Sergio Aguero(right): saves Manchester City from elimination by Swansea, while Manchester United fail
Wolverhampton Wanderers stunned Manchester United 2-1 on Saturday to land a surprising semi-final berth in the English FA Cup, while Manchester City survived a scare by Championship League side, Swansea and came from behind to clinch victory 3-2.
In the match at Molineux Stadium, in which United paraded Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Marucs Rashford and Jesse Lingard, they found themselves 2-0 down within six minutes in the second half, after the first half had ended goalless. Rashford only managed to reduce the deficit on 90 minutes, as the team failed for the second time in six days, to record victory.
At Liberty Stadium in South Wales, Manchester City rode their luck to storm back and beat Swansea 3-2 in the FA Cup quarter-finals and stay on track for a possible quadruple.
The City manager’s decision to name Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling among his substitutes almost backfired as the Championship side made the most of their absence to surge into a surprise two-goal first-half lead.
Swansea looked set to end City’s four-pronged pursuit of honours when they took command of the tie after Matt Grimes converted a 20th-minute penalty and Bersant Celina finished off a fine move by curling a shot beyond Ederson nine minutes later.
The Premier League leaders mounted a stunning recovery to overcome the daunting deficit after Sterling and Aguero entered the fray either side of the hour mark but the win was achieved in controversial circumstances with the equaliser and Aguero’s winner hotly disputed.
After Bernardo Silva pulled a goal back by curling a shot beyond the impressive Swansea goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt, TV replays suggested that City were the beneficiaries of two incorrect decisions by referee Andre Marriner that may have been overruled had the VAR system been in use.
Marriner pointed to the spot after Cameron Carter-Vickers was judged to have tripped Sterling.
Aguero’s penalty struck the post and went in off Nordfeldt while Aguero’s winning goal, stooping 88th-minute header, should have been disallowed for offside.
“If it is not a penalty, and it is offside like the people say, I’m sorry,” Guardiola said.
“They ask all the clubs about the VAR and all around Europe, the VAR is there and here it’s not. I don’t like to lose games when the decisions are wrong but the referees don’t want to make wrong decisions, but they must be helped.
“It’s centimetres. Sometimes the VAR takes three minutes to make a decision so imagine taking that decision in one second during the game. It is not easy.”
“But, at the same time, we played incredibly well, with the amount of actions, the amount of crosses and the goalkeeper (Nordfeldt) was incredible,” he added.
“We will analyse the game — we deserved to win the game by far — but to win in that way, I’m sorry.”
In the end, Guardiola was left to sing the praises of Aguero, who had the final say in an exhilarating contest as he made up for lost time in dramatic fashion with his late winner.
“He is on top form, he is an exceptional player and he’s enjoying those moments that only the world’s greatest strikers have which is nice for the team,” he said.
At Molineux Stadium, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United produced the poorest performance of his reign.
But United’s interim manager was remarkably upbeat despite his side’s flat performance, saying they had plenty more to fight for as they aim for a top-four finish in the Premier League and look forward to a Champions League last-eight tie against Barcelona.
United were well beaten by an eager Wolves side who scored two goals in the space of six minutes in the second half through Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota, with Marcus Rashford’s injury-time effort a consolation.
Solskjaer had presided over a run of just two defeats in 18 games since replacing Jose Mourinho in December, progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the FA Cup.
But they now go into the international break with back-to-back defeats after losing to Arsenal last week, with Rashford’s goal their only real chance of the game.
“Today was the poorest performance we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Solskjaer.
“It was a big step backwards. There was a lack of urgency going forwards and a lack of forward passing and a lack of regains.
“We felt too comfortable in possession and we never put their keeper under pressure or their defenders under pressure,” he said.
Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo was delighted after his side reached the club’s first FA Cup semi-final for 21 years.
“It means a lot of course. The FA Cup is the oldest competition and we played well,” he said.
“We achieved it with the amazing support of our fans believing in us and the noise was fantastic.
“When we achieved it, we achieved it together. Now we have to prepare for the next one.”