Wayne Rooney has never won the FA Cup. It is one of those quirks of fate which leads to a shake of the head and a tut and a general sense of “funny old world.”
But who is to blame for this trick of destiny? Which individual or body of individuals have denied Wayne his rightful opportunity to put the top bit of the cup on his head and prance about the place? More pertinently, who denied Rio Ferdinand that opportunity, surely the footballing moment he was born for?
Let’s take a look at the TOP FIVE reasons Manchester United stopped being up for the cup.
1. The FA
It’s their cup. It is, sponsors aside, named after them. Sadly, they allowed United to be culpable in one of the competitions more inglorious moments, something often cited as taking some of the lustre off the once illustrious silverware.
In 1999/2000, United did not take part in the FA Cup “preferring” to play in the World Club Cup in Brazil. This has entered footballing folklore as the moment that the big evil corporate United turning their back on one of English football’s most glorious traditions. However, that was hardly an accurate picture of proceedings.
Then FA Chairman David Davies said at the time,
“For the first time, there is a competition which will produce the undisputed best club in the world and we believe that Manchester United should have the chance to be part of that. That is why we have worked as we have to find a solution to help them.
We believe that it would send the worst possible signal to world football at a time when we are in the midst of the 2006 [World Cup] bid to turn our backs on this tournament.”
So, hardly United’s fault then. However, the FA’s decision to allow the holders not to defend the trophy unquestionably did effect its sense of importance. The emergence of the all-conquering Premier League meant the FA Cup needed protecting from that sense of diminished value, but that did not happen and managers across the land began to treat it as the second-class trophy it had become.
And speaking of managers…
2. Sir Alex Ferguson
If this list was in proper chronological order, then the greatest football manager of all time would probably take top spot. Sir Alex would frequently begin FA Cup campaigns in his later years by pointing out that Rio or Rooney had not won it and saying the club would have to ensure they achieved that for their honourable service.
But then, when push came to shove, he would play a midfield of John O’Shea and Darron Gibson, making it fairly clear that his previous statements were lip service. It worked occasionally, of course. His hold over Arsene Wenger had become so complete by 2011 that he was able to see off the Gunners 2-0 by playing seven defenders, with a Da Silva twin on either flank.
But generally, rotation would trip Fergie’s sides up at some point during their campaigns and the FA Cup remained elusive. The brilliant man had bigger fish to fry.
3. The Glazers
The serial underinvestment in the squad which dominated the first ten years of Glazer ownership at Manchester United meant Fergie never really had the strength in depth to rotate without it damaging United’s chance of lifting the cup. Indeed, the barren spell coincides neatly with the takeover—not that correlation and causation are the same, but it is a notable coincidence.
Sir Alex’s unquestionable genius had its hands full with “only” winning the league—the double was a bridge too far in the post-Glazer era.
4. Martin Atkinson
In March 2008, United played Portsmouth at home in the quarter final of the FA Cup. Sir Alex’s last truly great side would, of course, eventually march on win to League and Champions League, but were unable to match their 1999 predecessors in making it a treble because of a properly freak 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford.
The BBC describe the incident in question thus:
“United were understandably furious after six minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo was clearly bundled over by Distin as he raced into the area, but referee Martin Atkinson ignored the appeals, to the clear disgust of Ferguson.”
United laid siege to Portsmouth’s goal, but Sylvain Distin and David James stopped them breaking through. Then Tomasz Kuszczak, on as a half-time sub for the injured Edwin van der Sar gave away a penalty and Atkinson sent him off “despite the fact that Rooney and Anderson were patrolling the goal-line” as the BBC put it.
Rio went in goal, Muntari scored the penalty and United’s strongest side in a decade would have to make do with European and League glory. It wasn’t all Atkinson’s fault, but enough of it was to earn him a place here.
5. The Collective Failure To Score A Goal in the 2005 FA Cup Final
The final entry here concerns one of the most frustrating football matches in Manchester United’s modern history. Ferdinand and Rooney both featured in this one, a game at the Millennium Stadium wherein United battered Arsenal from start to finish, only to lose the game on penalties when Jens Lehman saved Paul Scholes’ effort.
Rooney should have scored, Ruud should have scored, United maybe should have had a penalty for handball, but whatever happened United should have won. They didn’t, though, and that was the last time they even got close.
So, there you have it, the Top Five reasons we’ve never seen Rooney lift the FA Cup. Perhaps this season, having so impressively demolished Sheffield United (ahem), we will see the Red Devils recapture their old penchant for the famous old trophy and win it again. It seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened—like us not winning the thing for the last nine years of Fergie’s trophy-packed reign.
Huh. Funny old world…