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Man United reach finals after narrowly avoiding humiliation

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LONDON, April 22: Manchester United set up another FA Cup final against fierce rival Manchester City in a way no one could ever have imagined.
In a semifinal match on Sunday that will live long in the memory, United blew a three-goal lead against second-tier Coventry, was saved by the narrowest of offside calls by the VAR in stoppage time of extra time to keep the score at 3-3, then came from behind in a penalty shootout to advance to the May 25 title match back at Wembley Stadium.
United’s celebrations after Rasmus Hojlund converted the clinching spot kick for a 4-2 win in the shootout were as much of relief as joy. Indeed, United’s players looked sheepish almost embarrassed as they left the field at England’s national stadium compared to their Coventry counterparts, who received the adulation of their proud, flag-waving, blue-clad fans.
Advancing to the final in this manner will do nothing to quell the growing uncertainty around the position of United manager Erik ten Hag, whose job might not be saved even by beating City. United, the grandest club in England, is languishing in seventh place in the Premier League and the team’s late collapse against Coventry followed a trend of similar performances in recent weeks that will alarm its new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe, who was in the crowd at Wembley after having run the London Marathon.
City, which defeated Chelsea 1-0 in the first of the semifinals on Saturday, was a 2-1 winner over United in last year’s final on its way to claiming a Premier League-FA Cup-Champions League treble.
That was the first ever cup final between the fierce local rivals and another has arrived 12 months later. Few will expect a different outcome in next month’s match, by which time City will hope to have been crowned Premier League champion again.
United has picked up a nasty habit of blowing leads and it happened again against an inspired Coventry team that is eighth in the Championship and managed by Mark Robins a former Man United striker who might have saved Alex Ferguson from getting fired three years into his storied tenure as United manager.
Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes with a shot that took a deflection before ricocheting into the net scored to put United 3-0 up by the 58th minute.
Coventry, which was bidding to become the first non-Premier League club since Cardiff in 2008 to reach the final, fought back in remarkable fashion with goals from Ellis Sims in the 71st, Callum O’Hare in the 79th and then Haji Wright with an equalizing penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Coventry was arguably the stronger of the teams in extra time, with Sims hitting the crossbar and Victor Torp having a goal in the first minute of second-half stoppage time ruled out because of a close offside call against Wright in the buildup. United midfielder Casemiro, who played out of position at center back in the match, missed the first penalty of the shootout but United recovered, with Coventry failing twice from the spot. (AP)

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