The Manchester giants have met seven times previously in the semi finals of the FA Cup and League Cup, however this will be the first time the two teams ever meet in a final.
This is sure to be a tactical battle between two elite managers, Erik Ten Hag and Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola is seeking a Treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and the Champions League (the first Champions League title for City). Whilst Ten Hag is targeting a domestic double of the League Cup and FA Cup, as well as the added incentive of stopping City winning a Treble, something only United have previously accomplished in England.
(Figure 1 - Predicted Lineups VIA sharemytactics.com)
I believe Manchester United will include Fred over Christian Eriksen who has been the more popular choice partnering Casemiro this season, due to the extra defensive intensity the Braziilian can offer, especially due to the job I believe Casemiro will have (which I will touch on later).
With injuries to both Anthony Martial and Antony in recent weeks, I believe Jadon Sancho will play on the right for Manchester United, with Marcus Rashford on the left and Wout Weghorst will return to the lineup upfront, in order to win 50/50s and create opportunities for the speed of Rashford and Sancho on the break.
Manchester United Tactical approach:
Ten Hag's Red Devils will be looking to replicate their 2-1 win performance earlier in the season at Old Trafford.
It is expected that United will look to be solid in defence and use this to fuel the attack, hitting Manchester City on the break with their pace in forward areas, with the likes of Rashford, Sancho. The addition of Weghorst returning to the side will add a different dynamic to the forward line for United, as the Dutchman is extremely hard working, and stands at 6 ft 6 in, which will allow him to win duels and give the wingers chances to run beyond him into dangerous attacking positions.
(Figure 2) (Image from Emirates FA Cup YouTube Channel)
As you can see in figure 2, the presence of a big striker causes a shift in the Fulham defence following the run of Weghorst. This leaves space on the right wing for players to run into and eventually releases Bruno Fernandes free to drift in on that right side and score, all starting from the gravity of Weghorst's run worrying the Fulham backline.
Playing counter attacking football is something that has worked well for United over the years against their Manchester rivals, winning 5 of the last 11 games and drawing 1. In the successful results for Manchester United in these most recent 11 fixtures, they have only conceded 2 goals which shows the concentration on defence in the past paying dividends in this clash.
As mentioned with the predicted lineups, it is expected Ten Hag will stick with a variant of his 4-2-3-1, having Fernandes in the attacking midfield position, allowing him to affect the game with his high intensity defensive workrate, as well as picking up the ball in dangerous areas to hurt the City defence.
Manchester City Tactical approach:
At the Manchester City end, Pep Guardiola will be looking to win his second FA Cup with Manchester City, the first coming in 2019 beating Watford 6-0. City are also aiming to complete the Treble, already winning the Premier League this season, and now playing in an FA Cup final, before then playing in the UEFA Champions League final.
We can expect to see a similar system that Guardiola has used in recent big games, such as the Real Madrid home and away legs. John Stones pushing into midfield from the back four, to create Pep's 3-2-5 system is what has worked so well in the past few months for City.
(Figure 3) (Images from Emirates FA Cup YouTube Channel)
In figure 3, you can see examples of Manchester City using their 3-2-5 system in order to fill the box.
The image on the left shows Kevin De Bruyne occupying his favored position just outside the 18 yard box, allowing him to whip balls into the box with great pace and precision. This means Pep wants as many players running onto these crosses as possible. This is why you see the pattern of a triangle between KDB, Rico Lewis and Mahrez just outside the box, to keep possession and maneuver the ball into a crossing position, whilst the other three highlighted players are creating movement and defensive shifts from the Arsenal defence due to their runs in the box.
This is a key factor of Pep's system and you can expect to see similar patterns emerge this weekend against Manchester United. Having the likes of Erling Haaland being tough to mark in the box with his height and power, as well as Ilkay Gundogan's ability to ghost into the box from midfield, and then the opposite side wingers coming into the box back post to add another attacking dynamic, this is why it is so hard to stop Pep's City from scoring, as they attack you from all angles.
This is destined to be a tightly contested game with a lot on the line for both teams. However I believe Manchester City will have too much for United and will prevail, winning 2-1 in extra time.
This should be a great game for the neutral, and a real tactical battle between two top class coaches, definitely one you won't want to miss!