The FA Cup often allows clubs the chance to forget their poor form, but their class always seems to show through, which is exactly what propelled Manchester United to the victory over Liverpool.
In terms of trophies won, United has not been up to their own very high standard in the FA Cup lately, but that could all change following their latest confidence-boosting triumph over their hated-rival, which should not only rekindle their love for this competition, but spur them on in their other competitions.
Ahead of the Red Devils fully-deserved 1-0 Third Round win over Liverpool, Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that he was left ill for a couple of days after losing to Leeds United at this same stage last season, which shows how seriously he was going to take this match.
Since withdrawing from the 1999/2000 FA Cup due to their involvement in the over-hyped FIFA Club World Cup, United has been wrongfully criticized for not valuing this competition, but with Ferguson’s team selection that will surely silence their outspoken critics’ assessment.
Without question, the FA Cup has the richest history of any knockout club tournament in the world, because of how highly-respected by everyone who has the chance to be involved in it, and how you have to expect the unexpected.
What transpired in the latest version of this heated historic rivalry could have never been predicted, and contradicts that last statement, but the way Liverpool lost was pure justification of how classless the club and their supporters have been this season.
The way that Roy Hodgson was never well-received by the convoluted supporters, and was then prematurely sacked can only be classified as vicious and colorless, so it was fitting that their club’s greatest-ever player, Kenny Daglish, suffered a justifiable defeat to start his second reign as manager of Liverpool.
Now with the manager of their choice in place, Liverpool supporters were full of confidence coming into the match thinking that they were going to resurrect their dismal season, however, that did not happen and instead of blaming the obvious culprits they will make the referee, Howard Webb, their scapegoat.
Webb will certainly become the wanted man by every single Liverpool supporter for giving United a very soft penalty decision in the opening moments of the match, but they should have no complaints about Steven Gerrard’s sending off, which, ultimately, sealed their fate.
Uncharacteristically, Dimitar Berbatov fell with the slightest of touches from Daniel Agger to convince Webb that he was fouled in the box, but, to be honest, it was never a penalty, and it was surprising to not see the Bulgarian booked for simulation.
Their captain, who resembles of every bit of what the club stands for, senselessly went in with a hard, two-footed challenge on Michael Carrick to put his team at a clear disadvantage playing a man down for almost an hour of the match.
Before that reckless tackle, Liverpool were starting to dictate the pace of the play, so for Gerrard, who always seems to get away with a terrible tackle of some sort, finally paid the price of his indiscreet actions.
Even though United were fortunate to be given the penalty, no one could refute the way that Ryan Giggs dispatched his spot kick with real authority and conviction.
The Welshman’s performance against Liverpool was worthy of scoring any match-winning goal – whether it was gifted to him or not – and, unlike Gerrard, Giggs has always been a class act on the field.
There was no question to what Sir Alex told his players to do in the second-half – attack down their left-hand side, which was aided by Giggs expertly rolling back the years with some real quality.
Giggs showed that he should reconsider retiring – if he is even thinking about it – at the end of the season, because they way he teased and tormented any Liverpool defender that got in his way was classy to say the least.
The way that Giggs knifed through so many Liverpool players on three or four breath-taking, mazing runs showed just how much he wanted to win his 41st Northwest Derby and win his fifth FA Cup title.
After some forgettable performances so far this season – including United’s 3-2 over Liverpool earlier in the season – Jonny Evans put in a robust effort keeping Fernando Torres quiet.
With Nemanja Vidic left out of the match, Evans was selected ahead of Chris Smalling, who was impressive against Stoke City, which will do no harms for United’s title aspirations in the FA Cup, the Barclays Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.
The 23-year old center-back has had a tough time overcoming the “mental” side of the game, which has hindered his confidence to play well, but as he said, the manager never lost faith in him.
On top of his masterful defending, Evans saw his powerful header crash against the Liverpool post, which would have done absolute wonders for his morale.
Based on class alone, Manchester United was well-worthy of their win over Liverpool in the prestigious FA Cup, and now they will continue on in the competition while their Merseyside rival rues another missed chance to turnaround their season.