Spyin' Kop: Manchester United (FA Cup)

Posted by Hightown Phil on February 15, 2006, 11:56:19 AM

Here we go then, after three weeks of waiting since the draw, queuing at stupid o’clock for tickets, thousands getting knocked back, and some confusing ‘reserved seat’ saga, the big FA Cup tie is upon us.

Manchester United at home, is always a big game, but with the league title out of both sides’ reach by February, it becomes just that bit bigger. The press would have you believe that United is a team in crisis. They are in the Fifth round of the FA Cup, the League Cup Final and are currently occupying 2nd in the Premiership, 13 points ahead of 5th placed Arsenal. Some crisis! The come into the game on the bank of a run of form, including 6 wins from their last 7 games, including that soul destroying, late win over us.

We go into the game, well, stuttering a bit really, a poor run of form from mid January onwards has been, kind of put to the sword with two consecutive victories by one goal to nil. Neither goals scored by strikers mind. Maybe we’ll end the drought on Saturday.

Liverpool v Manchester United
Saturday 18th February
Anfield, Liverpool
K.O. 12.30pm

Referee, Howard Webb


League: 1907/1908 1910/1911 1951/1952 1955/1956 1956/1957 1964/1965 1966/1967 1992/1993 1993/1994 1995/1996 1996/1997 1998/1999 1999/2000 2000/2001 2002/2003

FA Cup: 1909, 1948, 1963, 1977, 1983 1985, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004

European Cup: 1968 1999

League Cup: 1992

Intercontinental Cup: 1999

European Cup Winners Cup; 1990/1991

Brief History

As you can see, Manchester United have won fifteen League titles. Is it me or do you make that three less than us? Oh yes, it is. They’ve won two European Cups, I’m pretty sure we’ve won five. Oh yes we have. Well done to them on being the second most successful club in the country, explains that chip on the shoulder, and the singing about the most successful club in the country.

Did I mention that we’ve won more European Cups than they have? Well we have, so ner ner ner ner ner.

Spyin’ Kop

For the question part of preview, I’ve managed to sneakily go down the M62 and kidnap three of that lot and bring them back and grill them. We’ve got Phil, Kev and Sara answering the questions for us. Thanks a lot to them.

Spyin’ Kop: What was your reaction when Ian Rush pulled that black ball with the number 16 on and paired you with us?

Phil: I wasn’t watching the draw, I was at work. My reaction upon hearing was that it had a certain inevitability about it.

Kevin: It was a sense of inevitability to me. Before the draw I'd made a mental note of the numbers for the respective teams, chuffed we'd avoided Chelsea but when there were 6 balls left I knew which 2 were still in there. My first thoughts were wondering what Gary Nev's reaction was!

Sara: Was very happy. Before the draw I wanted either Liverpool or city away. And so, when number 5 was drawn out, I was shouting for number 16 and the minute he chuckled I knew we were going to Anfield. Get in !

SK: How has your season been shaping up and what do you expect to get from it?

Phil: It’s been frustrating. Some superb away form has been largely wasted by the manager tinkering with the team at O.T. and taking supposedly ‘smaller’ teams for granted, which effectively writes their team talk for them.

Kevin: It's been much of a mixed bag. We've carried on much in the same form as last year when we only turn out for 45 minutes of the 90. With no midfield, it's now a case of looking to score more than we concede. I expect a Carling Cup win (sad times but we're scraping the barrel of late), runners up in the league and hopefully progressing to the next round of the FA Cup.

Sara: We started the season playing the tedious 4-3-3/4-5-1, and even though Queeroz came out with his 'stupid' comments the management ditched it and reverted back to 4-4-2 and since then we have improved. Was a little late as we were already out of Europe but at least they made the change. I expect us to finish second and hopefully win at least one of the two cup competitions we're still in.

SK: Has Ferguson reached his sell by date, and should you be scouting around for a new manager, or have you already got one sorted?

