The mentality got Man United into the FA Cup final despite Brighton playing better

The mentality got Man United into the FA Cup final despite Brighton playing better

LONDON – Manchester United advanced to the FA Cup final against neighbors Manchester City with a dramatic penalty shootout win over Brighton & Hove Albion at Wembley on Sunday.

After 120 goalless minutes and six successful penalties in the shootout, Solly March missed Brighton’s seventh kick before Victor Lindelof stepped up to score.

It means Manchester’s two rivals will meet for the first time in the FA Cup final on June 3, giving Man United the chance to prevent Man City from completing the treble – a feat only achieved once in England before. Man United in 1999.

Fast reaction

1. Mental toughness takes Man United into the FA Cup final against Man City

United manager Erik ten Hag said he wanted a response to his side’s disappointing Europa League exit in Sevilla on Thursday and, in terms of character at least, he got it. There was time for Sunday’s game when United were second best to Brighton, but when it became a mental test in the shootout, they held the edge.

Man United had lost seven of their previous eight penalty shootouts, including the 2021 Europa League final against Villarreal, but got the better of Brighton to secure a first-ever all-Manchester FA Cup final against Manchester City in June.

Victor Lindelof scored a crucial penalty after March missed for Brighton — but special mentions must go to Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, who stepped up to convert from the spot almost two years after missing in England’s European defeat to Italy. Championship final.

Sancho has had a miserable season and was poor against Sevilla on Thursday but showed great strength to first volunteer for a penalty and then clear it away. There were fears the season could unravel after their disaster in Spain, but Ten Hague’s side have plenty of game to look forward to in the next six weeks with the FA Cup final and a place in the top four.

2. Brighton’s midfield beat Man United

The midfield is one of many areas of United’s squad that needs strengthening and Ten Hague could do worse than watching Brighton duo Alexis McAllister and Moises Caesdo, who made Brighton a good team for stretches.

The pairing of players is so important to the way Brighton manager Roberto De Zarby wants his team to play, and Man United midfielders Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes both received special attention when Brighton tried to play from the back. But centre-backs Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster were confident in McAllister and Caicedo’s ability to find half a yard of space and flick the ball to the second blue shirt.

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Time and time again United tried to force Brighton into mistakes but at times McAllister and Cacedo guided them through the pressure. Pep Guardiola recently described Brighton’s build-up football as “the best in the world” and at Wembley they lived up to the billing.

By contrast, United often looked forward to Anthony Martial and that was one of the reasons why Brighton doubled the number of passes after 25 minutes. Brighton had the better chances in the 90 minutes and looked the most likely to score until the shootout but Brighton and in particular Mack Allister and Cacedo are proud of their performances.

3. Brighton’s growth under de Zerby has been remarkable

It was only Brighton’s second FA Cup semi-final since reaching the final in 1983 — when they lost to United in a replay — but such days will become commonplace under De Zerby.

The Seagulls will never have the budget to regularly compete with the likes of Man United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League — but with the Italian manager in charge, it’s realistic to believe they can continue to challenge. Location in Europe. Given the upheaval caused by losing Graham Potter to Chelsea in September, what De Zerby was able to achieve despite being parachuted into the job in mid-season is remarkable.

The problem for Brighton is that their best players will always attract the attention of top clubs – as evidenced by Arsenal’s pursuit of Cassido in January – and keeping them all is almost impossible. Losing key personnel after the summer puts pressure on the recruitment department to find hidden gems but the development of players like March has already shown that de Zerby is a coach who can get the best out of the squad.

Brighton fans enjoyed their day at Wembley, turning their end into a sea of ​​blue and white flags before kickoff. They will be back soon.

Best and worst performers

Best: Moises Caicedo, MF, Brighton

Two of United’s number 8s tried to put him under pressure but he was still good enough to bounce the ball into tight spaces.

Best: David De Gea, GK, Man United

He suffered a setback against Sevilla but made three good saves here, the first from a McAllister free-kick after just seven minutes.

Best: Victor Lindelof, DF, Man United

Substitute Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane saved well and scored the decisive penalty in the shootout.

Worst: Christian Eriksen, MF, Man United

Just returned from a serious injury, but seemed to lack energy and was substituted early in the second half.

Worst: Julio Enciso, FW, Brighton

The 19-year-old forced David de Gea into some good saves but was a bit naive with the ball at times.

Worst: Antony, FW, Man United

The Brazilian winger got into some good positions but his decision around the Brighton box angered Ten Hague.

Highlights and notable moments

After the match: What the manager and players said

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hague on his team’s response after the Sevilla defeat: “Thursday I saw a team I didn’t recognize but today we were back to normal. I could see the determination and resilience. We fought for every yard and every battle. We had good chances.”

Ten Hague on goalkeeper David de Gea’s performance: “I was very impressed with him. He made some great saves. It hurt when he made mistakes on Thursday.”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Data Research)

  • Man United advance to 21st FA Cup final to tie Arsenal for most.

  • It is the third time Man United have reached the finals of both major domestic cup competitions in a season, having previously done so in 1982–83 and 1993–94. They beat Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final.

  • Man United have reached both the FA and League Cup finals for the first time since 1993–94 (won FA, lost League Cup).

  • Brighton have never won a competitive match at Wembley Stadium, drawing one and losing four out of five meetings. The run began in the 1983 FA Cup Final against Manchester United, drawing 2–2 and then losing 4–0 in the replay.

  • Man United were shut out in regulation in consecutive games for the first time this season (all competitions).

Now the next one

Brighton and Hove Albion: The Seagulls resume their Premier League campaign with a visit to Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, April 26 at 2:30pm.

Manchester United: The fourth-placed Red Devils travel to Tottenham to face fifth-placed Spurs in the Premier League on Thursday, April 27 at 3:15pm ET, in what could have major top-four implications for the Champions League. The FA Cup final between Man United and Man City will be played at Wembley on June 3.

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