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United Disrespected The FA Cup? That’s What The Media Would Have You Believe!

Every now and again when United are playing an FA Cup game, the commentators will remind us how we chose to withdraw from the competition in 1999-2000, following our historic Treble winning season. Instead of taking part in one of the most prestigious cup competitions in the world, United instead took part in the World Club Championships.

Rivals fans will often talk about our arrogance to do such a thing, ‘who do we think we are?’ and the like. It was seen as a highly disrespectful action by our club and we will still receive bad press for it.

However, the truth behind our decision to pull out of the FA Cup that year has been brushed under the carpet.

United were doing the country a favour, essentially, with the Sports Minister, Tony Banks, asking United fans to be understanding about the pressure being put on our club to withdraw from the Cup. You see, FIFA had made it clear that England’s World Cup bid would be discounted if United didn’t represent the country, and Europe, in the World Club Championships.

“It is my estimation that a failure by Manchester United to go to the new competition in Brazil – particularly if they were replaced by Bayern Munich – would do irreparable damage to our 2006 campaign,” said Banks. “It is important for Manchester United – as perhaps the world’s most famous club – to hold the standard for England and Europe. These are extraordinary circumstances and it is an extraordinary decision to allow them to be exempt from next year’s FA Cup. But it is for one season and I do hope Manchester United supporters will realise the significance of what they and Manchester United are being asked to do.”

United wanted a chance to defend the FA Cup but were being put under great pressure to go to Brazil. Our Chairman, Martin Edwards, initially was prepared to travel and compete in the competition the Government wanted us to play in, as long as it meant we could enter the FA Cup at the 4th Round. Everyone was a winner. But the FA were having none of it.

“Really it’s a no-win situation,” Edwards said. “It will help the 2006 World Cup bid if we go, and the Government and the FA are obviously very keen that we go. But if we pull out of the FA Cup that will disappoint our own supporters. We’re going to get criticised, whatever we do.”

David Davies, the FA’s executive director, continued to apply the pressure though, claiming “it would send the worst possible signal to world football at a time when we are in the midst of the 2006 bid to turn our backs on this tournament.”

A new Sports Minister was appointed, Arsenal supporting Kate Hoey. She was more sympathetic to our cause, disagreeing with the pressure Banks had put on us to go to Brazil. She supported Edwards’ idea of allowing us to enter the FA Cup at a later date, which would mean we could fulfil our duties in Brazil as well as taking part in the FA Cup. Finally, someone was on our side and it looked as though we would be given the opportunity to defend our trophy after all.

“I think it is absolutely imperative that Manchester United play in the FA Cup,” she said. “The people I really criticise are the FA. The FA can still put matters right by saying to Manchester United they must play in the FA Cup.”

However, it wasn’t long before United were being painted as the villains again. The Sports Minister’s criticism of the FA obviously didn’t go down well, causing Hoey to change her tune. After the decision had been made final, that United would go to Brazil and not feature in the Cup, Hoey blasted our club in the press.

“I am just amazed that they have actually treated their supporters in what I would say was quite a shabby way,” she said. It was no longer Bank’s fault, it was no longer Davies and the FA’s fault, but it was all down to United. United had orchestrated this move and United had let down the fans. And that is the way the story is remembered.

Both Edwards and Ferguson reacted angrily to her statements, protesting our innocence and pointing the finger at those who had really been at fault here, the Government and the FA.

“For a new sports minister to suddenly enter the arena at this late stage and tell us we are treating our supporters shabbily and should go back in the FA Cup is a disgrace,” Edwards said. “I suggest she does her homework and I suggest the government gets its act together, because we did this in support of the last sports minister.”

This complaint fell on deaf ears though, with the country all too happy to criticise United for it, and our taking the blame for a fuck up by the FA and the government.

Davies has since spoken of the incident in his book, insisting that United never wanted to pull out of the competition, but still won’t accepting the blame.

“Supporting the Club World Championship was vital to keep FIFA sweet,” said Davies. “That message was reinforced by FIFA executive Chuck Blazer, who made it clear that if United didn’t represent Europe in FIFA’s major club competition it would be impossible for the FA even to dream of hosting 2006. United were completely torn, agonising over the decision. Right from the start Fergie was shocked about even the thought of forsaking the Cup for a season. His respect for the Cup ran deep – that famous Wembley victory over Crystal Palace in 1990 may even have saved Fergie’s job. I did feel I was betraying the FA Cup by giving United the option of withdrawal. Even though I’d spent my life besotted with the Cup, I couldn’t see any other way out. Even now, nobody has presented a way out we didn’t consider.”

United had little choice in this situation, with pressure being applied from all sides. When we did what the FA and Government had asked of us, bringing about criticism from all over the place, they washed their hands of us and hung us out to dry.

Fuck the FA.

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. sambo says:

    Amen, brother… I keep on having to remind my mates of this, whenever they bring it up. Which is often.

  2. A MAN UNITED FAN says:

    pure fact how united>england

    the fa used them then when the fa fucked up left it lookin like united disrespected the fa cup

  3. mo says:

    I hate when people say we disrepsected the fa cup, considering we’ve won it ELEVEN times more than any other club, and the FA cup, has been a big part of our history

  4. Mauly says:

    Was fielding a youth side not an option?

  5. Scott the Red says:

    Mauly – The FA believed it would totally devalue the competition and United coaching staff were not happy with the idea of fielding our youth team in the event of drawing another Premiership side (which we usually do!) and receiving a battering.

  6. OTRed says:

    Not surprising, the media usually get it wrong, 95% of the time…lies make for a much better story than actual facts.

  7. katty says:


  8. TK 99 says:

    Bunch of wankers..
    What else do you expect from them.

  9. Kings says:

    The FA are a bunch of cunts.

  10. pittm says:


  11. Yolkie says:

    Commenting after reading the 22/09/09 blog linking to this. I notice this was written in October 08.

    It’s a sad sad day when we’re having to report on things that happened 8 or 9 years ago in what ultimately will be a vain attempt to try and make people see the truth.

    That’s not a bitch at the blog whatsoever – we at occasionally have almost exactly the same problem though I don’t think I would have the energy or patience to try and educate non-United supporting morons on a United fansite.

    Though on the subject of this it’s worth saying as well we had a great deal of pressure from the Mirror who insisted they were going to back us too, everything was going to be rosy, and when we didn’t enter the FA Cup they changed their tune completely.

    In the end this is up there with those stupid anti-United fallacies that exist. The latest one being the “Giggs didn’t deserve the PFA award” and the constant mocking of it despite no real argument against it aside from the fact the votes are cast early in the season. Like every season.

    Oh and not forgetting the Guardian starting an “injury time at Old Trafford” campaign. Apparently when we are winning there’s an average of 191 seconds injury time. When we’re not, it’s an average of 257 seconds. Layman’s terms, an average of 2 minutes to 3 1/2. Of course it doesn’t really sound like a great deal of difference but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt..

    … doesn’t seem to mention the time-wasting that visiting teams do though..

  12. manc says:

    Truth is there WAS a choice. Utd chose NOT to play in the FA Cup that year.
    However, I believe the real reasons are unknown. The FA ‘had something’ on either Ferguson or Edwards.
    Why else would they go?


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