Describing the emotions before a historic final
It’s the supercharged combination we fans have never experienced before: all the parochial pride and passion of a Manchester derby, multiplied by the importance and tension of a major cup final.
That makes it a gigantic occasion for fans and in the latest issue of Inside United magazine, three writers - all longstanding Old Trafford match-goers and Manchester folk - explain with their personal takes on the match…
“We are days away from the first all-Manchester cup final in history, and my mind is woozy at the prospect of what’s to come. When a game of this magnitude lies in wait, your brain is always working, even this far out: musing how the football will go; weighing up how it might deal with the heaviness of defeat, or indeed the global, otherworldly joy that a victory would inspire.
“It’s nothing to do with bragging rights and all those cliches you hear around derbies – I know few City fans well, despite living in Manchester my whole life. It’s more about pride in United. I see it as a battle between two different visions of Manchester: in the red corner, a universal behemoth that conquered the world on its own steam, through its own fearless ingenuity. In the blue corner, a team that has evolved rapidly thanks to recent investment and the importation of Spanish expertise.
“Of course, you might just see it as 22 lads kicking a ball around on some grass in north London. Both sides have and will continue to create beautiful, exciting football. But neutrals will have to pick their side and, somewhat unusually, I suspect United might start this game as the neutral’s choice, due to a creeping public apathy towards the clinical dominance of Guardiola-era City.
“But either way, the outcome of this match will be remembered for decades by Reds and Blues, which is enough to make any fan of either club feel a very profound sense of vertiginous sickness in the days before it begins.”
“The last time I felt this much trepidation ahead of a cup final was in 1996, when Alex Ferguson’s ‘kids’ were lined up to face our biggest historic rivals Liverpool. We’ve had bigger finals since that one – four in the Champions League, no less – but fear of losing to that lot from Anfield at Wembley overrode any excitement I was feeling at another trip to the Twin Towers. And it’s the same again now as we prepare to line up under the arch against our nearest neighbours, with City chasing (a less romantic version of) the Treble we achieved in 1999, in my opinion.
“Cup finals are a great occasion, or so we’re told, but the tension that will exist around this one will likely make it borderline unbearable for those attending. I’ve heard some Blues claim that the FA Cup final is the bit they’re least bothered about, with the title and Champions League being their bigger aims. Fair enough, but I don’t believe a word of it. For a great many of their fans beating us in a cup final would mean more to them than being champions of England or Europe.
“I can appreciate the apprehension of facing Guardiola’s side. While modern football seems to throw up fewer surprises than it once did, the playing field being a lot less level than it once was, I have always enjoyed United playing the role of underdog in big matches. We are possibly that for this final, and that’s why a victory on 3 June would mean so much more than just a 13th FA Cup triumph. I’m dreading it. I also can’t wait.”
“I’ve lost count of the number of derbies I’ve sat through, and I can’t honestly recall more than a couple that were enjoyable until after the event. Even a pre-season friendly like the 2012 Community Shield set the adrenaline racing, so imagine the anticipatory terror of duking it out with the Blues for a major honour.
“We’ve had two contrasting league meetings this season, with January’s latter (a tactical besting even without our beloved Lisandro Martinez) providing cause for optimism, but it’ll be nauseating and fascinating in equal measure. I’ll be at Wembley, but most likely hiding under a pile of coats in the gents…”
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