The FA Cup is getting more de-valued with every passing season. Premier League managers up and down the country are increasingly using the oldest cup competition in the world, to rest the majority of their star players giving youth the chance to shine.
20 years ago, Manchester United did the unthinkable and actually decided not to bother with the completion at all, as they were taking part in the inaugural FIFA World Club Championship in Brazil whilst this year, Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp has decided not to bother managing his team when they face Shrewsbury Town in a fourth-round replay at Anfield next week in protest at fixture congestion.
Two of the world’s biggest clubs are always trying to claim bragging rights over the other, but following the two examples below, which one can claim the title of biggest FA Cup shit-house?
MANCHESTER UNITED 2000
When Sir Alex Ferguson brought the Champions League trophy back to Old Trafford after a 31-year wait in the Camp Nou in May 1999, not even he could have predicted the furore that was to engulf his kingdom just seven months later, after FIFA had unveiled plans for a brand new competition to (allegedly) find the best club side in the world.
Up until then, of course, the winners of the Champions League had always played the winners of South America’s Copa Libertadores, usually in a one-off game played somewhere in the Far-East. At the start of the new century, however, football’s governing body were keen to promote the game around the globe so they concocted a competition that would give teams that basically no one had ever heard of, a chance to get hammered by the Champions League and Libertadores winners in front of a global audience.
United were to fly the flag for Europe along with Intercontinental Cup kings Real Madrid, but when it was revealed that the tournament would take place in Brazil in early January coinciding with the third-round of the FA Cup, the European champions faced a huge dilemma.
At first it looked as though Fergie would split his squad, taking half the first-team to South America whilst leaving the other half under the tutelage of his backroom staff in the hope that his side would be strong enough to cope on both fronts. When the Football Association got involved and went pleading to United legend and club director Bobby Charlton, that it would be beneficial for England’s 2010 World Cup bid if the Red Devils headed to South America with their strongest squad possible, Fergie threw all the toys out of the pram and said; “F**k it, if that’s the case then we’ll pull out of the FA Cup full-stop.”
The country went into meltdown as fans (mainly Liverpool ones) jammed phone lines to express their disgust at United’s actions and with Fergie’s shithouse status rising with every passing minute, some people even claimed it was United’s fault that the NHS was in such a bad way! The FA Cup, in its final season at the old Wembley and without the holders was like jam roly-poly without custard. To make matters worse, United failed to progress to the second stage (third-place play-off and final) of the fledgling competition after drawing their opening match against Mexican stalwarts Necaxa, then losing to Brazilian side Vasco da Gama. England of course, failed to get the go ahead to stage the 2010 World Cup.
The modern-day foreign Premier League manager couldn’t give two shits about the FA Cup. Things might have been different had they experienced the thrill of Big Daddy going belly to belly with Giant Haystacks on Cup Final wresting, but that’s all in the past, unfortunately. Last season, Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp put out a kid’s team against Wolves in the third round and they got hammered, this term, however, the man with the whitest teeth in the northern hemisphere, has gone one better and decided to go on strike next week when little Shrewsbury head to Merseyside for their fourth-round replay. The German has already ruffled feathers in this season’s league cup when, in a nod to Sir Alex, he pissed off to Qatar for the World Club Cup leaving his trusted lieutenant’s to ensure the kids would be alright against Aston Villa which ultimately, they weren’t.
Living in one of the most militant cities in England has obviously had a huge influence on Jürgen who has decided to go on strike next week and watch the game on the telly rather than take up his place in the dug-out, in protest at fixture congestion. 12 months ago you could possibly make a case for the defence citing that his Liverpool team were going head to head with Manchester City for the Premier League title; this season, however, the league is already won so Klopp has nowhere to hide (and with those gnashers, it’s pretty impossible to anyway).
Rumours coming out of Merseyside suggest Klopp has chosen to do this not only to make a point about not getting a winter-break but also to give himself more time to complete his tax return which is actually due at the end of January.
Whether you believe those reports or not, it’s taken 20 years for the hunters to become the hunted, so I’ll end this piece like I started it and let you decide which side has committed the biggest piece of FA Cup shit-housery.