The only time the cup doesn’t matter, is when you’ve just been knocked out…or when your team has flown half way around the world and taken a sabbatical, oh and of course, on cup final day itself when the Scousers are playing Citeh.
But the cup does matter, and it always will. Which cup? That doesn’t matter. Ask any Sunday league player who has ever turned out at the likes of Cheadle Town for a final, it doesn’t matter what tinpot trophy you’re playing for, cup finals are cup finals.
I still recall the heartache as 10 yr old me deflected a cross past my own keeper, under the floodlights at the Butchers Arms, Droylsden. Thankfully, I also remember that despite my efforts in putting us 4-1 down, we went on to win 7-4. I, like David May, have a winners medal that no one can take away.
That same year I took my first trip to Wembley for the 1983 Milk Cup Final. United versus the mighty Liverpool. In my short time as a ‘fan’, this was the Liverpool that ruled supreme. I was of a generation that knew no different; Liverpool dominated, we apparently won the odd cup (although I was even too young to remember that), and going to Wembley was a big, big deal.
If you know your history (I’m sure you do) then you’ll know the elation when we took the lead, the devastation that we let it slip and the total injustice when McQueen was brought crashing down…I saw him hobbling pitch-side against Boro last week and I’m certain that day was to blame!
After the game, and the trip back into London, it was the end of the world. My dad put a reassuring arm across my shoulders and promised me, we’d be back…. And we were.
The excitement of my first FA Cup Final, no team had ever been relegated and won the cup… Surely a final against Brighton was a gimme. Steve Foster wasn’t evening playing! Another lesson learnt, In football as in life, nothing is certain. 2-2… That Wilkins goal, oh what memories.
Not to mention the Wembley experience, the pushing and crushing, the rivers of piss, the fans climbing in through the ‘castle-like’ Windows. My 10 year old eyes were exposed to their first experience of a counter-culture. This was ‘men behaving badly’ and I wanted in.
I returned for the replay, chased a mini-bus full of Brighton fans down the road chanting ‘sea-weed’ (I was well hard and a full kit w**ker)… sang happy birthday to Matt Busby and ‘what a difference you have made’ to Steve Foster…oh and we won 4-0, and I recall seeing the glint of the cup under the floodlights. It was magical-I even had a day off school to go, so long as I wrote a match report.
The point is, the cup matters. The Milk Cup mattered, the FA Cup mattered, every final I have had the privilege to attend since mattered. Barca 99 and even Rome (can’t remember it), these days are what count… for me. 1983 was when I fell in love with Utd.
Fast forward to 2017, we’re in the semi of the league cup with a great chance of beating an out of sorts Hull side over two legs. Jose knows this is a great opportunity and so do we. Since reaching the semi, our fortunes have picked up. Many a cliche has been written about the distractions of the cup, good and bad. We’ve witnessed some great performances in the cup this year…we’ve gone some way to restoring the right balance in this city of ours, we’ve been reminded that we can penetrate and score goals, and that we are not entirely reliant upon Zlatan.
If this season hasn’t yet delivered the Mourinho instant fix to greatness, it is the cup competitions that have helped restore confidence. It helps that, unlike league fixtures, there is little point in teams setting themselves up for a draw. I would argue that even now, in a time when we are supposedly finished, we face that situation more than any other so called big team. Don’t be misled by the media: Old Trafford and United still have that fear factor… Perhaps it lay slightly dormant in recent seasons, but Jose has awoken it.
So as one cup run approaches its climax, another is at its start. We should seize the opportunity of Hull. This is not just another game at Old Trafford against lesser opposition, this is a cup semi final, under the lights at Old Trafford. Then the away leg…
It is always a privilege to watch United away, but away in the cup, even more so. Fuelled by more tickets available and a greater percentage of those finding their way in to the hands of ‘proper’ fans, it’s an occasion seldom matched. (Derby County last year!)
So as we descend upon the newly designated City of Culture, in our masses, with a song in our hearts (Wemberlee) the significance should not be overlooked. Man Utd are a force supreme, we thrive off winning trophies, could this be Jose’s first and how significant will that be?
Back to the FA cup, it should always be held close to the heart of any Utd fan. On a cold January day, in the third round, the merry month of May seems such a long time away. Cup runs bring adventure. I always loved looking at the cup final programme and tracing the ‘road to Wembley’. You’d forget how it started with a dour 1-0 against Reading, a struggle against Sheffield United or a wobble at Shrewbury. The road to Wembley (part II) starts here and although the FA Cup wasn’t enough to save LVG (he lost his job at Christmas), the cup runs of this season are a vital part of the Mourinho revolution…enjoy the ride.
This article was written by @kstandutdTweet to @TheUnitedWay78