Manchester City is 1/3 on to win a second domestic cup competition of the season after coming from behind to beat Swansea in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup as rivals Man Utd lost away at Wolves.
When Ole Gunnar Solksjaer got the call to don his cape and fly to Manchester, he would have slipped into bed that night dreaming of the computations required to make his visit a permanent one.
A top-four finish and the FA Cup must have ranked highly, and after such an excellent start to his “will they/won’t they” United managerial career, it looks like those dreams have been eaten alive.
Last week’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal means United’s chances of making the Champions League cut is no longer in their own feet. Sure, they can qualify by winning the thing, but a Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona are a formidable impediment.
FA Cup silverware looked a far more straightforward route.
After beating Arsenal and Chelsea, only Wolves stood in Solskjaer’s way of a semi-final, with their noisy neighbours the only team of substance left in the final eight.
“Only Wolves” destroyed them.
They hammered them.
When Solskjaer called the defeat “a big step backwards,” he was talking about his team’s progress, but it’s also a statement of his continued employment beyond the 2018/19 season.
A big step backwards indeed.
After all the early promise, United are in danger of their season fizzling out, and when it does, the Manchester United board will develop a severe sense of amnesia.
Solsjkjaer operates in a cutthroat results business, and right now if you’re Old Trafford’s temporary steward, a result is winning the FA Cup or qualifying for the Champions League. Anything else is vinegar.
Wolves gaffer Nuno Espirito Santo doesn’t have Solkjaer’s torment. The Wolves manager who sits seventh in the English Premier League held the baton as his team waltzed into their first FA Cup Semi-Final in 21-years. It was one of the most assured displays against a Big Six team in modern memory. And it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise with Wolves winning four, drawing four and losing three of their matches against the pomp & circumstance of the English Premier League this season.
Only the swallow like saves of Sergio Romero kept the scoreline at 0-0 until the 70th minute when the effervescent João Moutinho wriggled through three defenders, found Raul Jiminez in the middle of the penalty area, and the Utd defence allowed the Mexican loanee the room to turn and slam the ball home.
Solskjaer didn’t have time to blow away the cobwebs before they were two down. The ball found Diogo Jota on the counter, and he slipped away from usually assured Luke Shaw before finishing with aplomb. Marcus Rashford scored a consolation for United with the last kick of the game.
The footballing Gods rewarded Wolves with a semi-final tie against Watford after the Vicarage Road crowd beat Crystal Palace for the third time this season thanks to a 79th minute winner by André Gray after Michy Batshuayi had cancelled out Etienne Capoue’s opener.
The unluckiest side in the semi-final draw was Brighton who faces Man City after scraping through to the last four courtesy of a penalty shootout victory over Championship side and FA Cup specialists Millwall.
After United’s collapse, City is the overwhelming favourite to land the FA Cup, and continue their quadruple crusade, after coming from two goals down to beat plucky Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. Matt Grimes and Bersant Celina sent the Welsh side into the break with a two-goal lead, only for Bernardo Silva, and Sergio Agüero to conspire to end their resistance.
Here are the results in full:
FA Cup Quarter-Final Results
Watford 2 v 1 Crystal Palace
Swansea 2 v 3 Man City
Wolves 2 v 1 Man Utd
Millwall 2 v 2 Brighton (Brighton win 5-4 on penalties)
FA Cup Semi-Final Draw
Brighton v Man City
Watford v Wolves
FA Cup Winner Odds
Man City 1/3