Football Round-Up (FA Cup, Round Four)

FA Cup weekend, and a good few “upsets”.

Here’s the thing about the “magic of the FA Cup”. It doesn’t exist. As a supporter of a “Big team”, I’m not really open to such a concept to begin with, but it’s more than that. Dubbing very obvious and practical reasons as to why a team from a lower tier can beat a team from a higher one as “magic” has always been something I considered somewhat insulting.

Simply put, lower tier teams beat bigger ones by preparing intensely for such games, by taking advantage of underestimation from their opponents, by taking advantage of lack of care from some opponents, by taking advantage of reserve/youth team players being played by their opponents, by being used to the generally poorer standard of pitch in lower divisions, by generally enjoying a better atmosphere, and having what is, for a weaker team, a stronger motivation to progress due to prize money and potentially high gate receipts.

And of course, the quality gap in English football from tier to tier is not as large as you might think. There really isn’t so much between League 2 and the Championship on any given day, or even the bottom half of the Premier League. How else can you explain that “upsets” happen every year like clockwork?

It isn’t magic. It’s reality.

So, well done to Brentford, MK Dons, Oldham and Luton for the hard work they put in, for taking advantage of everything in their favour. You did it all. Magic was not involved.

Manchester United didn’t have to worry about lower tier opposition, just a pedestrian encounter with Fulham, the ease of which will probably not be seen again when the two sides met again in a few weeks. The defence was untroubled by an ineffective and poorly supplied Berbatov, the midfield was utterly dominant, and the attack just had to take the opportunities when they came. A bit more impetus and it could have been six or seven as the holes in Fulham’s backline just kept opening up. Rooney and Hernandez took their goals from play very well, and Giggs actually converted a penalty, which was nice.

Nani was a big talking point for many afterwards. His runs are good, but his final touch, whether it is a pass or a shot, has very often weak or poorly decided upon. His little flick on for Hernandez’ first was great, but I’m struggling to remember any other moment when he really seemed like he belonged in the United first team. With the news that yet another winger will be in the United squad next season, Nani is running out of team to cement a place.

Reading next in the FA Cup which seems like it might be a repeat of this fixture. I’m not sure how much Ferguson wants to win the FA Cup, I think the teams have been strong enough but their general attitude has been somewhat lacklustre in the three games they have played. Like they are content to just stay in second gear, taking advantage of a Fulham team that barely turned up.

Much more important business on Wednesday as the Premier League campaign resumes. And Real are just over the horizon.

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