The FA Cup third round is a momentous date in the footballing calendar, an occasion where literally anything can happen and the generic cup cliché book is dusted down and brought out for another year. Appropriately, Wigan fell in the clash between David and Goliath in a banana skin tie which was a game of two halves (both of which Swindon were the better side).
Paolo Di Canio wrote another chapter into his FA Cup book of giant killings after his energetic Swindon side, buoyed by the momentum created by the electric atmosphere, beat the giants of Wigan Athletic.
There were plenty of negatives to draw from Saturday’s proceedings, enough to cover five articles at least and I could explain them but I think the message board has achieved that rather comprehensively over the last 48 hours.
As Matt Ritchie’s shot took a cruel deflection from a striker in an offside position and trickled past the helpless Al-Habsi, I think every Latics fan sighed with the disappointment we all feared the day would end in.
I can understand why people feel so embarrassed by the result and performance and I really can’t blame them, not long ago we were a third tier side dishing out these shocks against the likes of Premier League West Brom, Fulham and Man City. To be given a taste of our own medicine is something that supporters have found hard to stomach.
As soon as the team was announced, I think every Latics fan feared the worst and had the looming negativity in the back of their minds.
Yet I’m concerned that fringe players such as Shaun Maloney, Adrian Lopez and Hendry Thomas didn’t grasp their rare opportunity to impress by beating a group of players who collectively, should be comfortably inferior in quality.
I’m not suggesting they didn’t try hard enough but surely if a first start in months doesn’t motivate you enough, then not much will.
One player who did take his chance though, was the exciting Callum McManaman, who returned from his loan spell at Blackpool.
From the highlights I saw from the game, he looked lively and his time at Blackpool seems to have done his confidence a world of good. An attacking player like him needs to be a big fish in a small pond and at the forefront of the attack to feel involved and gain confidence.
He looks like a player developing rapidly and I for one look forward to seeing him develop further, on current form, I see no reason why he can’t be tried out in the Premier League. He seems to possess the desire that is possibly missing in the goal shy and confidence deprived trio of Di Santo, Rodallega and Sammon.
To remove the mood of cynicism I want to move on from Saturday’s debacle to round three’s stand out tie: the Manchester derby.
Always one to be hyped up to the extreme, this fixture didn’t fail to disappoint with five goals, a red card and numerous talking points.
This was a meeting which had more than just a place in the next round on offer, this was a battle of mind games between bitter rivals to demonstrate who holds the supremacy.
United’s victory could give them the psychological advantage going into the second half of the title run in, whilst City’s defeat could be a precursor for life without Yaya Toure and the suspension of Vincent Kompany.
Six thousand glory hunting United supporters who travelled from all over the country (besides Manchester) to attend the game were packed behind the goal in a sea of red and celebrated their three first half goals as if they were title winning strikes. They soon shut up in the second half when City’s onslaught with only ten men pinned United back deep into their own half.
As if this game wasn’t dramatic enough, it was spiced up a little more with the sensational re-signing of Paul Scholes.
The once majestic midfield maestro seems to be a desperate clutch at a 37 year old straw from Ferguson as he struggles to address his obvious midfield problems. Sir Alex seems to have problems and many doubt whether Carrick is good enough, Anderson seems too inconsistent, Giggs isn’t getting any younger and Phil Jones in contrast, seems a little inexperienced to hold the fort in a big game.
United’s task was helped however by the sending off of City’s talismanic defender and leader, Vincent Kompany.
He simply is the one player City don’t want to lose for a prolonged period, they have an array of attacking talents who can interchange easily and depth in midfield. Yet they only have one commanding centre half who seems solid.
Yet they had to make do without him after a naive two-footed lunge untypical of a player of his nature and experience.
There was a time when getting the ball with a tackle removed the possibility of it being considered a foul, as we know, these times are long gone.
As a result, Kompany’s challenge was considered reckless and out of control.
I share the dominant ideology of most football supporters over this matter, whilst I don’t like seeing dangerous challenges or players getting injured, if you take competitive tackling out of the game I think you lose a significant part of what makes football such a gripping and high intensity sport.
Personally, I think if the rule makers go any further with their paranoia, they are at risk of doing just that.
City’s ten men rallied and unlike United’s ten men at Old Trafford in October, did rather well. Is this a suggestion they have more resilience than their title rivals? This is a trait which is vital in title contenders and if City posses more of it, they may have a significant advantage.
Yet it is impossible to ever rule United out and just when you thought Rooney had lost form, he popped up with two goals which set United on their way. Welbeck added a third and although Kolarov and Aguero scored to set up a grandstand finish, United weren’t to be denied and the holders were subsequently dumped out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle. United however, can look forward to a much more comfortable tie: Liverpool away.
Everyone loves an FA Cup shock but there weren’t too many eyebrow raisers on Saturday, Wigan’s defeat was probably the biggest gulf in league positions between a highly placed loser and a lowly placed winner.
Macclesfield earned many plaudits but only a replay as they held Bolton 2-2 at home, Arnaud Mendy’s volley was top drawer and was deserved of a place in the fourth round on its own. Like Wigan, Bolton came unstuck against a fired up team that simply had more desire.
On a sadder note, I must acknowledge the scenes at Anfield on Friday night concerning Tom Adeyemi.
Unbelievably badly timed, Adeyemi was visibly distressed by what he perceived to be a racist insult directed at him from the Kop.
Liverpool’s reputation has been dragged through the mud recently and this is the last thing they need. Liverpool’s stance on the Luis Suarez situation was undignified and sickening as they seemed to support the player’s ill motives.
I’m all for supporting your club’s players, but there’s a line and Liverpool have a lot of work to do to address the crossing of it.
Third Round Awards:
Goal of the Week: The aforementioned thunderbolt from Arnaud Mendy takes some beating.
Gary Ablett of the Week: Non-Premier League stars Matty Phillips, Tom Cairney and Ricardo Vaz Te impressed, but the winner has to Jordan Rhodes for bagging five goals for Huddersfield and bumping an extra million pounds onto his price tag.
Gary Neville of the Week: Neil Warnock takes this one for losing his job after a disappointing 1-1 draw with MK Dons, his sacking does seem a little harsh but if a new appointment keeps them up like it did with West Brom last season, the decision could be vindicated. Meanwhile, after losing 3-1 at Hull and suffering from poor league form, Paul Jewell looks under pressure at Ipswich. What’s the betting he’ll resign at the end of the season?
Quote of the Week: “We don’t deal with negativity” was a recurring statement on ITV’s highlights show, Latics fans should listen and take note.
Boselli Watch: After scoring in a reserve game, Mauro Boselli has followed Di Canio’s lead by asking for a statue to be made of him outside the club’s stadium. Small achievements mean big prizes remember.