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FA Cup 2023/24 Awards: Man Utd triumph, Coventry’s hero, marvellous Madueke

The FA Cup is over for another year and the curtain comes down on the English top-flight campaign, so it’s about time we hand out some awards. 

The 2023/24 edition of the competition was one of the best we have seen in a while, providing us with entertainment, drama, huge upsets, fairytale runs and some spectacular matches.

Manchester United came out as unlikely winners in the end, beating a highly fancied Manchester City side at Wembley this weekend.

But there is so much to dig into from this season’s tournament, from the third round right up to the final. So join us as we reminisce on a wonderful past few months of the FA Cup.

FA Cup 2023/24 Awards:

Best Moment

We’ll start at the end, shall we? The cup sprinkled plenty of its trademark magic dust throughout the season, but it was the final that gave us the upset that no one saw coming.

Man City had just come off the back of making history, winning four Premier League titles in a row, and were relatively comfortable winners of the previous season’s Wembley decider against Man United.

And yet, the Red Devils made the impossible possible, beating the seemingly unbeatable thanks to two of their youngest players, no less. Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo, both 19 years old, scored in the first half to topple City’s billion-pound group of superstars

Amid all the negativity at Man United, from their worst ever Premier League campaign to their creaking stadium, it was two budding, prodigious talents who showed there is light at the end of the tunnel for a once great club.

If they do nothing else in their careers, Mainoo and Garnacho have written themselves in Man United folklore and earned a place in the club’s history books. But going forward they will be intent on making sure the future has more success in store for them.

Read – Man Utd win FA Cup after ‘nobody believed in us’

Best Player

No player made a bigger impact for their team or scored more goals at absolutely crucial moments than Ellis Simms did for Coventry City.

The Sky Blues came agonisingly close to reaching a first FA Cup final since 1987, with their star striker contributing six goals to their incredible run, earning himself the Golden Boot after scoring the joint-most goals in the competition (alongside Blackburn’s Sammie Szmodics). He also chipped in with three assists, meaning no player had more goal involvements.

The former Everton man didn’t find the net until the fifth round, when he scored a first-half hat-trick against Maidstone United. He followed that up with a brace in the quarter-finals against Midlands rivals Wolves, including a 97th minute equaliser right before a thrilling last-second winner from Haji Wright.

In the semi-finals Simms kicked off remarkable comeback against Man United, finishing nicely in the 71st minute as the Sky Blues came from 3-0 down to level matters deep into injury time. Unfortunately the 23-year-old did not get a chance to partake in the penalty shootout as the Premier League side put the game to bed before City’s fifth spot kick.

Read – Five of the greatest Championship play-off moments

Best Goal

You can always count on the FA Cup to deliver sensational golazos in every round of the tournament, making this award especially difficult to make a decision on.

But I cannot stop watching or thinking about Noni Madueke’s incredible goal for Chelsea against Leicester City in the quarter-finals.

The 22-year-old winger jinked past and dribbled around defenders who seemed to just bounce off him, before supplying a delicious finish into the corner of the net from outside the box.

It felt like that was the moment Madueke announced himself as a Chelsea player and kickstarted a run of good form at the back end of the campaign.

Read – Five of the best ever FA Cup final goals

Biggest Upset

Ipswich Town have been one of the stories of the season this past, securing back-to-back promotions to reach the Premier League for the first time in 23 years.

But the Tractor Boys were well and truly put back in their box in January when non-league Maidstone United rocked up to Portman Road and secured a shock 2-1 win.

The two clubs were separated by 98 places in the football pyramid when the match took place, but goals from Lamar Reynolds and Sam Cornes saw The Stones become the first sixth-tier club to reach the fifth round in 46 years.

And they say the FA Cup has lost its magic.

Read – Our team of the season from Europe’s top leagues in 2023/24

Best Match

As derided as the FA Cup is in some quarters, this season’s edition offered up some quality encounters. But none exceeded the excitement, drama and action that was on show during Manchester United’s quarter-final tie with Liverpool at Old Trafford.

