Pep Guardiola and Manchester City will aim to complete a historic treble in the next two weeks and their second step in that comes tomorrow when they face arch-rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final.
Manchester United are the only English club to win a continental treble – Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League – doing so in the 1998-99 season and despite being the underdogs in this final, they would like to prevent their city rivals from matching Sir Alex Ferguson’s impressive feat.
Erik Ten Hag’s men did get the better of Pep Guardiola in their first meeting this season – a league win at Old Trafford and English football icon John Barnes says that it could happen again but City are still favourites.
Barnes also spoke about whether the prospect of a treble will distract Man City and how Ten Hag can set up United to counter Guardiola’s possession-heavy style.
Prospect of a treble will not be a distraction for Man City
Barnes doesn’t think that a looming treble will cause Man City to lose focus in the FA Cup final, simply because there are only two games remaining.
He says that had this been a semi-final and they still had a few games to go in the league, then it could have been a distraction but now with only two games, it will not be a factor.
“No, the prospect of a treble won’t be a distraction, They only have two games to go.”
“If you had eight games in the league, a couple of semifinals, then it could possibly be a distraction.”
“Whereas now it’s just two games. One part of the treble is the next game and the last part is the last game. So, it’s only a distraction when there are quite a few games.”
“The fact that it’s only two games to go, is not a distraction at all.”
Man City are overwhelming favourites but they were favourites when they lost the Champions League final
City are overwhelming favourites in the Liverpool legend’s opinion but anything can happen as this is a one-off game.
“Man City will be favourites for sure. But, it’s a one-off so anything can happen. No matter how well you play, how much you dominate possession, how many opportunities you have, in a one-off game, you can lose.”
“They can be the best team, hit the post 10 times and lose one-nil.”
Barnes also points out that Guardiola and City were favourites in the Champions League final where they lost to Chelsea and they’ve been favourites in other games that they’ve lost.
“Manchester City were the favourites when they lost the Champions League final against Chelsea, they’ve been favourites when they’ve lost before.”
“But I will make them overwhelming favourites.”
Ten Hag will have to be defensive in his approach
When it comes to setting up teams, Barnes thinks that Ten Hag has to go with defensive solidity as they cannot take the game to City.
Along with that, the former England winger stresses on the need to be quick in transition as the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho can be hard to deal with.
“Ten Hag has to be defensive. They know they cannot outplay them so you don’t go head to head.”
“When Man City win the ball, they will get forward in numbers so I think Man Utd can counterattack with their pace. Rashford, Sancho and whoever else they have up front, they will have to capitalise on whatever opportunities they have and make them pay.”
“They’ll have to try and keep the ball from Man City, play an open game whereby when they attack Man Utd can get numbers in attack as well. Man City will also have to attack with one eye on defence, in case they lose the ball.”
“It will have to be a strong defensive performance from Manchester United.”