This weekend sees the FA Cup semi-finals take place at Wembley with both Man City and Man United facing opposition from that there London in the form of Arsenal and Chelsea respectively.
For the former, as holders they’ll be keen to reach the final for a second year running as they seek to retain the trophy.
Meanwhile, United they know this is an excellent chance to end their three-year trophy drought (although they do have a realistic chance of winning the Europa League too).
Just think, we could have a Manchester derby for a Cup Final on Saturday 1st August to look forward to that will provide some cheer after Liverpool won the league title for the first time in thirty years.
But what lies ahead for the two giants of this city? Let’s find out…
Arsenal vs. Manchester City
After losing the league crown, you feel as though Pep Guardiola will want to see his side keep ahold of the last of the three trophies they claimed the previous season as part of that magnificent domestic treble.
And they have already successfully defended the League Cup after winning 2-1 at Wembley against Aston Villa in March, so winning the two domestic cups would surely still be considered a good season.
But as we’ve learnt from the formidable Catalonian, good is several rungs beneath perfection on the football ladder.
On the other hand, it’s been a nice run to the last four for the Citizen Blues.
A 4-1 victory over Port Vale at the Etihad was followed by a 4-0 triumph against Fulham in the fourth round.
They were tested by Sheffield Wednesday in round five with a 1-0 scoreline, but made light work of Newcastle United at St James Park in a 2-0 win that in truth flattered to deceive in a display that deserved more goals for the visitors.
As for Arsenal, things have been different under former City assistant Mikel Arteta for certain, in a good and a bad way.
Their defensive vulnerabilities still remain that have never been solved by either Arsene Wenger or his ill-fated successor Unai Emery, who was sacked in November.
But there have been signs under Arteta that working alongside Guardiola has helped the Gunners, as evidenced by being at this stage of the competition.
They squeezed past Leeds and Bournemouth in January before getting the job done against Portsmouth with a 2-0 victory in March prior to the season going on hiatus.
A 2-1 win away to Sheffield United last month saw on-loan Dani Ceballos strike an injury-time winner to give them hope of, like Man United, ending their three-year wait for a trophy to go in the cabinet at the Emirates Stadium.
By the way, the last time these sides met at this point of the tournament in 2017, Arsenal won 2-1 after extra time before going on to record the same score against league champions Chelsea to become the most successful team ever in the FA Cup’s illustrious history with a 13th triumph.
This could very well be on Manchester City’s mind ahead of their meeting on Saturday.
Chelsea vs. Manchester United
This year has been very good for the red half of Manchester thus far. But it’s hard to believe how different it felt at the start of 2020.
Despite reaching the knockout stages of the Europa League and the semi-finals of the League Cup, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team were off the pace in the Premier League and far off from being considered contenders to the title.
And when they were drawn to face last season’s semi-finalists Wolves in the third round of the FA Cup, all bets looked towards a victory for the Molineux outfit.
But it all worked out in January for them as they defeated Wolves 1-0 in a replay at Old Trafford and then thrashed Tranmere 6-0 at Prenton Park in round four.
Oh, and they signed Bruno Fernandes.
His arrival reinvigorated the club as they got over the losses to Manchester City in the League Cup and to Liverpool in the top flight in that same month as it slowly restored confidence all around the Theatre of Dreams.
They would easily beat Derby County 3-0 at Pride Park, but required extra time to win against Norwich City through Harry Maguire’s late winner at Carrow Road.
As for Chelsea, it’s been a promising first season under record goalscorer Frank Lampard, if at times inconsistent.
They made the last 16 of the Champions League, but fell in the fourth round of the League Cup to this weekend’s opponents, who they are also battling to gain a place in next season’s leading European competition.
The seven-time FA Cup winners started this campaign’s run with a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest and reached found five after winning 2-1 at Hull City.
In an encounter with league leaders Liverpool, the Blues were composed and on the whole excellent in a 2-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge, and needed just one goal to defeat Leicester City at the King Power Stadium courtesy of Ross Barkley.
The previous meeting in the competition saw United defeat Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in the last 16 the previous season through Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba.
That said, a 1-0 scoreline in Chelsea’s favour in the 2018 Final thanks to an Eden Hazard penalty led to Man Utd finishing runners-up in the league and cup – an unwanted double.
However, the Red Devils did beat Chelsea at this stage back in 1996 when they came from behind to win 2-1 at Villa Park. And for good measure, they completed the double with a 1-0 triumph over Liverpool through an Eric Cantona effort.
The final word
For both Man City and Man United to reach the final and give the people of Manchester an FA Cup Final to truly enjoy, they’ll have to get past opponents that are as hopeful of lifting the famous trophy as them.
It could be argued that Arsenal are under pressure to win at the weekend in order to guarantee a place in the Europa League next season in the event that they fail to reach the top six in the league.
And winning honours is a must in west London, regardless of who the boss is and their status.
For Man Utd, winning this competition will move them level with Arsenal in the all-time list. In addition, it will enhance Solskjaer and the club’s reputation and could help transform them back into title contenders over the next few years.
Finally, Man City can ensure another honour under Guardiola and maybe turn this tournament into their other favourite alongside the League Cup.
Whatever happens, it’s certain to be a fascinating two matches in the world’s oldest cup competition.