FA Cup final: What is Pep Guardiola’s record in cup finals?
The Manchester City boss is a proven winner, but does occasionally come unstuck in the big games.
This weekend Manchester City will face rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side are two games away from completing a historic treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League. Standing in their way on Saturday are Manchester United, the only other English side to clinch the treble.
Manchester City have been in scintillating form in recent months and looked imperious on their route to this position. In Guardiola they have one of the most decorated coaches of all time, with 33 titles across three countries. But the Spanish coach does occasionally lose out in the big games, something that will give confident to both United and City’s Champions League opponents Inter Milan.
Guardiola suffered first final defeat to Real Madrid
Given his extraordinary success, Guardiola has a very impressive record in finals. Since he first took charge of Barcelona in 2008 he has only been beaten twice in two major cup finals (not including the Community Shield).
In 2011, however, Guardiola’s famed Barcelona side faced rivals Real Madrid in the final of the Copa del Rey, Spain’s equivalent of the FA Cup. A thumping header in extra time from Cristiano Ronaldo was enough to win a scrappy final that ended with a late red card for Angel di Maria.
Jose Mourinho’s side were able to disrupt Barcelona’s fluid football by fielding combative defender Pepe in the midfield. This was the first cup final defeat of Guardiola’s managerial career.
Does Guardiola ‘over-think’ big games?
The Spanish coach is celebrated for his progressive, cerebral approach to the game. But on occasion his tactical exuberance is undone and Guardiola is accused of ‘over-thinking’ it in big games.
The most famous example came in the Champions League final in 2020/21. Despite huge success at both Bayern Munich and Manchester City, Guardiola had gone a decade without reaching the final of a European competition. For City, it was their first chance to be crowned continental champions.
City faced a Chelsea side who had finished 19 points behind them in the league and were the clear favourites to lift the Champions League. But Guardiola made a surprising change to his line up for the final, fielding neither Rodri nor Fernandinho in holding midfield.
Instead he went for a more forward-thinking option in Ilkay Gundogan and City were duly caught on the break by Chelsea in the first half. Kai Havertz’ goal was enough to win the Champions League for Chelsea and inflict Guardiola’s second defeat in a final.
In recent months Manchester City’s team has been so settled that it is very difficult to see Guardiola messing with the formula in either of this year’s finals. But in a one-off game, anything can happen.