Phil: He has continued to make mass changes to the team when not required, and as ever some of his selections have been bizarre, but he’s always done that and won a shitload of trophies along the way. However, his brown nosing of the Glazer gimps and the fact that it was his dispute with the Irish scum over a racehorse that opened the door for the Yanks mean he should go. Now.

Kevin: Ferguson should have walked when that fat ginger Yank took over the reins. It would have been a cracking show of defiance for the fans. Now he's not in charge and the negativity of Queeroz shines through. It looks like he's stopping for another 3 years but new blood is needed. A top European manager should be brought in.

Sara: In my opinion, he has. He should've left the minute the Glazers arrived, he didn't, and his comments since then against the fans, his hypocricy, his lies, his tactics and his team selections amongst other things has put me firmly in the Fergie out camp. However, the owners gave him money to spend in the transfer window though so that suggests to me he'll be here for at least another season ?

SK: You made a couple of signings in January, Vidic and Evra, players we've been reportedly interested in in the past. Have we missed the boat or got lucky?

Phil: Both have been patchy, but since they haven’t yet played 5 full games between them it’s impossible to rate them yet. Everyone deserves a season if they’re an unknown quantity in English football.

Kevin: It's early days but their first impressions have not been great. Evra can't defend and teams now just float the ball to our left back position knowing that they'll beat him in the air. Vidic seems a tad stiff but at least he'll put his body on the line to stop an opponent getting past him.

Sara: It’s too early to say. Vidic lacked match fitness in his first few games so his performances weren't really much to shout about. But in our last match against Portmouth he looked the part. Evra, going forward is good, he got us the free kick back in January. His defending though, I'm not too sure about but as I say I'm giving them both a chance.

SK: We all know about the Rooney's, the Van Nistelrooy's, and the Ronaldo's of this world, are there any players that are vital cogs that we don't know about?/

Phil: Yeah, Darren Fletcher. He’s the best pointer in the League. His ability to point to where he should be at any given time is becoming legendary.

Kevin: The best of our youngsters are away on loan at the moment so we've got no hidden agenda to surprise you with. Ji-Sung Park is a vital cog but the boss and Mr Ferguson need to recognise that.

Sara: Yes, Darren Fletcher. Seriously, though, whenever Park starts our football improves alot and we actually want to play. Shame the men in charge haven't realised that yet . .

SK: Any young talent coming through?

Phil: Difficult to say, any promising kids seem to find themselves shuffled off to Royal Antwerp. Rossi knows where the back of the net is but looks very small, and the boy Jones is reputedly one to watch in midfield. Bardsley looks very promising at right back too.

Kevin: You've had glimpses of Rossi but sadly he hasn't been figuring when the Premiership comes round. To me, the quick fix is a lad called David Jones. He's out on loan abroad at the moment but seems a complete midfielder, an area which we are lacking in big time. Former youth team captain and the only things holding him back are his FA Cup lugs.

Sara: We have a decent few coming through at the moment and given the opportunity they might just make it especially David Jones. He's been out on loan this season first at Preston and now at some Dutch side, but I watched him when he used to play in our reserves and he looked decent. Of course, he needs a bit of muscle, something which Fletcher lacks and when he gets it, he'll be a outstanding player, according to Fergie, no I don't believe him either. Lee Martin who we signed from Wimbeldon for £1 million has impressed and of course the much talked about Rossi and Pique who both look fantastic in the reserves, but at the top level, I'm not too sure about yet.

SK: Is finding a replacement for Roy Keane absolutely crucial before you make a push for the big honours again?

Phil: It was ‘absolutely crucial’ when we last won the League, and will remain so until we sign somebody of note, rather than the bargain basement tossers we’ve employed in the last couple of seasons.

Kevin: Even when Keano's been there we've been lacking in the midfield department. A defensive midfielder is paramount. Basically anybody so Darren Fletcher can be sent back to Jockland.

