoniously that by the hour mark no one was questioning the selection. Even though, honestly, who starts a cup final without his two best players voluntarily? Guardiola, that’s who.
When it came to the match itself, City were supreme. But in classic Guardiola fashion they rode their luck defensively in the early stages. As the Sky Blues flooded men forward, Watford broke with drive. An excellent cross from Gerard Deulofeu put Roberto Pereyra in, but his shot was impressively saved by Ederson. And later a Watford shot appeared to ricochet off Vincent Kompany’s arm (although it was clearly ball-to-hand). It didn’t matter that City were dominant, they still gave up chances.
But, as always, they pressed forward and never stopped believing in their system. And in the end this made the difference as they cut Watford open time and time again. In another classically Pep move, their opening goal came from a distinctly “un-Pep” way.
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Despite Guardiola’s firm adherence in his specific way of playing, he’s never been one to rule out other ways to score goals. So whether that’s Aymeric Laporte thumping in a header against Brighton to draw his side level on the final day, or Vincent Kompany blasting in from long range to win the game against Leicester… or today when a bit of head tennis in the box led to David Silva being clean through on goal so he could slap the ball home and give City a lead. Pep’s sides aren’t shy of a bit of rough.
Finally, of course, comes the quality. After riding their luck and taking the lead with a scrappy bit of play, Manchester City dominated the game. They doubled their lead just before half-time (through Raheem Sterling’s cheeky finish) and Watford’s task grew exponentially.
And despite his team leading, Guardiola saw the opportunity for more and just 10 minutes into the second half he brought Kevin de Bruyne on for Riyad Mahrez and suddenly the Sky Blues unleashed hell on the Hornets. This was a beatdown of biblical proportions.
Within minutes of coming on, De Bruyne capped a beautiful counter-attack with a lovely bit of skill to round Gomes and tap home. And then it was on. Three more goals followed, each one a dagger in the heart of Watford. They could have had more, but the Hornets managed to resist the plunge into the history books and keep it to six.
50 – Manchester City are the first English top-flight side in history to win 50 matches in a single season in all competitions, six more than they managed in 2017-18. Eclipsed. #MCIWAT #facupfinal pic.twitter.com/3VBqDI6fEd
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 18, 2019
Either way, this was a historic victory done in the classic Pep Guardiola style, from defensive shakiness to a magnificent individual performance from Raheem Sterling (the first FA Cup final hat-trick since 1953). It was the perfect way to celebrate the end of a season where they have had to fight and scrap as much as dance and sing. A glorious celebration of Pep Guardiola and everything Manchester City. Their achievements under the Catalan now almost beggar belief.
Two Premier League titles and two League Cups in two seasons, 198 league points scored, and now an FA Cup means that there is no competition which Pep Guardiola has managed his side in that he has not also won. A clean sweep of the domestic honours and City are now the undisputed force in England. All that’s left to conquer is Europe, and if they keep on improving as they have in the Catalan’s two years in charge, you wouldn’t bet against them there.