Should Manchester United go all out for the FA Cup?
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Manchester United Football Club has certainly endured a start to the season they'll quickly want to forget. Jose Mourinho was relieved of his duties, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has masterfully steadied the ship.
The Red Devils currently sit six points adrift of a spot in the Champions League places. That gap has been closing at a rapid rate. United have also progressed in Europe's premier competition, although they'll meet an in-form Paris Saint-Germain side who'll be heavily fancied over two legs. That leaves the FA Cup as the only viable trophy that Solskjaer could bring to the Old Trafford faithful. Should the Baby Faced Assassin go all-out to bring home the oldest piece of silverware in English football?
First and foremost, it's worth noting that Solskjaer is taking the FA Cup extremely seriously. Sure, he made nine changes for the match against Reading, but world-class superstars like Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku both played, while minutes were also handed to the excellent Sergio Romero and £50 million Fred. I'm fairly confident in saying that, if United were drawn against, say, a Liverpool or a Manchester City, United's starting line-up would include even more household names.
If we're speaking realistically, the chances that Solskjaer is given the job permanently are still rather slim despite the brilliant start he has made. What's the best way to improve his odds? Winning silverware. Jose Mourinho eventually came up short in the FA Cup last season as his team made it all the way to the final but couldn't get past Chelsea. If the budding Norwegian manager can do one better and line the trophy cabinet on both a club and personal level, that can only help his chances.
Nothing pleases fans more than winning things. At the end of the day, if trophies were being delivered, do you think supporters would be on Mourinho's back as often as they were? Whether you like it or not, we're all fickle in that regard.
If the option is FA Cup glory or finishing in the top four, I'd go for the former every single time. Alright, it'd hurt being out of the Champions League next season, but is it a competition that realistically, United can win? At the moment, the answer to that would be a resounding no. I understand that for the club, from a financial standpoint, things are different. The more lucrative choice for them is Champions League qualification as it lines their pockets far more than an FA Cup win, but I'm always left bemused when fans favour that path.
Thankfully, for my sake, Solskjaer is just like me. No, I didn't score an injury-time winning goal in a Champions League final, but even though he did, he's just your average fan. He knows what it means to the crowd to win things, I believe he'd take that route if it came down to it. For now, though, it's just about winning on all fronts. There will come a time when certain competitions will have to be prioritised and I guess it all depends on who you're going up against in cup competition.
The FA Cup fourth round draw takes place tonight, and no doubt United officials will be watching on with interest.