It’s a glorious Saturday afternoon in May, the sun shines brightly above the Wembley arch as the referee brings the game to a close, a jubilant Wayne Rooney is captured embracing LVG as he celebrates collecting the only domestic honour that has been missing from his personal trophy cabinet, the camera cuts to another figure, he’s on his haunches on the halfway line, his look is one of despair, it wasn’t meant to end like this, not on his birthday, not on his last game for Liverpool, but it has, and no matter where Slippy G cares to stare, the facts don’t change, he’s left the club on a massive failure.
This’s what I love about the FA Cup, it’s an all you can eat buffet for your footballing dreams, it’s where it all started for me, it’s where it all started for most of us, the playground jumpers were the posts of Wembley, before Peep Show reshape how I use my inner monologue, it was made up of John Motson commentating on the big lads match winning finish and the majestic beauty of the 3 yard volley that won United the cup in injury time.
I became a red in 88, we rarely featured in the top half of the table on Ceefax in those days, there was no champions league place for trying hard but failing to win anything, so the FA Cup was huge, it was the thing that gave everyone hope the season would contain something meaningful.
The 89/90 season obviously did wonders for reaffirming the belief that it wasn’t a knockout competition, it was THE knockout competition.
The 3rd round fixture at Forest was my first time out as an awayday red, my excitement for the game was heightened thanks to bitter memories of a reflex clearance off the line by Steve Hodge the previous season at Old Trafford, due to that we’d gone out to them at the quarter final stage, this time we had to win! Not just due to my logic as a kid, but to keep Fergie in a job, every paper I’d delivered for the week building up to the game was covered in 2 things, stories of how defeat would cost Fergie his job, and the rain drops that fell during the time I was having a freebie read along the way.
We all know how the rest played out, how history was made & celebrated on many occasions since then, the last 10 years have had many many high points, leagues won, finals reached both domestic & European, but the 10 year gap we’ve had since last winning the greatest cup competition of them all is far, far too big.
There’s no way we deserved to lose the last 2 finals we were in, the penalty shoot out loss to Arsenal was incredible, we handed them the heaviest 0-0 thrashing in the history of live televised sport, but somehow they withstood the barrage and made it to penalties, until my dying day, I’ll never understand how the cleanest striker of a football we’ll ever see in a United shirt was the only 1 to miss from the 10 kicks taken.
The final against Chelsea was tighter than the clench on a drug mules arse, Lady Luck saw fit to deny Giggs a winner when his effort was wrongly ruled to have not cross the line, Drogba then saw fit to rub salt in the poor decision wound with a finish you had to admire (the bastard).
Since then we’ve been very much the fat kid at the school disco in terms of the FA Cup, we’ve turned up, we’ve hoped to do well, but failed every time we’ve tried winning over the big guns.
If Mr Van Gaal can lead us back into the champions league, that’ll be beautiful, but if I had to choose between that, or him leading a triumphant side around Wembley on a lap of honour with the cup lid on top of his well groomed hair, I’d choose that any day!
If it could be done in a way that ruins Slippy’s last game in England, then there’s a lack of words in the dictionary to do describe to how happy I’d be to see that happen.