The magic of the cup? No, just a case of history repeating itself
The hype surrounding United’s high profile tie with Cambridge in the FA Cup, not to mention the excitement generated by a potential money spinning replay at Old Trafford has sent the tabloid press (not to mention a few TV channels) in to something of a frenzy.
But as always with football today, things that are described as ‘unprecedented’, ‘unique’ and ‘never seen before in living memory,’ can actually be disproved with a quick look through the history books, or simply by asking anyone who followed football prior to 1992.
So when the FA Cup fourth round draw saw United pitted against Cambridge, many Reds, instead of being struck down by shock or numb with the thought that their team should actually be playing such opposition, would have actually just cast their minds back some 24 years to the LAST time these two teams met.
Yes, that’s right folks the two teams have met before.
October 1991 saw the draw for the second round of the Rumbelows League Cup, as it was called then, throw-up this exact same fixture with little of the hysteria that surrounded this seasons’ match-up.
Agreed, United were still waiting for their first league title since 1967 and were far from the slick, money making commercial machine that they are today. But they were still a huge club who had won the FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in the past two seasons and were about to mount a title challenge that would see them fall painfully short of the finish line in the final few weeks of April.
And as for Cambridge, they were actually sitting in the second flight of English football then with a team that contained future United striker in Dion Dublin.
Even so, the media attention was virtually non-existent.
Back in those days of course, the format of the League Cup was such that teams were seeded depending on division and would play over two legs in the early stages, which would usually ensure a big gate for the ‘smaller’ team in front of their home fans as well as the predictable good hiding in the away leg, often making the spectacle something of a non event.
And as it turned out, this tie pretty much lived up to the disappointment.
Having virtually killed off the contest in the first leg at Old Trafford in front of a crowd of only 30,000 with goals from Giggs, McClair and Bruce, The Abbey Stadium witnessed something of a anti-climax as the two teams played out a 1-1 draw – McClair’s early strike killing off any hopes Cambridge had of a fight back.
So in reality, this fixture is purely a case of football history repeating itself, even if it doesn’t quite fit with the “magic of the cup” mantra that has been rolled out so vigorously by the various broadcasters who have the ‘privilege’ of showing the tournament this year.
I wonder just how many of those in attendance on Tuesday along with the hoards of half-and-half scarves, throngs of Cambridge day trippers and disgruntled season ticket holders will be able to say, ‘I was there the last time Cambridge came to Old Trafford’?