What an unbelievable weekend. On Saturday we saw both Manchester United and Chelsea go out of the FA Cup to opponents they both should have taken to pieces. The next day we see Cardiff and West Brom win through to the semi-finals. This leaves no ‘big four’ club in the last four for the first time in ages. I heard on the radio that it’s been 33 years since the final last lacked one of the big clubs from Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton.
Chelsea just didn’t seem to want to be at the match, and certainly the way things are going Avram Grant may well be out of a job by the summer as Roman Abramovich will want to see results from the money he has poured into the club. As for Barnsley, what a fantastic Cup run they are having. First Liverpool and now Chelsea, they should stand a really good chance of winning the whole thing.
It became very clear Manchester United were never going to win this game, though not for the reasons that Ferguson feels (he blamed it all on the referee – Martin Atkinson). Luck was never on their side, Michael Carrick really should have scored when he was three inches from the line; great clearing work by Sylvain Distin kept him at bay; emergency goalkeeper Rio Ferdinand almost saved Sulley Muntari’s penalty, which would have been awesome. In theory the Cup should well be Portsmouth’s but then they need to beat two lower-league teams and at the moment that doesn’t look a good deal.
Middlesbrough were appalling in their game, with form like that they won’t just be out of the Cup, they will soon be out of the League. Cardiff continue to play well, and it will be interesting to see if they can get through to the final – they are a team who are always hard to beat, and in the last few seasons several top notch teams have come a cropper against them.
The last quarter-final was an excellent game. West Brom really gave a lesson in how to convincingly win a game. It must have been frustrating for Bristol Rovers fans who had big expectations.
More worryingly, while we all enjoyed the ‘romance of the FA Cup’ with the giant-killing it has to be asked, does it mean that the competition is now more important to the smaller clubs? We’re used to seeing the Big Four field weakened teams in the FA Cup, but, despite playing virtually full-strength sides at the weekend, both Manchester United and Chelsea couldn’t manage to win their matches. For the Big Four Europe will always be a greater priority and for teams like Middlesbrough they still have to face the relegation battle.
Has chasing European titles or staving off relegation become more important to Premier League clubs than winning the FA Cup?