Man Utd controversially squeeze past Coventry to set up FA Cup final against Man City

April 22 – It was seconds away from being one of the most memorable FA Cup stories in the competition’s long history – if not the most. Then a combination of a highly contentious VAR call and a penalty shootout snatched it all away.

As pyrrhic victories go, Manchester United’s was right up there on Sunday as they somehow squeezed into the FA Cup final after extra time despite giving away a three-goal lead against Championship side Coventry City in an absorbing, breathless semi-final.

Coventry had already pulled off the mother of all fightbacks by rallying from being 3-0 down after 70 minutes, then came within a toenail’s width of a sensational, epoch-defining winner when a goal 90 seconds from the end of extra time was narrowly ruled out by VAR, prompting nationwide condemnation of the system – unless you were a United fan.

The euphoria among the legions of Coventry fans was suddenly cut short and in the end Erik ten Hag’s team prevailed with a 4-2 win in the shootout after the 3-3 draw.

It was another heartbreaking ending at Wembley for Coventry, who also lost on penalties to Luton in last year’s Championship playoff final to miss out on promotion to the Premier League.

United’s narrow escape sets up a second straight Manchester derby in the final against defending champion Manchester City, who beat Chelsea on Saturday in the other semi-final, the latest defeat in a crunch match for the London club and their manager, Mauricio Pochettino.

But it should have been City against rank underdogs Coventry instead on May 25.

“We were 20 seconds away and a toenail offside, it’s ridiculous,” said crestfallen Coventry manager Mark Robins, the former Manchester United player who scored a crucial FA Cup goal in 1990 that helped Alex Ferguson win his first trophy at the club and, ironically, could now keep Ten Hag in his.

“Disappointed but we have to be really proud. Once the dust settles a lot of people will talk about that game for a long time,” Robins added.

They certainly will despite Ten Hag, perhaps in a moment of self-delusion, declaring: “It’s not an embarrassment. It’s an achievement.”

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