Man Utd stun Man City in FA Cup final to give Ten Hag hope of avoiding the sack

man utd stun man city in fa cup final to give ten hag hope of avoiding the sack

Manchester United's Kobbie Mainoo celebrates after scoring against Manchester City in the FA Cup final

Erik ten Hag made a convincing case to be spared the sack as Manchester United upset Manchester City to win the FA Cup with a shock 2-1 victory in Saturday's final.

Ten Hag was reportedly set to be dismissed regardless of the result at Wembley after a troubled campaign that even the United manager described as "terrible" this week.

But United's hierarchy might be having second thoughts after Ten Hag's tactical masterclass ruined City's history bid.

City were hot favourites to win a second successive Premier League and FA Cup double.

Yet Ten Hag found a way to neutralise Pep Guardiola's side as first half goals from Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo put United on course to win the FA Cup for the first time in eight years.

Jeremy Doku squeezed an 87th minute strike past Andre Onana's weak attempted save but it was too late to rescue City.

Ten Hag celebrated by kissing the Cup as he held it aloft in the Royal box.

Asked if he was worried about his future, he said: "I don't know. The only thing I'm doing is preparing my team.

"This is a project for me. When I came in I can say it was a mess. Now we are better. We are not where we want to be."

Guardiola added: "Congratulations to United. It was a tight game. It can happen. At the end they scored two goals and we couldn't score more."

Having ended a turbulent season on a high note, if Ten Hag's two-year reign does end, his exit would provoke memories of fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal's Old Trafford departure.

Van Gaal was fired just two days after United's FA Cup final victory against Crystal Palace in 2016.

Ten Hag will hope a more apt comparison is Alex Ferguson's 1990 FA Cup final win against Palace, which kick-started his remarkable run after calls for his sacking earlier that season.

Ferguson was in attendance as a match labelled Ten Hag's funeral turned into a triumph for the much-maligned Dutchman.

United shareholder Jim Ratcliffe, who has control of football operations at Old Trafford, was also watching from the stands alongside co-owners Joel and Avie Glazer.

Linked with Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino and Gareth Southgate, among others, there is still plenty for Ratcliffe to ponder after United finished eighth in the Premier League this season -- their lowest final position since 1990 -- and crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage.

Ten Hag believes a lengthy injury list was the root of the problems and can point to the two trophies he has won in three cup final appearances with United as proof of what he can do when his team are at full strength.

Ten Hag ended United's six-year trophy drought by winning the League Cup last year and has now avenged their 2-1 loss to City in the FA Cup final 12 months ago despite finishing 31 points behind the champions this term.

- Stay of execution -

United will also qualify for the Europa League, avoiding a first season without European action since 2014-15.

They benefitted from an unusually tepid City performance as their double bid fell flat in their first domestic defeat since losing at Aston Villa in the league 171 days ago.

Last weekend, City became the first team to win the Premier League in four consecutive seasons.

But Guardiola's men looked hungover after the celebrations that followed their sixth title in seven years.

Content to sit deep with all 11 men behind the ball, United stifled City impressively and gleefully accepted their gift-wrapped opener in the 30th minute.

Diogo Dalot's punt forward should have been dealt with by Josko Gvardiol, but the left-back hesitated as he looked for an offside flag.

Gvardiol headed the ball over City keeper Stefan Ortega, who had rashly rushed off his line, leaving Garnacho with the simple task of tapping into the empty net as Ten Hag clenched his fist in celebration.

Just nine minutes later, Mainoo punished more sloppy City defending.

Garnacho advanced unchecked down the right wing and found Fernandes, whose superb first-time pass reached the unmarked Mainoo for a clinical close-range finish.

City pushed harder after the interval but although Doku's shot slipped through Onana's grasp to set up a tense finale, it wasn't enough to deny United.

As the final seconds ticked away, Ten Hag stood in the sunshine nervously waiting to celebrate a dramatic win that could earn an unexpected stay of execution or serve as his final fling.

smg/pb

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