KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY — Manchester City shrugged aside a distracting cloud about their European status to make English football history as they thrashed Watford by a record-equalling 6-0 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
The goals flowed from David Silva, Gabriel Jesus (two), Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling (two) as City became the first English club to complete the domestic treble.
Manager Pep Guardiola and his Premier League champions had still been celebrating the first two-in-a-row title success in a decade when media leaks from European federation UEFA suggested trouble looming over financial fair play.
City have denied any wrongdoing and, even if found cupable, will contest and delay the verdict at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In the meantime Guardiola, who has been assured by the club of its innocence, can take enormous pride in a magnificent conclusion to their remarkable season.
City had won the League Cup in February then the Premier League last weekend ahead of Liverpool and secured the treble by winning the FA Cup for the sixth time in their history and first since 2011.
The outcome was no surprise: City had been overwhelming favourites against a Watford side who finished 11th in the league and 48 points behind City after losing their last three games.
The team line-ups said more about the chasm between the clubs, with City leaving top scorer Sergio Aguero, playmaker Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sane on the substitutes’ bench.
Yet it was Watford who came closest to a goal in the opening quarter. Roberto Pereyra hesitated when sent clear on the counter-attack and fast-onrushing keeper Ederson deflected the effort wide.
Abdoulaye Doucoure was booked after claiming a penalty in vain after a shot was blocked by Vincent Kompany’s elbow but he proved the hapless source of the opening from which City took the lead in the 26th minute.
The Watford midfielder was caught in possession and David Silva bounced a left-foot angled shot beyond Heurelho Gomes.
Gabriel Jesus, Aguero’s replacement, scored the second after 37 minutes as he connected with a wonderfully angled cross from Bernardo Silva. Raheem Sterling followed up to clip the ball into the net but, VAR decided later, only after the ball had crossed the line.
Watford, gamely, tried to make a game of it early in the second half but City were then a continuing danger on the break.
Jesus had a goal ruled out for offside, Aymeric Laporte was wide with a ‘free’ header at a corner then newly-arrived substitute Kevin de Bruyne – oddly voted man of the match – scored after a counter-attack constructed at high speed by Sterling and Jesus.
That was after an hour.
Eight minutes de Bruyne returned the favour by laying on No4 for the Brazilian with Sterling adding a fifth in the 80th minute and a sixth in the 86th.
City thus equalled the 6-0 record margin with which Bury defeated Derby County in 1903. By that time unfortunate Watford were not merely beaten but barely on the same pitch.