Manchester United and Manchester City made it through to the final of the 2022/23 FA Cup after they overcame Brighton and Sheffield United respectively in the semis. Many football fans were rather surprised to discover that these two great sides from Manchester (who have won the FA Cup 18 times between them) have never faced one another in the final. So, in this article, we thought we’d take a look through all the FA Cup finals that have taken place (since the inaugural tournament in the 1871/72 season) and see how many involved derbies, local or otherwise.
FA Cup Finals That Could Be Classed As Derbies
As you will see from the games we’ve selected, some are more obviously derbies than others, such as the two Merseyside derbies in the 1980s. Many others might be more accurately described as “rivalries” than proper derbies. But we’ve left out some of the more tenuous rivalries, that are only specific to a relatively short period of the clubs’ histories, such as Arsenal versus Manchester United. We’ve also discounted some of those from the earliest days of the competition between teams which no longer exist, so these are the FA Cup final derbies we’re left with.
|1886/87||Aston Villa 2–0 West Bromwich Albion|
|1891/92||West Bromwich Albion 3–0 Aston Villa|
|1894/95||Aston Villa 1–0 West Bromwich Albion|
|1897/98||Nottingham Forest 3–1 Derby County|
|1930/31||West Bromwich Albion 2–1 Birmingham|
|1966/67||Tottenham Hotspur 2–1 Chelsea|
|1976/77||Manchester United 2–1 Liverpool|
|1985/86||Liverpool 3–1 Everton|
|1988/89||Liverpool 3–2 (AET) Everton|
|1995/96||Manchester United 1–0 Liverpool|
|2001/02||Arsenal 2–0 Chelsea|
|2016/17||Arsenal 2–1 Chelsea|
|2019/20||Arsenal 2–1 Chelsea|
West Midlands Derbies – 1886/87, 1891/92, 1894/95, 1930/31
It could be argued that the first FA Cup final that involved a derby was way back in the 1886/87 season when West Midlands pair Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion met at the Kennington Oval. Technically, both sides have better-established derbies; Villa’s main local opponents are Birmingham City and the Baggies’ big local derby is really the Black Country Derby against Wolverhampton Wanderers. But neither of those matchups has occurred in the FA Cup final, so we’ll have to make do with the three early finals featuring Villa and West Brom (the Villans won two, the other went the way of the Baggies).
For an additional West Midlands Derby, we’ve thrown in the final from the 1930/31 tournament when West Brom beat Birmingham 2-1. It’s worth noting that between them, Villa (7), West Brom (5) and Wolves (4) have won 16 FA Cups between them… but poor Birmingham have never won it even once, having lost in the final twice.
Merseyside Derbies – 1985/86, 1988/89
Liverpool have appeared in 15 FA Cup finals (winning eight of them) while their Merseyside neighbours and rivals Everton have made it to the showpiece game 13 times (winning it five times). So it might come as a surprise to some that they didn’t meet in the final until the 1985/86 season. It was worth the wait, from a Liverpool perspective, as the Reds won 3-1 with Ian Rush netting twice and Craig Johnston scoring the other. The victory meant Liverpool won the league and cup double that season, pipping the Toffees in both.
Everton only had to wait three years to attempt to exact revenge as the sides met once again in the final in the 1988/89 tournament, poignantly just five weeks after the Hillsborough disaster. In what is widely regarded as one of the best FA Cup finals ever, Liverpool took an early lead through John Aldridge and despite plenty of chances for both sides, it looked like it would end 1-0 to the Reds. But Everton substitute Stuart McCall had other ideas and he scrambled in an equaliser with the last kick of normal time.
Liverpool legend Ian Rush then put the Reds back ahead in extra time, only for McCall to add another for Everton with a fantastic chest-and-volley effort. In the process he became the first substitute to score two goals in an FA Cup final. Unfortunately for McCall and Everton, Rush became the second man to achieve that feat as his deft header won it for the Reds.
London Derbies – 1966/67, 2001/02¸ 2016/17, 2019/20
Just as Manchester City and Manchester United have not met in the FA Cup (ahead of the 2023 final), north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have also never battled it out in the showpiece game. So the closest we get to London “derbies” in the final is the match between Tottenham and Chelsea (1966/67, 2-1 to Spurs) and the three finals between Chelsea and Arsenal (2001/02, 2016/17 and 2019/20 – the Gunners won all three).
Though these are games between teams from the same city, they perhaps aren’t really derbies in the fullest sense. However, given the rivalry to be crowned kings of the capital, there is always a bit of needle between them, so we think it is certainly valid to include them.
North West Derbies – 1976/77, 1995/96
Although Liverpool’s “proper” derby is against Everton, and Man United’s more logical derby is against Man City, many of the fans of both clubs would look to Liverpool versus Manchester United as a derby game and certainly the fixture they most want to win. The sides have won 20 FA Cups between them and appeared in 35 finals, but only faced one another in the final twice: in the 1976/77 tournament, and again during the 1995/96 season.
In 1977, Man United won 2-1 at Wembley thanks to goals from Stuart Pearson and James Greenhoff – not exactly household names compared to the big-name players that have played for the Red Devils before and since. But they did the business when it mattered and they’ll always have a special place in the hearts of United fans.
Things got even better for United in 1996, however. The footballing genius that is Eric Cantona scored the only goal of the game as Alex Ferguson’s Man United won the FA Cup to complete the league and cup double. In doing so, they became the first side to have won the double twice (having also achieved the feat in the 1993/94 season).
East Midlands Derby – 1897/98
Another derby that is arguably valid is the East Midlands one between Nottingham Forest and Derby County. This has taken place once, way back in the 1897/98 season when the sides played in the final at Crystal Palace. Forest ran out 3-1 victors, and though the more obvious derby might be Forest versus Notts County, over the years the matches against Derby have been seen by fans as more significant as they’ve been more likely to be in the same division and fighting for the same honours. And of course there is the Brian Clough factor too.