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The Unexpected Winners of FA Cup Finals Since 1990

Only a few unexpected winners have managed to stun the world by beating top teams in the FA Cup since the Premier League era.

The FA Cup final is set to be held this weekend. This year, two finalists from the previous edition, Manchester United and Manchester City, are squaring off again in the summit. The Manchunian derby will be staged twice in a row for the first time in the tournament’s history. 

The reigning champion, Manchester City, is the favourite to lift the trophy. Their convincing record in the competition, plus the encounters against their local rival, only adds up to their own and fans’ confidence to bet on their triumph in Wembley. 

Winners of FA Cup Final List Since 1990:

Season Winners Score Runners–up
1990–91 Tottenham Hotspur 2–1 Nottingham Forest
1991–92 Liverpool 2–0 Sunderland
1992–93 Arsenal 2–1 Sheffield Wednesday
1993–94 Manchester United 4–0 Chelsea
1994–95 Everton 1–0 Manchester United
1995–96 Manchester United 1–0 Liverpool
1996–97 Chelsea 2–0 Middlesbrough
1997–98 Arsenal 2–0 Newcastle United
1998–99 Manchester United 2–0 Newcastle United
1999–2000 Chelsea 1–0 Aston Villa
2000–01 Liverpool 2–1 Arsenal
2001–02 Arsenal 2–0 Chelsea
2002–03 Arsenal 1–0 Southampton
2003–04 Manchester United 3–0 Millwall
2004–05 Arsenal 0–0 Manchester United
2005–06 Liverpool 3–3 West Ham United
2006–07 Chelsea 1–0 Manchester United
2007–08 Portsmouth 1–0 Wales Cardiff City
2008–09 Chelsea 2–1 Everton
2009–10 Chelsea 1–0 Portsmouth
2010–11 Manchester City 1–0 Stoke City
2011–12 Chelsea 2–1 Liverpool
2012–13 Wigan Athletic 1–0 Manchester City
2013–14 Arsenal 3–2 Hull City
2014–15 Arsenal 4–0 Aston Villa
2015–16 Manchester United 2–1 Crystal Palace
2016–17 Arsenal 2–1 Chelsea
2017–18 Chelsea 1–0 Manchester United
2018–19 Manchester City 6–0 Watford
2019–20 Arsenal 2–1 Chelsea
2020–21 Leicester City 1–0 Chelsea
2021–22 Liverpool 0–0 Chelsea
2022–23 Manchester City 2–1 Manchester United
2023–24 Manchester United 2–1 Manchester City

Nevertheless, there have always been unlikely champions once in a blue moon. Such always gives hope for excitement, but instead the giant dominance over and over again. Unfortunately, unexpected winners of FA Cup are still rare. Since the Premier League era in 1992, only three teams have managed to shock the opposition side and certainly the whole world as they picked up the unlikely victory. Here are the teams that had the last laugh in the final.

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Leicester City (2021)

The Foxes were not exactly the favourites, even though they were still the regular teams in the top four. At that time, Leicester City tickets were still in high demand. In the 2021 FA Cup final, they faced off against Chelsea. The Blues knocked out Manchester City in the semi-final, which was their only tough opposition to beat, whereas Leicester eased past their toughest obstacle at the knockout stage, Manchester United at one stage earlier, in the round of eight, before thumping Southampton in the last four. Thomas Tuchel’s men just progressed to the Champions League final as well. No wonder they were tipped to win the silverware. 

The match itself was quite even. In the first half, Brendan Rodgers’ men had early chances from Jamie Vardy and the centre-back, Caglar Soyuncu. Unfortunately, none of their attempts hit the target. Vardy’s strike was blocked, while Soyuncu’s header went wayward. On the other hand, the Blues had more clinical chances from Mason Mount and Cesar Azpilicueta. Sadly, they missed them. 

In the second half, the game became more intense as both sides traded attacks. In the 63rd minute, the Foxes managed to break the deadlock. The Belgian international, Youri Tielemans, found the back of the net with a long-range shot. Chelsea then responded immediately to find an equaliser. Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount tried to reach the header and shot in the six-yard box. Yet, Kasper Schmeichel came to save the day as he denied their attempts to keep the clean sheets. The final result was 1-0, and Leicester clinched their first FA Cup title.

Wigan Athletic (2013)

The Latics won their first and only major silverware so far in 2013 when they humiliated Manchester City in the final. They were already relegated from the Premier League before the final. Thus, a victory at Wembley would be a consolation for their fans after a woeful campaign. The Citizens also went to the final with a similar objective after they failed to defend their league title. Not to mention that Roberto Mancini’s future was also in danger. Thus, almost everyone would bet on their victory in the final.

Both sides had relatively little difficulty advancing to the final. Manchester City only faced their tough opponent, Chelsea, 2-1 in the semi-final. The captain, Vincent Kompany, and Sergio Aguero scored the winning goal before Demba Ba bagged a consolation goal. On the contrary, Wigan only encountered their biggest challenge, Everton, in the quarterfinals before crushing the second-tier team, Millwall, 2-0 in the semi-final.

The duel itself was quite a tight affair. It was Roberto Martinez’s side that had early chances. Both were from Callum McManaman. Yet, he could not capitalise them. The forward who began his career at Everton missed the first attempt as his strike flew wide, while the second one was blocked by the Citizens’ defence. Yaya Toure and Co. also had their own two important opportunities but were saved by Wigan’s goalie, Joel Robles. The winning goal eventually came a few minutes before the final whistle. The defender, Ben Watson, headed the ball home after taking advantage of Shaun Maloney’s corner kick. It was a historic win for the Latics. 

Everton (1995)

The Toffees were, as usual, at the bottom half of the table in the 1994–95 season. They only sat 15th in the final standings, whereas their opponent, Manchester United, finished second. They just lost in the title races against Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers. The Red Devils were looking for a redemption to avoid the trophyless season, which made them the clear favourite in the final. 

Graham Stuart and Co. reached the summit after eliminating Derby County, Bristol City, Norwich, Newcastle United, and Tottenham, which they hammered 4-1 despite fielding their deadly dynamic duo up front, Teddy Sheringham and Jurgen Klinsmann. Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson’s men stomped Sheffield United, Wrexham, Leeds United, QPR, and Crystal Palace on the way to Wembley. Yet, they had to go through a replay to see off The Palace after sharing the spoils in a 2-2 draw. It was the classic tiebreaker regulation in English football, which is set to be abolished next season. 

However, Everton turned out to be harder to defeat. They were solid at the backline to keep their opposition at bay. Joe Royle’s men finally scored through Paul Rideout’s header after he took advantage of the rebound shot from Graham Stuart, which rattled the goal frame in the 30th minute. Mark Hughes and Co. were then knocking on the door, but their attempts were saved by Everton’s veteran goalie, Neville Southall. The Toffees finally sent their fans into raptures as the referee blew the final whistle. It was their last major trophy to date, while United had no trophy to lift for the first time in three years.


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