Friday, 8 January 2016

LAST SHOT AT GLORY?


It is quite remarkable in the uncomfortable extremes of the scale that Manchester United and indeed Wayne Rooney have not won the FA Cup for a dozen years! Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic have tasted Cup glory more recently than United and the 11 time holders have since watched on as Arsenal have moved ahead of them as the record time winners of the world's oldest cup competition.

It is arguable that one of Sir Alex's biggest failings after the '90s was to win the Cup just once, in 2004 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. United have suffered agonising defeats at various stages in the competition since then and last made the final in 2007 only to be denied by Chelsea and Didier Drogba. At least back then, the club could always count on the league title as a consolation for any Cup defeats.

The current Manchester United under Louis van Gaal have no such comforts. Last year, a terrible back pass error from Antonio Valencia consigned United to defeat at home against Arsenal in the quarter-final with no other serious contender left in the tournament. Whilst United could not be accused of taking the Cup lightly last year, the draw was fairly kind to the club although United needed a replay to get past Cambridge United.

Sir Alex always said that all you could ever ask for in a Cup draw is a home tie. United have been dealt just that in the third round of the 2016 version of the Cup. Third tier Sheffield United will make the 90 minute journey to Manchester to partake yet another televised FA Cup fixture involving United.

There's been an unusual calm around Old Trafford this past week, no doubt because the league victory over Swansea City last weekend has eased the pressure on manager Louis van Gaal. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, once the media and fans have judged you, you merely run on a stay of execution until the next bad result. Indeed, it could all be back to the heights of mutiny at Christmas in the unlikely event that Sheffield get the upset that TV Companies would require to redeem their choice.

Louis van Gaal gave a trio of his most favoured stars including Anthony Martial a much needed couple of days off. Although they have since joined up with the rest of the side, it is expected that the manager will ring the changes ahead of what should, in theory at least, be a straight forward fixture. The visitors are, after-all, mid-table in League One.

Andreas Perreira, Will Keane and Borthwick-Jackson could, in the least expect to be part of the squad having been largely on the fringes of the first team throughout the season. More than anything though, rotation tomorrow will largely be down to a preservation of bones having had to deal with a big number of injuries over the festive period. With a couple of difficult away premier league fixtures to follow soon after the weekend, getting past round three with minimum damage to resources will be more than welcome.

As a side plot, how about Manchester United score at Old Trafford in the first half since September? Certainly, United will boost their confidence if they win more comfortably than we've come to expect recently. A narrow win would not do too much to improve the plight of the club, but it would be a win nonetheless and those have been few and far between lately.

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