Talking points from the 2023 Emirates FA Cup final

Saturday 03 June 2023 17:58

Manchester United were narrowly defeated in the final of the 2023 Emirates FA Cup by Manchester City.

Two goals from Ilkay Gundogan were enough to seal the win for City, despite Bruno Fernandes levelling it in the first half. 

While the result is disappointing, there were some key details that stood out from a United point of view, after Erik ten Hag's side missed out on the chance to record a domestic-cup double for the first time in our history.

From tactical switches, to impact substitutes and our amazing fans, here are eight of the key talking points that stood out at Wembley...

Manchester City 2 Manchester United 1


The Reds' epic 62-game season ends with a narrow derby defeat in the FA Cup final.


When Ten Hag named his line-up prior to kick-off, there was something of a positional rejig for the likes of Fernandes. Normally operating in the centre of midfield, the Portuguese maestro was named on the right, with Christian Eriksen moved further forward to accommodate the inclusion of Fred in a deeper role.


Fred started alongside compatriot Casemiro at the heart of United's midfield and the Brazilian provided energy and tenacity in the middle throughout.

Even after United went behind for the second time, after the half-time break, Fred once again full of running and eager to try and help the Reds get back level again.


The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has had a say on several decisions across the 2022/23 season, and in the FA Cup final it influenced proceedings once more. Fernandes's leveller came about after the ball struck the left hand of Jack Grealish, following Aaron Wan-Bissaka's header, with referee Paul Tierney pointing to the spot following a VAR review at the monitor.

The Reds subsequently levelled, sending the United end into raptures.


Fernandes's first-half equaliser was United's 80th goal of all-time at Wembley. The midfielder stepped up in front of the City end and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. However, it ultimately wasn't enough for the Reds, as our rivals scored once more in the second half to win the fixture.

Player by player: United v City


How did the Reds fare individually across the 90 minutes at Wembley?


Alejandro Garnacho came on as a substitute midway through the second half, and came agonisingly close to drawing the Reds level. He picked the ball up on the edge of the box and curled a well-hit shot that screamed just past the post.

United pushed hard for an equaliser as the second period wore on, and Garnacho was very much at the forefront of that pressure.


Throughout the afternoon, Ten Hag made tactical and personnel alterations in an effort to gain United control in the contest. In the first half, following City's early opener, those tweaks paid off, with Fernandes levelling before the break.

In the second period, Garnacho, Wout Weghorst and Scott McTominay were all introduced at different stages, following Gundogan's second goal, with Ten Hag looking to influence the game in our favour.

Fernandes moved from the right, to the middle, and then back out to the right again as we chased the game. When McTominay came on, the Reds also went to a three-at-the-back formation, demonstrating Erik's willingness to throw caution to the wind. It very nearly paid off, too, with both Weghorst and McTominay striking the bar in the dying moments.

Our supporters were in full voice from the first minute until the last.


Whether it was after going behind, drawing level, or approaching the full-time whistle, our travelling supporters refused to be quiet. Cheers of encouragement continued all the way through the game, and despite the result, our players' efforts were applauded.

A great number of them also stayed behind after the full-time whistle to clap our players off the pitch, appreciating the effort they put in.


The FA Cup final brought the curtain down on a mammoth campaign for the Reds, with the showcase at Wembley being our 62nd match in total across all competitions. During that time, the Reds have reached two finals - winning one - and also finished third in the Premier League.

There is plenty of cause for optimism off the back of 2022/23, as we move forward.