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Manchester United’s run of four league victories had moved them back into a decent position to launch a post-Christmas assault on the top four. Defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on New Year’s Day brought the run to a shuddering halt. However, critical analysis would suggest that David Moyes’ men were not entirely convincing prior to that loss.
David Moyes was rightly upset by some of referee Howard Webb’s decisions against Tottenham. Certainly, Hugo Lloris’ tackle on Ashley Young looked every inch a penalty. In putting all his focus on these issues in the post-match conference and interviews, he was able to deflect a little of the heat away from his squad of under-performing players, as per Sky Sports and various outlets.
He will be grateful for the brief sanctuary away from the trials of the English Premier League that the next couple of games offer.
Sunday sees Swansea City arrive in Manchester in the Third Round of the FA Cup. Now a much-maligned competition—it was sad, if understandable, to hear Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert’s recent comments about the old trophy’s importance in the Mirror and various outlets.
A season of hard slog for Villa, with the sole intention of staying in the division for yet another season of hard slog the next year round is hardly the stuff that football fans’ dreams are made of.
Ask Wigan Athletic supporters their opinion. They will obviously wish they were still in EPL, but if asked to swap, would they really give up the glory that they tasted against Manchester City last May?
Perhaps managers see things differently to supporters. However, to suggest that all managers in the Premier League see the cup competitions as unwanted distractions does not take into account the different dynamics at play across various clubs.
After all, the man in charge of one of the world’s biggest football clubs has endured an extremely difficult start to his tenure. He also does not yet have a trophy to his name.
Older United supporters will recall a time when a good cup run was as much as could be expected, while Liverpool dominated. The FA Cup wins of 1977, 1983 and 1985 were moments of glory to be savoured in the midst of a 26-year league title drought.
In 1990, Mark Robins famously scored an FA Cup Third Round winning goal against Nottingham Forest that sent United on the road to securing Sir Alex Ferguson’s first trophy. Some say it saved him his job. It ushered in a period of unprecedented success that brought the club to the position it stands at today.
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Yet, despite still holding the record number of wins, it has now been nine long years since the Red Devils last triumphed in the world’s oldest cup competition. Long overdue, this season's cup competitions hold even more importance.
Defeat by Tottenham in the league has left United’s title defence hopes hanging by a frayed thread—if, indeed, they have not already plummeted out of reach. With the third round tie against Swansea and Tuesday’s semi-final first leg at Sunderland in the Capital One Cup, David Moyes and Manchester United have a chance of redemption.
Moyes did reach Wembley with Everton on a couple of occasions. The closest he got to silver, though, was his runner-up medal from 2009. He admitted that defeat to Chelsea in the final still haunted him a couple of years later when he returned in a semi-final against Liverpool, as per Express. He would lose out again that time.
The Third Round of the FA Cup is just the first step toward the Wembley arch—a sight that is even more tantalisingly within reach of Manchester United in the Capital One Cup. These next two matches might just enable them to inject some hope into their season.
Paul Lambert may think that most managers would rather do without the FA Cup distraction. You can bet that David Moyes will not be one of them.