Man City vs. Man United FA Cup final preview: Key players, predictions, tactics and more

Manchester City and Manchester United will face off for the first time in an FA Cup final this Saturday (10 a.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+). United will aim to win both domestic cups this season after winning the Carabao Cup, while City's treble bid continues after securing the Premier League title and a Champions League final on June 10 against Inter Milan.

City manager Pep Guardiola's squad could become only the second English team to win the treble, after United achieved the feat in 1999. City have enjoyed dominance over their neighbors in recent years, but United manager Erik ten Hag deserves credit for improving the team this season and they will look to spoil City's party at Wembley Stadium.

The stakes are high ahead of the highly-anticipated fixture with history, rivalry and bragging rights on the line. ESPN's correspondents Rob Dawson and Mark Ogden answer the big questions and share their predictions, which players to watch and more.

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What state are Man City in going into the match?

Dawson: Manchester City drew at Brighton and lost at Brentford in their final two Premier League games of the season, but the hard work had already been done with 12 straight league wins to win the title. Guardiola used the games at Brighton and Brentford to give key men a rest and also give minutes to players who haven't featured as regularly during the second half of the season.

Nathan Ake has been his one main injury concern, but the Netherlands defender played for more than an hour against Brentford and the expectation is that he will be fit, if required, against United. In short, City couldn't have asked for a better build up to the cup final. Guardiola's players are fit and in form and if they're at their best against United, they should win.

The one issue for Guardiola ahead of the game is what team he picks. He's had a well-established strongest XI for the past couple of months but he's rotated in the FA Cup and brought in Stefan Ortega, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez and Julian Alvarez. He faces a decision about whether to start his best team against United or continue to trust the players who got him to the final.

What state are Man United in going into the match?

Ogden: Let's first rewind 12 months and remember where United were when Erik ten Hag took charge as manager. The team had just recorded its worst-ever Premier League campaign, winning two of its last 14 games in all competitions and losing seven of them. A year on, Ten Hag has secured a third-place Premier League finish and ended United's six-year trophy drought by winning the Carabao Cup, so he has overseen a remarkable transformation and his team go into the cup final on the back of four successive victories.

But while United are now on upwards trajectory, Ten Hag still has plenty of work to do before they can compete with City for the biggest honors in terms of the Premier League and Champions League, and Saturday will give us a clearer indication as to how far United must still travel to close the gap.

Ten Hag has injury problems to overcome, too. Centre-back Lisandro Martinez is out after suffering a broken metatarsal in April, while forward Anthony Martial has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Winger Antony is also a major doubt due to an ankle injury sustained against Chelsea on May 25.

If Guardiola wins the Champions League alongside Premier League, and if Ten Hag wins the FA Cup coupled with Carabao Cup, which manager deserves more credit?

Dawson: Pep Guardiola, and Erik ten Hag would probably agree. Only one other manager has led an English club to the treble and if Guardiola can emulate Sir Alex Ferguson's team of 1999, it would be the greatest achievement of his already stellar managerial career.

Ten Hag's first season in charge at Old Trafford has been positive, regardless of the result at Wembley on Saturday, but he would be the first to say that he's not at United to win domestic cups and finish third in the league. He took the job because he wants to win the Premier League and the Champions League, something Guardiola is in a position to do in the same season.

It's easy to overlook Guardiola's ability as a manager and a coach because of the financial backing he gets as City boss, but this season he has moulded a team that is the best in the world.

Ogden: Pep Guardiola, without question. Ten Hag has done an exceptional job in his first season at United, especially when you consider the state of the team when he arrived, but the Carabao Cup and FA Cup are mere placeholders in the grand scheme of things. Manchester United only measure themselves by success in the Premier League and Champions League, and they remain nowhere challenging to win either of those.

At City, Guardiola has built a formidable winning machine. Yes, the club is backed by the supreme wealth of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, but other clubs have spent huge money and failed to succeed. City's success is down to the brilliance of Guardiola, and if he adds the Champions League to the Premier League, he will only add to his already peerless reputation. United maybe could have done no better than they have done this season, but City have raised the bar again and that is down to Guardiola.

Can United's defence hold firm and handle Erling Haaland?

Dawson: Yes, because they've done it before. In United's 2-1 win over City at Old Trafford in January, Ten Hag's team limited Haaland to just two shots with neither hitting the target. In total, the Norwegian striker only had 20 touches and he was on the fringes of the game for most of the afternoon. Ten Hag started with Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw at center-back that day with Lisandro Martinez on the bench. Martinez is injured this time and won't play, so it's possible Ten Hag could stick with what he knows has worked in the past and play with Shaw in the centre of defense and either Tyrell Malacia or Diogo Dalot filling in at left-back.

Ogden: Yes. Haaland played in 52 games for City this season and he didn't score in 21 of them, including the 2-1 defeat against United at Old Trafford in January, so that means he has failed to score in just over 40 per cent of his appearances for Pep Guardiola's team.

City player to watch?

Dawson: Rodri. Even if Guardiola makes changes to his team, Rodri is still guaranteed to start. He's had a brilliant season in midfield and if he plays well against United, City will have a great chance of lifting the trophy. Bruno Fernandes is United's main creator and Rodri can help shut down the space for the Portugal midfielder to work in.

United player to watch?

Ogden: Marcus Rashford. Rashford is at his best playing on the left, where he can attack the full-back with his pace or cut inside and unleash shots with his right foot. The Manchester-born forward is the player who will cause most concern for Guardiola because he can be United's match-winner. If Rashford plays well, United will win. If he struggles to get involved, it will be City's day.

What is your match prediction?

Dawson: Man City 1-1 Man United (Man City win on penalties)

Ogden: Man City 2-0 Man United