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United ALWAYS Get The Tough Draw…Unlike Arsenal

Roy Keane FA CupThe news that United were facing Arsenal in the 5th Round of the FA Cup was met with a cheer over at RoM. If you want to show yourself as the best, then you have to beat the best of the rest, and with the home advantage, I really fancy taking on the Gooners.

I’ve said for some time I prefer us to get drawn against top flight teams because we tend to do better in the competition when this is the case. We have to play our first team and we cannot afford to underestimate our opposition. It’s the Burton Albions and Exeters that have caused us to stumble over recent years.

It got me thinking about just how many Premiership sides United do get drawn against in the Cup though. We had a clean sweep of Premiership teams last season, all the way up in to the final, and have had only Premiership teams so far this season.

Looking at the past ten years, I’m sure you’ll be amazed as I was to see just how many tough draws we’ve had.

1997-1998: Chelsea, Walsall, Barnsley
1998-1999: Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Fulham, Chelsea, Arsenal, Newcastle
2000-2001: Fulham, West Ham
2001-2002: Aston Villa, Middlesbrough
2002-2003: Portsmouth, West Ham, Arsenal
2003-2004: Aston Villa, Northampton, City, Fulham, Arsenal, Millwall
2004-2005: Exeter, Middlesbrough, Everton, Southampton, Newcastle, Arsenal
2005-2006: Burton Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers,
2006-2007: Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Reading, Middlesbrough, Watford, Chelsea
2007-2008: Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur

In the last 39 matches United have played in the FA Cup, 30 of them were against Premiership sides. Now of course, you would expect that the longer you go on in the competition, the more chance there is of you playing Premiership teams. However, does that account for the fact that 77% of the opposition United have faced in the past ten years have been Premiership clubs? I’m not suggesting that it’s fixed (although the footage showing our 3rd Round draw this season was shady to say the least), rather that United are very unlucky (or lucky, if you’d prefer) to face so many top flight teams every season in the Cup.

Now, just to get a better idea of whether it’s the norm for teams who are successful in the Cup to play so many Premiership sides, I’ve looked at Arsenal in the same time period.

1997-1998: Port Vale, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle
1998-1999: Preston NE, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United, Derby County, United
1999-2000: Blackpool, Leicester
2001-2002: Watford, Liverpool, Gillingham, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Chelsea
2002-2003: Oxford, Farnborough, United, Chelsea, Sheffield United, Southampton
2003-2004: Leeds, Middlesbrough, Chelsea, Portsmouth, United
2004-2005: Stoke, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United, Bolton, Blackburn, United
2005-2006: Cardiff City, Bolton,
2006-2007: Liverpool, Bolton, Blackburn
2007-2008: Burnley, Newcastle, Manchester United

So, in the same time period, Arsenal have played 44 teams in the FA Cup, 27 of them from the Premiership, meaning 61% of their opposition is from the Premiership, some 16% less than United.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. We have been to four FA Cup finals in that ten year period, despite playing a ridiculously high number of Premiership sides in our Cup runs, and long may that continue. However, you might find these stats rather useful to point out the next time United are drawn someone easy and the rival fan next to you roles their eyes!

After Arsenal, bring on Chelsea!

What do you think of these statistics?

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. paddy says:

    Be interesting to see the stats for Chelsea who always seem to get the easy draws.

  2. Jules says:

    You’re right, Arsenal always get an easy draw! And so it continues getting Man Utd away, comfortable passage through to the 1/4 final for The Arsenal methinks!!!

  3. geoff says:

    yeah but how many were at home? the fortress bit is noted but the last time we played your first team there we won!

  4. Matmos says:

    You’re right Arsenal always get an easy draw and its particularly true of the next round – easy, easy, easy….!!!!!

  5. Felix says:

    interesting set of stats but someone could always argue the non-Premiership clubs are tougher to play against in the Cup. I’m a Gooner myself and will just say that maybe it’s not the fixture either of us want just before tough Champions League matches. There again, maybe it will help sharpen up concentration for both teams!

    I seem to recall, btw, Arsenal being very strecthed to make the 2003 FA Cup final facing a non-Premiership club in the semis. We’ll see what it all boils down to in the end and whether either club fields full strength teams before the UEFA Champions League matches. F

  6. Matthew Wade says:

    Worth pointing out that a number of those premier league teams have been prtty piss poor – barnsley fulham southampton watford.

    Arsenal have actually had more against top 4 opposition. About half angainst man u – a fairly even record all in all. its just a pity that the two best teams have to meet so often, but I suppose the BBC will be creaming themselves! Should be a great game, and although tou mancs are slightly stronger, it will be a good even game – 1st goal is the key as ever at OT.

    I feel sorry for Villa though. Man u 3rd round 4 out of the last 7. Poor sods!

  7. Dubs says:

    Hmmm – sounds like a moan to me!

    Wait till you do the Chav$ki comparison, League One & Championship teams at home for the last few years, mostly.

    Wonder who’s paying the ppier in roublles!

  8. Keith says:

    Good read, but what I’d really like to see is the draws Liverpool have had in the same period.
    They are the luckiest cup team known to man, and this year goes to prove it even more.

  9. Scotland Steve says:

    Did you happen to check the percentages for Chelsea over that time span?

    It feels like they’ve played a nobody in every round, especially over the last three or four years — and always at home.

    Am I imagining that?

  10. gazzap says:

    you always get the home draws you moaning mancs!

  11. Scott the Red says:

    For United – 17 draws at home, 12 away. The missing games were semi finals/finals.

    Gazzap, you miss the point entirely. I’m not moaning. As I’ve stated pretty clearly, I like us being drawn against the top teams.

