Manchester United given extra incentive in FA Cup final by desire to prevent Manchester City emulating the class of '99 - Stuart Rayner
May 27, 1999, was a significant day in English, not just Mancunian, football history when Manchester United's remarkable comeback saw them beat Bayern Munich 2-1 at Barcelona's Nou Camp and add the European Cup to the Premier League title and FA Cup they had won earlier that month.
It is a haul no English club has managed before or since.
The Red Devils are desperate to keep it that way, which is why City are so keen to do it.
And the desperation comes from the fact a City clean sweep is far from a pipe dream, and the fact United are arguably the best-placed at this stage to stop it.
United have been there before, stopping an arch-rival from scooping all three by beating Liverpool under the twin towers in 1977, in between the Anfield men’s league and European Cup wins.
Yorkshiremen Stuart Pearson and Jimmy Greenhoff, previously of Hull City and Leeds United, scored United’s goals.
And although their noisy neighbours are clearly a class or two above them in 2023 - the 14-point difference in the league table should make that clear to anyone yet to have worked it out - United did come from behind to beat them at Old Trafford in January after taking a thrashing early in Erik ten Hag's tenure.
Ten Hag versus Guardiola adds another dynamic to an FA Cup final which does not need it. The Dutchman was coach of Bayern Munich II when the Spaniard was in charge of the first team, and says his belief in proactive football comes from there.
But then again it feels like just about every coach in world football has been influenced by Guardiola, and with good reason.
In his first Premier League season, ten Hag has created a Manchester United capable of hitting the heights - they beat Arsenal, Barcelona and Liverpool at Old Trafford this season and Newcastle United at Wembley to lift the League Cup, their first trophy since 2017. Equally, when they crash and burn, it can be spectacularly bad.
Goalkeeper David de Gea sums it up better than most, a brilliant shot-stopper capable of making the most cringeworthy of errors.Even without the injured Anthony, they have match-winners in Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen and Casemiro.
When it comes to their opponents, though, it is easier to list who is not a match-winner.
Like Alex Ferguson did in 1999 (when the games were closer together), Guardiola could conceivably rest players in an FA Cup final and still win comfortably when he has reserves as good as Phil Foden - hitting his straps again after appendicitis in March - World Cup winner Julian Alvarez and Riyad Mahrez, who scored a brilliant hat-trick against Sheffield United in the semi-final.
Leeds-born goalscoring Terminator Erling Haaland, son of Alf Inge, will certainly be back on the field at Wembley, hungry to add to his 58 goals for the season, 53 for his club. His chances are considerable with the likes of Jack Grealish, Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan - potentially playing his last game in English football - creating the chances amongst many others. Haaland has changed City as a team, giving them a different dimension to the strikerless side which preceded it.
Barnsley-born John Stones is one of those who has had to step up his game as a result - becoming part-defender, part-midfielder, and has responded magnificently.Even taking place in June thanks to the knock-on effect of the winter World Cup in Qatar, this should feel like a proper FA Cup final, kicking off at 3pm for the first time since 2011 - albeit not for great reasons (concerns about crowd disorder) and the more fan-friendly time undermined by train strikes.
You can argue as much as you like about asterisks with 115 financial fair play charges hanging over City's head but there is no question that however it has come about, this is one of the great football teams to watch. Just how great will be debated until they stop winning.
Some are already sold on the team who have won five of the last six titles, but others - many of them clutching red scarves - will argue they can only be spoken of as one of the finest teams of all time when they have the European Cup on show in their trophy cabinet.
The Red Devils are powerless to stop them doing that, but they can at least defend their treble.
Envy is usually a terrible thing, but at Wembley on Saturday it could be all-important extra motivation.
When you are up against a team as good as City, you need to grab onto every possible half-percent you can.