Monday, January 09, 2006

FA Cup 3rd Round

Ah, the romance of the 3rd round. A chance for all those plucky little teams to upset the Premiership giants. Or something like that. I would insert some nostalgic bumf here, but I have to confess that I didn't pay any attention to the FA Cup until the final last year, so there are people much better qualified for that than I am (read: every BBC announcer on the planet, apparently).

Anyway. On to the matches.

Burton Albion 0 - 0 Manchester United
OK, I know that the United players are tired, after a jam-packed schedule over Christmas, and they've got the Carling Cup semi-final and the Manchester derby coming up this week. But considering that this might be their only chance to win some silverware this season, shouldn't Sir Alex be doing everything he can to actually, you know, win? It doesn't exactly inspire confidence when the only first-team regulars in your starting line-up are Wes Brown and Mikael Silvester. Oh, and John O'Shea, playing out of position in midfield. Because he's shown such an aptitude for that in the past.

Yes, United have some talented youngsters, and yes, they need a chance like this to gain some experience. But I think you need a stronger core of players to slot them into if you want to win games like this. I also think they were hampered by not being used to playing together. Burton played like a team; United played like a mess. One of the few bright spots: Wes Brown, who seems to be having a decent season and, much like Darren Fletcher's current not-abysmal form, it's kind of thrown me for a loop. Oh, and the game also gave us our first glimpse of Wayne Rooney, Captain, a decision I can only assume that Fergie made based on Rooney's incessant need to yammer at the ref during the Arsenal game.

(In related news, apparently Sir Alex is planning to rest Rooney, Van Nistelrooy and Ferdinand again for the Carling Cup game with Blackburn on Wednesday. That's just great. Nothing like learning from your mistakes...oh, wait.)

Luton 3 - 5 Liverpool
In contrast to the boring slog that was the United game, this one was a cracker. Questionable penalty calls. The Lord of Frodsham Manor demonstrating that he should spend less time at the barber and more time practicing his penalty kicks. Rafa Benitez having apoplexy on the touchline. Luton playing their asses off for 60 minutes and making the previously solid Liverpool back line look rather worryingly like Newcastle. (Jamie Carragher had better hope that Sven wasn't watching this one, because ouch.)

Liverpool did get it together eventually -- Luton couldn't hold out forever -- and once their offence moved into high gear, they could easily have scored two or three more. And it was all nicely capped off by Xabi Alonso scoring from 60 or 70 yards out in the last minute of the game, after deking out the keeper, who'd come forward for a corner and left the goalt wide open. The best part of that, actually, was Steven Gerrard's reaction: screaming for a pass, complaining when he didn't get it, doing a double-take as he saw the ball rolling into the net, and then reluctantly applauding. Classic.

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