Manchester City take on Watford at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup Final, knowing victory will not only give them the famous old trophy for the sixth time, but also become the first English team to win all three domestic competitions, as well as the Community Shield which they won in August by beating Chelsea 2-0.
But first, the blues must navigate past Watford, who are by no means pushovers, and City will not take anything for granted. On paper, it should be a City victory, but what do the FA Cup stats say?
The blues have been paired against Watford four times, with the first coming in January 1986 at Maine Road. That match ended in a 1-1 draw, while the replay at Vicarage Road finished 0-0. The second replay at Maine Road decided the tie and ended in Watford’s first win in Moss Side, and their only win against the blues in a knock-out competition, winning 3-1.
In November 1987, the two teams were paired together in the League Cup at Maine Road, where a young Paul Lake inspired Second Division City to a 3-1 over the First Division rivals. The two teams waited ten years for their next knock-out match and the FA Cup tie in February 1987 again ended in a 3-1 City win.
The pair were again drawn together in the FA Cup in January 2013, with City winning 3-0 in their first match on the road to Wembley. The following season, they were again drawn together and Manuel Pellegrini’s side found themselves 2-0 down at half-time to their lower division opponents. However, a Sergio Aguero hat-trick and a goal from Aleksander Kolarov rescued the blues and Watford were defeated 4-2.
Saturday’s game will be City’s fifth trip to Wembley this season, and their 10th FA Cup final appearance. The blues have won five and lost four of their previous nine finals. City first won the cup in the 1903/04 season, beating Bolton Wanderers 1-0 at Crystal Palace. They would have to wait until the 1925/26 season for another chance to lift the trophy, but were beaten 1-0 at Wembley by the same opponents.
The blues returned to Wembley in the 1932/33 season, but were soundly beaten 3-0 by Everton, before losing the 1954/55 final 3-1 to Newcastle. The following season, City returned to Wembley and beat Birmingham 3-1 to lift the trophy for a second time. The match is famously remembered for legendary goalkeeper Bert Trautmann breaking his neck, but continuing to play until the final whistle. Upon receiving his medal, Trautmann was seen rubbing his neck and was told that it looked a bit funny. It was only a few days later that it was discovered his neck was broken.
In the 1968/69 season, City won the cup for the third time, beating Leicester City in the final with a goal from Neil Young. The blues would have to wait twelve years for a return trip, but it was one of the most incredible finals of the time.
1981 saw the blues as underdogs as the faced Spurs at Wembley. City had put out hot favourites Ipswich Town in the last round, but Spurs were still fancied to lift the trophy. City threatened to upset the odds and the form book by taking the lead in the 30th minute through Tommy Hutchison. They lead until the 79th minute, when the same player diverted a Spurs free kick beyond Joe Corrigan and into the back of his own goal to send the tie to a replay.
The replay was a pulsating affair, with both teams desperate to win the trophy. Spurs took the lead after just eight minutes through Ricky Villa, but Steve Mackenzie levelled just three minutes later. City were awarded a penalty in the 50th minute, which Kevin Reeves fired home, and it looked like the blues were on course to win the cup. But Spurs had other ideas. Garth Crooks levelled on 70 minutes, before the goal that is mentioned every cup final day. Villa took on the entire City defence before slotting the ball under Corrigan for the Spurs winner. The goal was later voted the best ever cup final goal.
The blues had to wait thirty years to reach the FA Cup Final again, but when they did, it was to beat Stoke 1-0 at Wembley, thanks to Yaya Toure’s goal 74th minute goal, which sealed City’s first trophy since the League Cup in 1976 and their first FA Cup since that final in 1969. Two seasons later, the blues returned to Wembley and, amidst a backdrop of managerial uncertainty, the blues conceded a last minute goal to Wigan, which ultimately cost manager Roberto Mancini his job.
By comparison, this will be only Watford’s second appearance in an FA Cup final, having lost their previous attempt to win the trophy in 1984, where they were beaten 2-0 by Everton.
So City’s season ends on Saturday, but will it be with the domestic treble. It started at Wembley with victory, will it end the same way? We’ll soon find out