What is the FA Cup: History, the magic and the records

The oldest domestic football competition in the world gears up for its first Manchester Derby final on Saturday.

Published : Jun 03, 2023 06:27 IST - 3 MINS READ

REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE - Manchester City is set to face Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE - Manchester City is set to face Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley. | Photo Credit: MOLLY DARLINGTON/ REUTERS

REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE - Manchester City is set to face Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley. | Photo Credit: MOLLY DARLINGTON/ REUTERS

The football community is gearing up for a high-octane Manchester Derby in the FA Cup final to be held at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. This is the first time in the long history of the tournament that the two powerhouse teams from Manchester face off in the finals. 

The FA Cup was first held during the 1871/72 season as the annual knockout event for men’s domestic football in England. It is the oldest domestic football competition in the world, and has been run by the country’s Football Association (FA) since its inception. 

The Wembley stadium in London has hosted the finals of the tournaments since 1923, with the exception of a few replays held elsewhere in the 20th century. The newly refurbished Wembley has been hosting the final since 2007. 

The FA cup includes clubs from ten tiers of the footballing pyramid in England, with the Premier League (PL), English Football League (EFL) and the National League being represented. The competition starts with qualifying rounds featuring the lower division teams, with the higher ranked teams slotting in at the higher stages based on league hierarchy.

The ‘Magic of the FA Cup’ – the phrase used by the BBC – is on account of the giant-killing runs of the lower league teams, the most recent being Grimsby Town’s run to the quarterfinal in 2023 beating five teams from higher divisions, including PL side Southampton.

The FA cup has seen many such shocks in its journey. The 1988 final was an example with Wimbledon shocking the Liverpool team led by manager Kenny Dalglish, who had just wrapped up the First Division title. 

Unfancied Wigan, led by Roberto Martinez, shocked the cash-rich Manchester City team managed by Roberto Mancini in the 2013 final with a Ben Watson header in the first minute of stoppage time proving the difference between the sides. 

Bradford City’s shock 4-2 comeback win over Chelsea in the 14/15 FA cup is considered by many as the biggest upset in the cup’s history. The League One side went down by two goals early in the first half against Jose Mourinho’s side but managed to score four in reply to qualify for the fifth round. 

Arsenal is the most successful team in the cup with 14 wins from the 21 finals it has contested. Manchester United has won 12 times but holds the unpleasant record of losing the most number of finals – eight – sharing the credit with Everton and Chelsea. 

The current holders of the trophy is Liverpool, winning the 2022 final on penalties against Chelsea. This was Chelsea’s third consecutive loss in the final, losing to Leicester City in 2021 and Arsenal in 2020. 

Ashley Cole holds the record for the player with most title wins, managing seven between his spells at Arsenal and Chelsea. Arsene Wenger’s seven wins are the most for a manager. Manchester City’s holds the record for the biggest margin of in an FA Cup final, thanks to its 6-0 rout of Watford in 2019, shared with Bury which defeated Derby County in 1903. 

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