It’s been a long time since we last won the FA Cup and every season the desire from the fans to win it seems stronger. We have played in two FA Cup finals since we last lifted the trophy in 2004 and were desperately unlucky in both.
In 2005 we were knocked out by Arsenal on penalties after battering them for two hours. This was when the rivalry was still fierce between the two clubs and it was absolutely gutting. I was sure that Tim Howard would be subbed on to save the day, with him surely the better option than Roy Carroll for penalties, but Arsenal scored all of their penalties and Paul Scholes missed one of ours. The journey home from Cardiff was long and silent, with my dad and I opting not to discuss the game for fear of winding the other up. I spat my dummy out, angrily sent a text to a few Arsenal fans I knew saying how bloody jammy they were, and they gleefully responded agreeing with me.
The next FA Cup final was at the new Wembley after upsurping Chelsea from the top of the table to win the league, following three years without. On the train down to London we were held up for an hour or two after somebody committed suicide further down the line. “Mourinho’s lost his bottle!” someone joked, probably not in the best taste. That awful start to the day should have been an indication of what was to follow. It was a dreadful game of football, again going in to extra time, with both teams dead on their feet after a long, hard season. Four minutes before full time and penalties, Didier Drogba scored. The sick feeling of two years before wasn’t quite as strong but it was still hard to stomach. At least that season we had the consolation of the Premier League, even if those gimpy Chelsea fans were jumping around singing “chin up if you’ve won the cup!”, mimicking Mourinho’s reaction to Chelsea losing to title at Arsenal a few weeks earlier. Looking back, it’s incredible to think how close we were to winning the Double that season, when at the time I was terrified on a weekly basis that we’d end up potless again. It was a cracking season though, one of my favourite, but we just fell short at Wembley.
We’re now approaching the ten year anniversary of our last success in the FA Cup which is too long for a club like ours. As Sir Alex Ferguson will remind us every year, Rio Ferdinand has never won the trophy, missing out on the 2004 victory over Millwall serving his unjust eight month ban. With the possibility of him hanging up his boots at the end of the season, at least for United, it would be nice if he could get his hands on the medal that is missing from his collection. He obviously isn’t the only one though. Looking at our current squad, Giggs, Scholes and Van Persie are the only ones to have won the FA Cup.
The FA Cup dream for 2013 was almost ended very early on, with United needing substitute Van Persie to keep us in the draw with a late equaliser against West Ham. After selling tickets for £20 at Upton Park, United have opted to charge full price for the replay, with tickets ranging from £30 to £52. West Ham were offered 9,000 tickets but have only taken 1,400, and it’s unknown how many of those have actually been sold. There are 100s of tickets still on sale in the home stands too.
A game against Fulham awaits us, with United handed the favourable home draw, meaning a return for Dimitar Berbatov, but we have to beat West Ham first. Thankfully, we should see the return of Nani and Rooney tonight, after both have been looking good in training. We should all be desperate for Nani to have a good game, following Valencia’s poor form and Young’s recent injury. Valencia will probably start though, after being dropped for Liverpool, as will Chicharito.
“We’ve got a big squad but it’s also an important tie for the club,” said Ferguson. “We want to try and have a go at this FA Cup. We haven’t had a run for a long time, two or three years, as we had some bad draws of course. We’re at home and we have got to take advantage of that. If we get through, we have got another home tie so there’s a big incentive for the club to make sure we get through.”
Come on United!