A total thrashing to reflect their total domestic domination. Manchester City win the FA Cup to become the first club in English history to complete the domestic treble, but it says an awful lot that it doesn’t feel anywhere near as seismic as it should, or that the embarrassing final scoreline shouts. It is certainly anything but “incredible”, or any of the usual adjectives that would be added to such a feat. City’s immense resources have instead made it feel somewhat inevitable, and almost as predictable as this 6-0 win over Watford at Wembley.
The crowning of a genuinely wonderful team just did not seem like such a wonderful event. That it was the joint biggest win in an FA Cup final - to go with Bury’s 6-0 over Derby County as long ago as 1903 - felt all too fitting given the feat of maximum domestic victory it confirmed.
It is usually in match reports like this that we would now begin to go into the details, the whos, the whys and the hows, but, really, what’s the point? The only relevant factor is that City are an inifinitely better-resourced club, as they have proven every time these two teams have met since Watford’s 2015 promotion. This was the English champions’ ninth win out of nine in this fixture in that time, by an aggregate score of 31-4, making it almost indistinguishable from any other victories.
It was very often indistinguishable from any random Premier League game you want to pick out over the past two years, given that City have won over 82%, and about 70% as easily as this.
Except it was even worse.
If by half-time it felt like any dull pre-season friendly in the United States, it by the end just resembled an evisceration. That’s if any neutrals were actually still watching.
The English game’s great showpiece became a great showcase for a huge problem in football, and not just in this country.
Some of this is obviously down to the genius of Pep Guardiola, and the excellence of his players. He has done to the Premier League what he did to the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich and to the Spanish league with Barcelona, racking up record wins and point hauls.
He has bent English football to his will.
But this is also the increasing will of the game. We are just seeing in England a predictability that has become a massive problem in Germany, in Italy, in France and in Spain.
City thereby aren’t alone in that, but they do stand alone in terms of the nature of their project, and how they could prospectively make this problem so much worse.
Guardiola is only there because former Barcelona colleagues Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano are there, who are there because the club will give them the scope for this global City Football Project and the wealth that allows it, a wealth that comes from the Abu Dhabi owners who are there because… well, those are bigger questions to go with all the questions about that regime and human rights abuses and the war in Yemen.
The very fact this is even mentioned in what is ostensibly a report on the FA Cup final says it all.
It was difficult not to feel a lot of sympathy for Watford in this situation, and not just because of the scale of the defeat and how futile their performance – their attempt to track City players – became.
Their big day was just one big bad beating, although you wouldn’t have thought from the deafening and defiant display of colour and song around the 84th minute, after it had gone 5-0. That is what football should really be about.
As to what this game was about, Watford’s big day did still come down that one big chance that Roberto Pereyra had in the first few minutes. He was put through one-on-one, and Ederson did wondrously to push it away.
There was then the penalty claim after an Abdoulaye Doucoure shot struck Vincent Kompany’s arm. It was somewhat ironic, given how this season has gone, that it would have been given in the Champions League – and certainly by VAR – but is not a penalty in England.
That, however, was the extent of the tension in the game, those 25 minutes.
That was it because, after City scored the first, that was the match.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball)May 18, 2019
There was no coming back.
Watford weren’t blameless or just subject to superior forces here it must be similarly acknowledged. They were slack, not least the usually excellent Doucoure, as a Raheem Sterling shot cannoned into the air from a deflection and David Silva showed superior fight to head it back. Sterling then headed it back his way, and the playmaker finished so well.
Questions could also be asked of Heurelho Gomes, and could have continued throughout the game, but that in itself almost seems so unfair.
It says just as much that, when you’re playing a team like City, the one chance you get means so much; that you have to take it – precisely because they give you so little margin for error.
That’s what they’ve done to English football, and what can they do to teams.
Watford’s one missed chance to a degree reflected the title race in that way. Liverpool had that one big chance to kill City and go seven points clear in February, but didn’t take it, and then saw City streak away with performance that was close to perfection.
That was precisely what happened here, as the goals – and the onslaught – just kept coming.
Gabriel Jesus headed in the second, before Kevin De Bruyne rolled in the third.
That was when an entirely predictable win because a procession, and reflected a problem.
Jesus got his second and City’s fourth before Sterling added the fifth and sixth.
More goals, but also just more minor details in the most major level of domination English football has ever seen.
It produced a feat we’ve never seen before, but one we might well have to get used to.