This game was only meant to go one way. Jurgen Klopp’s men were flying high in the Premier League, intent on sending the German off with an unprecedented quadruple having already won the League Cup.

The Red Devils, meanwhile, had been in the doldrums all year long, Erik ten Hag barely capable of mustering up coherent performances from his injury-ravaged squad. But they immediately put two fingers up to Klopp’s farewell tour when Scott McTominay tapped home in the 10th minute.

Liverpool became well accustomed to going behind this season, so it was of little surprise that they were ahead by the interval. Alexis Mac Allister and Mo Salah scored late on to completely change the halftime team talks.

Despite enjoying the better chances in the second half, Liverpool failed to put the game away. Antony punished them late on, swivelling in the box before firing the ball into the corner of the net. Extra time beckoned.

Liverpool bounced back with a goal from Harvey Elliott, but Man United were irrepressible; they simply refused to die. Marcus Rashford found his scoring touch at the right time to level matters yet again, in the 112th minute.

The Merseyside outfit went all out for the win, pushing forward for a goal, but ultimately it was their undoing. Elliott lost possession off a corner and United sprung on the counter. Alejandro Garnacho put the lesser spotted Amad Diallo through on goal to score a sensational stoppage time winner.

The Ivorian winger whipped off his shirt in celebration, earning him a second booking and his marching orders. Not that he minded too much.

Honourable Mention: It would be remiss of us not to address Coventry City, who were involved in two classic clashes against Wolves and Man United. The Championship side added so much to this year’s competition and were unlucky not to reach the final.

The best FA Cup finals: Comebacks, shocks and the Five Minute Final

Best Individual Performance

We have two leading contenders for this one, both from the same game. Manchester City absolutely crushed Luton Town in the fifth round, winning 6-2 at Kenilworth Road.

Erling Haaland scored five of the visitor’s goals, the second time he has managed to do so in a single match since joining the club. The Norwegian has not been quite as clinical this term as he has been previously, but he was on song on this February night. And he could have had a couple more, too.

The architect of the victory, though, was none other than Kevin De Bruyne, who supplied four assists to Haaland and was unlucky not to come away with two goals. The Belgian absolutely dominated the middle of the park, dictating play with ease and playing scintillating balls in behind the Hatters’ defence time and again.

We are inclined to hand this award to De Bruyne, but we’ll let you decide who is more deserving in the comments below.

Read – Guardiola admits he got tactics wrong against Man Utd

Best Quote

Erik ten Hag could not help himself in his post-match media duties after the final, giving a backhanded dig to Roy Keane about the Irishman’s managerial career. The former Man United captain laughed along, but deep inside he probably wanted to murder the Dutchman.

Read – Ten Hag warns Man Utd: “I’ll go somewhere else and win trophies”

Biggest Howler

Chelsea reach the last four of the FA Cup this year, but they were fortunate to avoid a quarter-final upset at the hands of second-tier Leicester City.

The Blues ultimately emerged 4-2 winners from an entertaining tie, but Axel Disasi committed an incredible blunder to gift the Foxes a goal just after halftime.

A great lesson to all young players out there to keep it on the deck when playing the ball back to your goalkeeper.

Read – Chelsea renew interest in winger with £60m release clause

Worst Miss

Raheem Sterling has never been renowned for his free-taking ability, so it’s anyone’s guess why he stepped up to the plate from 19 yards out against Leicester. The end result was one of the worst free kick attempts you have ever seen.

Read – Man Utd legend takes ‘perfect next step’ in career

Biggest Clown

Antony confirmed his status as arguably the most unlikeable Premier League footballer with his celebration in the aftermath of Man United’s penalty shootout victory over Coventry City in the semi-finals.

The Brazilian immediately turned to the Sky Blues players after the winning spot kick and cupped his ears, taunting the defeated opposition in a classless manner.

Keep in mind Man United had just scraped through to the decider after giving up a three-goal lead and were lucky not to be knocked out following the tightest of offside calls in extra time.

When your sh*thousing is too much for someone like Neal Maupay, maybe you should reassess your life.

Read – Antony responds to criticism over Coventry City taunting

Read More – The youngest players to ever score at Wembley

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