Manchester United players celebrate after winning the penalty shootout against Brighton at Wembley Stadium, London, on Sunday. Reuters
Manchester United beat Brighton on penalties at Wembley on Sunday to set up an FA Cup final against treble-chasing Manchester City.
Victor Lindelof scored the decisive spot-kick as Erik ten Hag’s team won 7-6, following a miss by Solly March, staying on course for a domestic cup double.
The semi-final finished 0-0 after extra-time, with neither side showing the cutting edge required to break the deadlock.
Ten Hag made three changes from his team’s Europa League horror show in Sevilla in midweek.
Luke Shaw came in at centre-back for the suspended Harry Maguire, with Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes replacing Jadon Sancho and Marcel Sabitzer.
United have already won League Cup this season to end a six-year trophy drought and are in a strong position to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
But their confidence took a battering in Thursday’s 3-0 defeat in Spain, which meant a 5-2 defeat on aggregate in the Europa League quarter-finals.
Brighton, who lost the FA Cup final replay to United 40 years ago, had won the past two league fixtures between the sides and came to Wembley on a high after beating Chelsea last week.
The south-coast club settled first and had an early sight of goal when Kaoru Mitoma was brought down clumsily on the edge of the box by Antony in the sixth minute.
Argentine World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister hit a fine curling effort that David De Gea did well to keep out before Julio Enciso flashed a shot wide.
– Brighton control –
Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton were dominating possession, with United apparently happy to sit back and try to exploit the pace of Rashford and Antony.
Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez beat out a Bruno Fernandes effort in United’s first meaningful effort.
The massed ranks of Brighton fans were keen to play on the nerves of De Gea whenever the ball landed at his feet following a nightmare game for the Spaniard in Seville.
Paraguay international Enciso shot narrowly wide just after the half hour mark after fine work down the left by the impressive Mitoma.
United, for long periods scrappy, produced a flurry of chances shortly before half-time.
First Fernandes flashed narrowly wide when the unmarked Anthony Martial was begging for the ball in the middle of the box before Martial mishit an attempted chip well over the bar.
Then Rashford picked out Christian Eriksen, whose shot was kicked away by Sanchez.
Brighton were quickly out of the blocks at the start of the second half. Enciso forced De Gea into a smart save before former United forward Danny Welbeck headed over from the resulting corner.
United then carved out a golden chance to take the lead when Rashford was brought down by Enciso in the 64th minute but Fernandes failed to get the ball over the wall.
United were now on top but could not force a breakthrough and the tension ratcheted up as the game entered the last 10 minutes of normal time.
March forced a fine save from De Gea as Brighton poured forward again, seeking a late winner and then he headed over from a corner.
But neither side could break the deadlock and referee Craig Pawson blew for extra-time.
The game became stretched, with half-chances at both ends before Rashford’s deflected shot was turned away by Sanchez as the clock ticked down to the end of the first period of extra time.
By now United had made five changes.
Top-scorer Rashford, who struggled to hit top gear, flashed wide with 10 minutes to go before De Gea cleared following a goalmouth scramble at the other end.
A high-quality shootout took place in front of the massed ranks of the Brighton fans but ultimately the Red Devils held their nerve.