Sara: Yes, definitely. At the moment we have no heart in midfield, and Alex Ferguson needs to address that situation as soon as possible. Then, and only then can we expect to challenge Chelsea in the League and do something significant in Europe.

SK: Yes or no. Will you do the Domestic Cup double?

Phil: No. We may end up with nothing, which won’t necessarily be a bad thing if the Glazer gimps are to be driven out.

Kevin: Get past you, avoid going to the beach at Chelsea, then why not? Oh yes, we're back to Darren Fletcher getting a game.:(

Sara: Erm, I hope so, but no I don't think we will.

SK: What do you expect your starting XI to be and are there any weaknesses in it that we can look to expose?

Phil: Who knows? Could be Silvestre in goal and Fletcher up front with Rooney and RvN on the bench.

The team I’d pick is:

Van der Sar, Neville, Evra, Ferdinand, Brown, Ronaldo, Park, Smith, Giggs, Rooney and RvN. We can’t compete in midfield but at least that team would hold the ball up and create chances.

Kevin: Van Der Sar, Gary Nev is a red, Silvestre, Brown, Ferdinand, Ronaldo, Smith, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Van Nistelrooy. The lack of a midfielder is there for you to see. If Smith plays, a performance like his against Chelsea would do very nicely. If Fletcher plays, thank your lucky stars.

Sara: Everyone knows what our weakness is, midfield. Fletcher will probably start with Smith, Giggs and Ronaldo who is in form at the moment. In defense, should Silvestre start you might want to target him, but I think even he will be able to deal with the clowns Crouch and Cisse. Sorry

SK: Is it a case of whoever wins this game will be meeting Chelsea in the final, draw provided of course?

Phil: Doubt it, we always seem to get a pig of a semi final draw.

Kevin: I wouldn't write Bolton off. As unattractive as they are, they're still hard to shake.

Sara: No, if one of us were to draw the mighty 'Boro away then we could be in trouble same with Bolton/West Ham.

SK: What is your opinion on the Benitez era so far, and where do you think it will end up going?

Phil: He’s been lucky in that he has half a dozen good players who were already there. Not particularly impressed with his signings, especially the beanpole.

Kevin: While he's got the European competition sorted, it would annoy me that he hasn't got it sorted domestically. I don't see that changing.

Sara: Well, it started off just like the Houllier one ended and then you had to go and win that thing. You have improved results wise, but the football hasn't been too good to watch. Your European success last season doesn't mean you're back on your perch, as has been suggested by some of your fans. A long way to go before that happens. Hopefully, never again.

SK: Using both your heart and your head, who will finish higher in the League? And yes, I do know this is a cup game.

Phil: United will finish second, quite easily.

Kevin: They both say United. We seem to have less of a problem putting the ball away. It seems a bit of a grind for your lot.

Sara: Heart and head says us. Just.

SK: Would a Jamie Carragher last minute winner push you to the brink of suicide?

Phil: Any last minute winner from any player would see me looking for a razor blade. I have no particular hatred for Carragher so that doesn’t matter to me. But thank f**k that fat bastard Fowler is Cup Tied, that would hurt.

Kevin: I don't want that possibility to enter my mind. I was pretty close to it after Istanbul and am not sure if I could take anymore.

Sara: What, and miss city's 30th anniversary?! Are you mad?! Seriously though I survived last May so if this was to happen, it should be easier to take.

SK: And finally, a predicition for the game please.

Phil: Scouse 1 ~ Mancs 2

Kevin: I'll be brave, even though I'm a pessimist, 1-0 to United. Oh for Ole Gunnar to be fit and put the ball in the scousers net.

Sara: United to take it by 1 goal to nil, with birthday boy Neville getting the winner. Now the question is, will you survive that?!

So, there you have it. Let’s hope that we can knock them out of the Cup and in doing so put is in the Quarters, and well on the march to Wembley. Or Cardiff. Or both. Does anyone actually have a clue where we’re going? Answers on a postcard please.

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