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PROBABLY only Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United could manage to book a place in an FA Cup Final while hanging their heads in shame.

But while United eventually confirmed a second consecutive all-Manchester final in this competition, the way they chucked away a three-goal lead against Championship Coventry was extraordinary even by their standards of low farce.

And when Coventry’s Victor Torp netted in the 120th minute it looked like the most ridiculous comeback in Wembley history until VAR Thomas Bramall ruled it out for a marginal offside in the build-up.


Yet United came from behind in a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out as Coventry skipper Ben Sheaf blazed his effort horribly off-target to send the Red Devils through.


Mark Robins, who once saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s skin with a famous FA Cup goal, watched his Sky Blues roar back with three goals in the final 20 minutes – an Ellis Simms strike, a deflected Callum O’Hare effort and a controversial penalty converted by Haji Wright.

United were roundly booed by their own supporters at the end of normal time, as Coventry’s delirious supporters partied like it was 1987, when their club won the Cup in a classic final against Tottenham.

Ten Hag’s team have tossed away two-goal leads on several occasions this season but to be 3-0 up against second-tier opposition with 20 minutes to play and to lack the game-management to see it out was criminal.

The only wonder was that Ten Hag’s assistant Steve McClaren didn’t put up an umbrella on the Wembley touchline in bone-dry weather, like the good old days of his England reign.

First-half strikes from Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire and a Bruno Fernandes effort early in the second period had United in cruise control.

But as soon as Ten Hag started making subs, United switched off and Coventry produced a stirring late fightback to inject some ridiculous drama into a semi-final weekend which had looked like falling completely flat.

Still, despite their slapstick shoddiness, United did book a third domestic final appearance in four attempts under Ten Hag.

The two Manchester clubs had never met in a major cup final until last year, when an Ilkay Gundogan double completed the second leg of Pep Guardiola’s Treble in a 2-1 victory over their crosstown rivals.

United won the Carabao Cup last season and had booked their place in this semi-final with an epic victory over Liverpool in the previous round.

So while United’s Premier League form has been shoddy this season, and their Champions League campaign was a shambles, the Cup has at least brought consolation.

Even the unlikely scenario of a final victory over City is unlikely to save Ten Hag’s job – after all Louis Van Gaal was axed days after United last won this competition in 2016.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and a couple of Glazer brothers were here to witness a victory which was nowhere near as comfortable as it ought to have been.

The Sky Blues fans made a hell of a racket on their big day out and Robins’ side responded in kind for the final quarter of the match to give United a major panic attack.

With five centre-backs out injured, Ten Hag started Casemiro alongside Maguire in defence.

But the Premier League ought to have scored at least a couple before they did open the scoring midway through the first half.

First, Andre Onana’s long punt was headed down by Fernandes for Rasmus Hojlund, who got his feet in a tangle and took an air-shot.

Then a long diagonal from Casemiro fed Marcus Rashford, who cut in from the left but meekly rolled his shot wide of the far post.

But then Diogo Dalot, United’s player of the season, dashed down the right and delivered a dangerous low centre and McTominay made a darting run to meet it and poked home at the back stick.

Coventry were offering very little, the gulf in class all too apparent for more than an hour.

Robins’ side finally threatened the United goal in the 39th minute when Josh Eccles beat Aaron Wan-Bissaka down the right and crossed low towards Sims only for Dalot to make a goal-saving interception.

But just before the break, United looked home and hosed. First Dalot cut back for Rashford whose rising shot was tipped over by Bradley Collins.

From the resulting Fernandes corner, Maguire leapt higher than a clutch of Coventry defenders and headed past a static Collins.

Straight after the interval, Fernandes curled a 20-yarder inches wide but it wasn’t long before the skipper got on the scoresheet.

The third goal was a sweeping move which included a leaping dummy from ref Robert Jones before a Rashford cross was blocked and Fernandes wriggled free to beat Collins at his near post.

Soon, Maguire stabbed over from close range but Callum O’Hare was narrowly off-target with a flying header which had shades of Keith Houchen’s 1987 final effort.

United were beginning to switch off and as Coventry enjoyed their best spell of the match, they capped it with a goal which suddenly lit the fuse.

Sub Fabio Tavares crossed to their near post where Simms drilled past Onana.

The Sky Blue half of Wembley was re-energised and their team began to believe.

There was an element of fortune about Coventry’s second as O’Hare let rip from distance and the ball struck the back of Wan-Bissaka, looping over a helpless Onana.

Now it was getting seriously nervy for United as Torp’s powerful shot was pushed out by Onana – who was then booked for time-wasting.

And then in the 93rd minute, it all got ridiculously sublime. A cross from Luis Binks struck Wan-Bissaka at close range when the United full-back appeared to be trying to move his arm out of the way.

Still, Jones pointed to the spot and VAR Thomas Bramall upheld the harsh on-field decision.

Wright stepped up and nervelessly sent Onana the wrong way.

Early in extra-time Fernandes hammered a shot against the crossbar.

But late on, Coventry started pulling United’s defence apart, most notably when Wright dragged a shot while clean through.

Then Simms cracked an angled shot against the underside of the bar.

Torp slotted home after a cut-back from Wright and thought he had scored one of the most famous goals in Wembley history.

But VAR Bramall spotted Wright offside by inches and ruled out the goal.

Casemiro’s opening spot-kick was straight at Collins but O’Hare’s penalty was saved by Onana and Sheaf’s effort was a shocker before Hojlund stepped up to secure a hollow victory.


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