In the first part of my series, which observed Sir Alex Ferguson’s three big regrets in his last three seasons as coach, I recalled his failure to redeem himself during Wembley 2011 having lost the 2009 Champions League final to the same coach and team - Pep Guardiola and Barcelona. In part two, I look at how 'Fergie' failed to win the FA Cup in any of his last three attempts.
FA Cup: Manchester United inferior to Manchester City in the last three years
One can excuse Manchester United’s failure to win the FA Cup during the seven years that followed the club’s last triumph to date, back in 2004.
However, when billionaires Manchester City won the tournament at the end of the 2010/11 season, it was expected that the Red Devils would be infuriated and fired up enough to retort in style by taking the trophy away from their ‘noisy neighbours’.
Manchester United had started the 2011 FA Cup hunt quite brightly by defeating Liverpool, Southampton, Crawley Town and Arsene Wenger’s sorry Arsenal on the road to the semi-finals.
They travelled Wembley to face Manchester City. Yaya Toure broke the deadlock after 52 minutes and the Red Devils never found a way back. The Citizens grabbed tickets to the final where Yaya Toure again made the difference against Stoke City.
The following season, Ferguson enjoyed a sweet revenge against City. In the third round, his players gunned edged a five-goal thriller 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium. Having ousted the then FA Cup holders, the Red Devils were tipped as favourites to clinch the trophy. However the end was soon to come, as at Anfield, playing rivals Liverpool, they suffered a 2-1 defeat in the fourth round.
Ferguson revealed that he took the decision to retire back in December 2012. When the Red Devils began their campaign against West Ham in January this year, Fergie would have been aware the 2013 English FA Cup represented his very last chance at winning the tournament for a second and final time in nine years.
Retiring on a high is the right thing to do, like French Ligue 1 winner David Beckham recently declared. FA Cup glory in 2013 would have been the icing on the cake for Ferguson. Once again, he failed. After narrowly passing the West Ham challenge in the third round, the Red Devils heavily imposed themselves on Fulham with a 4-1 victory. They went on to record a decent 2-1 win over Reading in the fifth round and booked a thrilling date with fierce rivals Chelsea.
This was a crucial battle which Alex Ferguson wanted to win against his old foe, Rafael Benitez. Early goals from Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney offered Manchester United a strong start at the Theatre of Dreams but everything quickly turned into a nightmare.
Eden Hazard and Ramires put the Blues back in the game to force a replay. At Stamford Bridge, Alex Ferguson saw his team struggle to score as a wonder strike from Demba Ba sent United packing.
Arsenal have not won a title in eight years, they said. Manchester United have not won the FA Cup since 2004, they never said. When will the Red Devils break their FA Cup hoodoo?
Perhaps, David Moyes will soon be able to answer this question in a way that Alex Ferguson could not during his last three years in charge in which ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City transformed into serious FA Cup contenders – playing in two finals and winning one.
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