After a decent performance in a 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park, Manchester United prepare themselves for the start of their FA Cup campaign against Derby County at Old Trafford on Friday. Even as the side face a battle for the top four in the Premier League it would be in the best interest of the club to treat the FA Cup with the same level of focus. Manchester United have an opportunity not only to keep hopes of silverware alive, but also restore a winning mentality and reclaim the record of winningest club in the competition.
The FA Cup is England’s most storied competition, the premier domestic cup in the country. And as England’s biggest club, Manchester United have been one of the most successful in the historic tournament. However, Arsenal’s recent domination of the competition (yes, the word “domination” was just used to describe Arsenal) has seen them leapfrog Manchester United in the history books as the Cup’s most successful club.
The FA Cup is also a competition Jose Mourinho seems to value, but has failed to succeed in as often as other cups. He has only won it once, in 2007 with Chelsea thanks to Didier Drogba’s winner in Extra Time against United. As a manager who has said before he believes he has to earn the right to have his portrait on the wall at Old Trafford, expect his United side to compete for the title and to regain their spot in history.
In addition to Mourinho’s United legacy and his personal legacy, he may also be motivated by revenge in the FA Cup. Amongst United’s few defeats last season was a 1-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup Quarter Final. Mourinho hates losing, but right now more than anything he hates losing to Chelsea, a club that he twice delivered at, that now mocks and taunts him at every opportunity. A lengthy Cup run increases the possibility of the two clubs’ paths to the final converging yet again, and could give fans a game for the ages.
The FA Cup does not boast riches or Champions League football comparable to that of a Premier League top 4 spot, and yet it is still a trophy every club in England desires. With United in a better position in the league than has been the case the past 4 seasons it isn’t unrealistic to expect more output in cup competitions. We learned from Louis Van Gaal that the trophy isn’t enough to save someone’s job at Old Trafford, but it’s hard to see Mourinho in that position at the end of this season anyway.