  12. Kim la Cour Andersen says:

    I think it is a pitty that the two best teams shall be drawn allready. I would have been a dreamfinale at Wembley in May. Moaning about who had the easyest way in the cup in the past is useless. As an Arsenalfan I hope that Robin Van Persie (in form) and Kolo Toure will be back for the game. That would give us a fair chance.

  13. Shevy says:

    I have to agree with Felix. I don’t think either team wanted such a tough fixture right before their Champion’s League matches. This really hurts Arsenal in particular since they are dealing with so many absences at defense right now. Arsene will be very reluctant to rotate anyone for the sake of keeping people fresh. They’ll only have three days to recover before clashing with AC Milan.

  14. Woody says:

    This is a useless post. Who cares? Great game and I can’t wait to watch it.

  15. Eddie says:

    United have the advantage since we play at home, and I think it will be an entertaining and open game. I just hope were going through! I am not moanin when were drawn against top division sides, we have to beat the best to win the FA Cup. If we win against Arsenal and continue to the final, with Chelski and Pool being knocked out until then, we might play a low division side in the final. That would be great, wouldnt it?

  16. me says:

    to say we will play chelsea in the next round is getting a bit ahead of your self since arsenal will be a hard game at home or not and we cant afford to draw it we must go all out to win this game since we are the home team im a bit worried about this game but i wud love it so much if we cud win it

  17. craig mc says:

    If Uinted have their full strength team, WE WILL BEAT ANYONE. Just glad that it’s a home match, so not all that extra travel before our European game. It will be a cracking match that’s for sure. May the best team win, and THAT IS MANU.

  18. Cesc Jnr says:

    Craig mc can i remid you that last year Arsenal travelled to The Theatre down on Thierry Henry while Manchester United had a full strength team. Arsenal: 1 Manchester United: 0

    Then months later Manchester United travelled to the Emirates (full strength team) knowing that nobody wins there and went up through Wayne Rooney. Howerver in typical Arsenal fashion there was a dramatic comeback (as im sure is crystal clear in all you mutd fans minds).

    Arsenal: 2 Manchester United: 1

    The Fact of the matter is that a full strength Manchester United will NEVER be an automatic win against a full strength Arsenal side. To say that Manchester United will DEFINITELY win because they are full strength is plain ignorant and typical of a Manchester United fan.

    Almunia – Van Der Sar (not much in it)
    Gallas & Toure – Ferdinand & Vidic (not much in it)
    Clichy & Sagna – Evra & Neville [Brown atm] (sorry but i think Arsenal take that cake)
    Hleb & Rosicky – Giggs and Cristiano (not much in it however Cristiano would probably swing in it Manchester United’s favour)
    Fabregas & Flamini – Hargreaves & Scholes [Anderson or Carrick atm] (I think that there can be no doubt that Arsenal win that battle – Cesc is in the top 5 players in the world and Flamini and Hargreaves are very similar in their abilities)
    Adebayor & RVP – Tevez and Rooney (once again not much in it in that Tevez and Adebayor are in extraordinary form however Rooney is off the pace a tad and RVP is in doubt constantly – Very even in the forward line HOWEVER Arsenal have the permanent threat of Sagna and Clichy motoring up and down the lines with crosses and with only Evra being that Outlet it could very easilly swing into Arsenal’s favour….consider the amount of goals that Adebayor has scored off corners/crosses)

    Should be a great game however i do strongly think that it will be a 1-1 result through Rooney and Adebayor.

    The replay should get the blood boiling!!!!!!!

  19. Scott the Red says:

    Full strength United team, Cesc Jnr? Maybe you need to be reminded of our starting team that day? No Van der Sar, Evra, Vidic, Giggs or Carrick in the starting line up. That’s half our first XI out! We were playing bloody JoS and Fletcher in midfield. Fair play, Arsenal got the win, but it was never against a full strength United team!

  20. Jimmy bob says:

    Fabregas & Flamini – Hargreaves & Scholes [Anderson or Carrick atm] (I think that there can be no doubt that Arsenal win that battle

    utter bunkum scholes is better than anything arsenal have and hargreavea away head of flamini.

    are you nick hornby or lofty watts?

  21. craig mc says:

    Errr Cesc Junior – I’m a United fan, COURSE I AM GOING TO THINK WE ARE THE BEST TEAM. As for you educating us on a Manu forum, with your long winded account. LET ME REMIND YOU WHO HAS WON MORE PREMIER LEAGUE TITLES OVER THE LAST 10 years, and tell me who needs educating. I keep hearing Wenger is better than Fergie, but the stats say different.

  22. Tom F says:

    Cesc Jnr-after 10 years of sucess at Arsenal then maybe Fabregas can be compared to Scholes. Hargreaves is Englands best defensive midfielder Despite the fact Cesc couldn’t cope with Anderson this season at Ashburton Grove!! , Ferdinand and Vidic? Look at goals scored or conceded and I’d say the United pair win that, based on facts and stats only.

    As for: Hleb & Rosicky – Giggs and Cristiano (not much in it however Cristiano would probably swing in it Manchester United’s favour)
    Hleb & Rosicky – Giggs and Cristiano (not much in it however Cristiano would probably swing in it Manchester United’s favour)

    Probably the Premier Leagues top player of all time with consistancy in mind and the worlds best player (statisticly).

    Mate, everyone knows Aresenal play the beautiful game but your player comparison stinks of somebody being bias. It is a joke as no facts have been taken into account.

  23. United on Fire says:

    Cesc Jnr’s comparision reminded me of my Arsenal supporting friend who tried to prove to me that the Arsenal midfield was better than the Beckham-Scholes-Keane-Giggs line up in the 90′s.

    We saw how that turned out.

    Anyway, you simply can’t add up the teams like that and work out who is going to win. The really great teams are more than the sum of their parts.


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