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?