Football News

Coventry City 3-3 Man Utd: Sky Blues complete miracle turnaround but Red Devils hold on to reach historic 22nd FA Cup final

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:30, 21 April 2024

There will be a repeat of the 2023 FA Cup final after Manchester United overcame Coventry City on penalties at Wembley this afternoon.

Erik ten Hag’s side cruised into a 3-0 lead against Mark Robins’ valiant men. Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire, and Bruno Fernandes put the Premier League side in a seemingly unassailable position.

Down and out, Ellis Simms and Callum O’Hare struck in the final 20 minutes, resuscitating their fairytale dream while further testing United’s mental strength considering recent late-game meltdowns.

Haji Wright sensationally equalised from the spot in stoppage time after Aaron Wan-Bissaka inadvertently handed the ball. As a player, Robins saved Alex Ferguson’s job with an FA Cup goal 24 years ago. Today, his team’s comeback in regulation time has put the incumbent United manager under massive pressure.

United was leggy in extra-time, with Coventry likely to win before penalties were needed. In the 121st minute, Victor Torp thought he had won it, but Wright was offside in the build-up. Unable to be separated, the dreaded twelve-yard shootout was required.

Casemiro, Callum O’Hare, and Ben Sheaf missed to give United a 4-2 win. Ten Hag’s players didn’t celebrate much after staving off an embarrassing loss in a season full of historic lows.

“Manchester United’s players and supporters didn’t go over the top because they knew they were lucky today. They were almost embarrassed at the end, but they got the job done to get to a cup final,” Roy Keane said on ITV Sport.

“I don’t like what I see from this United team. They are hard to like. They play in moments. We go on about leadership and character, but I don’t see any of this from this United group.

“You do not give a Championship team hope they can get back into the game from 3-0 down, but that is what this United team does. They give up chances and goals, we’ve seen it all season, so I don’t know why we’re surprised. My goodness, they rode their luck at the end.”

It’s unlikely to help the Dutchman’s prospects under Jim Ratcliffe’s new regime. He feels on the brink of the Red Devil’s exit. Ten Hag’s compatriot Louis van Gaal infamously was shown the exit soon after winning Man Utd’s last FA Cup.

Coventry, playing in their second FA Cup semi-final (previously beating Leeds United 37 years ago on their way to winning the trophy), came in as underdogs. Still, given the ‘magic’ of this competition plus Man Utd often blowing hot and cold, the Championship side must have secretly fancied themselves.

For one, the Sky Blues came into this game having scored 19 goals in this season’s FA Cup, more than any other side. The last club from outside the top flight to score more in a campaign was Wrexham in 1977-78 (22), and staying in Wales, the last side outside the top flight to reach the final was Cardiff City in 2008.

A depleted Man Utd, starting Casemiro at centre-back alongside Harry Maguire, began on the front foot, often camped inside Coventry’s half. Their less glamorous opponents started with a back-five and looked to play on the counter occasionally.

It was a rearguard that ultimately broke in the 23rd minute when United eventually penetrated Coventry’s backline. Diogo Dalot smartly overlapped to send a low cross across Bradley Collins’ goal, which McTominay graciously met. His simple tap-in moved him to 10 goals for the season; across seven previous seasons, McTominay never reached double figures.

Furthermore, excluding penalties, only Rasmus Højlund (13) has scored more goals for United this season than him. McTominay is also the first Scotland international to score at Wembley for the Red Devils since Brian McClair in May 1994 against Chelsea.

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On the stroke of half-time, Collins brilliantly denied Marcus Rashford, but in the ensuing corner, Maguire doubled United’s lead with a towering header. Maguire’s first Wembley goal for United and since scoring for England against Albania in November 2021 was created by Fernandes, the only player to score 10+ goals and provide 10+ assists in all competitions in the last four seasons for a Premier League club.

Soon after the break, Fernandes went from a provider to a goalscorer. United’s skipper has scored in four consecutive matches (five goals).

Having cried out for service all game, Ellis Simms pulled one back in the 71st minute, his sixth of this season’s competition. Minutes later, he picked out Callum O’Hare, whose deflected shot flew over a rooted André Onana, ensuring a grandstand finish which came through a stoppage time Haji Wright penalty forcing an extra 30 minutes.

Coventry completed the most miraculous turnarounds from three goals down. Perhaps the greatest comeback in FA Cup history.

“I cannot believe what I am watching. At 3-0 up, you’re looking for leadership. If United don’t get over the line in this game, I don’t know what’s going to happen. United shocking, but huge credit to Coventry,” Keane added on ITV Sport.

Against the odds, Coventry pushed United, but penalties were their undoing. Nevertheless, they’ve reached a record 22nd FA Cup final, setting up a second Manchester Derby final with United seeking revenge after losing 2-1 last year.

“We put ourselves in a difficult position because we had the game controlled and could have killed it but we didn’t,” Fernandes said afterwards.

“Credit to Coventry for what they have done but we need to do better.”