Romance of the Cup? This was more like grounds for divorce

March 9, 2008

Ferdinand fails to save a penaltyIt didn’t take long for people to start talking about the ‘Romance of the FA Cup’ after Manchester United and Chelseawere beaten by inferior opposition on Saturday.

Romance?That’s about the last word I’d choose to describe what’s happening in the FA Cup at the moment. What we saw on Saturday was evidence of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour and desertion at the very least.

There will certainly have been much to enjoy for neutrals in the two upsets. Portsmouth’s victoryat Manchester United had everything but a dog on the pitch — controversial decisions, a piece of frantic goalmouth actionthat saw Michael Carrick somehow contrive not to score, a penalty, a sending-off and the rare sight of an outfield player going in goal.

I didn’t see the Chelsea game even on TV but it soundedlike a classic FA Cupupset — with a bumpy pitch, a former minor-league striker getting the Barnsley goal and a desperate rearguard action to hold on.

But why have Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal gone out of the competition so early this time, after 12 years when they’ve kept the trophy to their exclusive little club?

Let’s be honest:it has more to do with the Champions League than the FA Cup itself. This season, all four English clubs areeither through to the quarter-finals or odds-on to get there and it is increasingly evident that the FA Cup is going the way of theLeague Cup in terms of importance for that quartet.

As Red Ranter wrote after United’s defeat on Saturday:

“A draw would have been the worst result, given our already hectic schedule. We still have the league, and the Champions League to go for – and so do the rest of the Big Four’. So with the FA Cup out of the way it’s a nice way for our team to go on at full tilt and prove something.”

Yes,if you manage to squeeze through to the FA Cupfinal it’s a nice occasion. Yes, it’s frustrating to lose (just listen to Ferguson’s comments). Butdoes the competition have any real importance compared to the Champions League?

The FA Cup is becoming more and more like the main domestic Cup competitions in Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Yes, more often than not one of the top clubs wins it. No, their fansdon’t care much if they are knocked out.

Of course,normal service may well be resumed next season.Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are the four best teams in England and it will be a surprise if one of them is not back in the final next year.If they go out it won’t be anything to do with romance, though. It will just show how little they care.

PHOTO: Man Utd’s stand-in keeper Rio Ferdinand fails to save Portsmouth’s winning penalty during their FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford, March 8, 2008. REUTERS/Darren Staples


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To prove Kev’s point, Middlesbrough, more worried abot Premier League survival, have just been beaten 2-0 by Championship (second division) Cardiff meaning that Portsmouth are the only Premier League club in the semi-finals.
Next season England may well have Barnsley or Cardiff (A Welsh side) in the UEFA Cup which will look a bit odd.
The magic of the cup is when Barnsley beat Liverpool once, when they defeat Chelsea the next time it stops being magic and starts being a minor competition the big four arent as bothered about.
I think Fergie was only annoyed because he thought he was on for a treble. Utd have flopped out of the Cup numerous times of late and he wasnt that fussed.

Posted by Mark Meadows | Report as abusive

Great results, and may we have many more seasons like this one. I don’t know if it’s romance or magic or what but it’s much appreciated.

Posted by Luc | Report as abusive

[…] not so happy about the FA Cup underdog drama. (Reuters Soccer Blogs) 2557 Category: World Football Tags: World Football, Tag Index « Russian Football […]

Posted by Daily Dose.: 3.9.08 – World Football – The Offside – Soccer News and Opinion from leagues around the world | Report as abusive

There might be some relevant points there but if it were to come from a Manchester United fan it would have sounded like sour grapes. Manchester United did field a strong side against Portsmouth and the feelings of the players and manager post match definitely looked like they were all serious about the competition. It also takes away from the achievements of Barnsley, Cardiff etc if you were to say none of the big four were taking this competition seriously.

Posted by Soccer Broadcast | Report as abusive

Sorry if it sounded like sour grapes, Soccer Broadcast. I should have made more of the fact that I really enjoyed the United match. I thought it was a great, great Cup tie and I was delighted for Portsmouth. Hats off to Barnsley, too. I was just making the point that maybe this is not quite the Cup renaissance it looks like.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

This is a good thing that there is only one Premiership team in the cup. First of all everyone complains that it is so formulaic to see Premiership teams in the final (normally the top two) every year and now people complain when the lesser teams do well? I don’t think this is a sign that Mn utd etc don’t care. It’s a sign that lower teams are narrowing the gap and this can only be good for the game. I’m glad that the teams from lower divisions are competing this well, as it adds to the element of unpredictability and surprise that the competition so obviously needed.

Posted by Shong Shong | Report as abusive

I don’t think the big four aren’t bothered about winning the FA Cup, but I do agree with the point that they would prefer to win the Premiership or Champions League. The FA Cup would probably therefore be won as a back-up piece of silverware, something to cheer about in case something goes wrong in the other competitions.

Chelsea put out a full strength squad against Barnsley showing their desire to win, and since the defeat Avram Grant has admitted his job is on the line.

I think the FA Cup is a bigger occasion for the smaller clubs with the chance for a decent run and to cause a few upsets, whereas the bigger times don’t get interested until the final stages.

Maybe it’s just because I’m pleased that smaller clubs have a chance at going all the way that I’m not seeing the lack of care from the big sides.. I don’t know. I think it’s been a brilliant weekend though. After all, I was not up for sitting through another so-called FA Cup final between Man Utd and Chelsea after last season’s shocker.

Posted by Bet Blogger | Report as abusive

This is the best news the FA Cup has had for years. At last, people are talking about the competition again – I mean, the ordinary bloke on the train or at the bus stop. I don’t know about you all but I can comfortably recall the wins of Sunderland and Southampton over 30 years ago but the last few years? I’m struggling…

Posted by Jon Bramley | Report as abusive

You can’t say that the love of the FA Cup has been lost on the fans, well not all of them anyway. The Barnsley game at the weekend saw six thousand Chelsea fans take the trip up to South Yorkshire for a televised game and the emotion of those fans travelling back was plain to see.
Sure the Champions League is of much more importance than ever yet this is only due to the amount of money on offer for these teams to earn.
As for the Chelsea team for that game, it consisted of the likes of Terry, Carvalho, Bridge, Essien, Ballack, Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Philips and Anelka, there is no way that you could claim that this competition was not important to the Blues and United also fieled a strong side against Portsmouth.
Does it really have to be a sign that the FA Cup is becoming less important to clubs rather than just a plain case of a Cup competition enjoying one of those seasons which make them special.

Posted by Betting Blue Boy | Report as abusive