Manchester United’s participation in the Club World Cup in the early part of this century was widely reported to be the reason for the FA Cup’s demise.
The club decided to prioritise the tournament instead of the oldest cup in the world, and the devaluation of our domestic cup was such that it was put on the back burner in terms of importance for clubs.
The influx of money has seen the tides shift yet again though, and now, with the dial of competition firmly ramped up to 11, the once-derided FA Cup has now risen, phoenix-like from the ashes.
It’s now seen as a saviour from ignominy. The Champions League is a pipe dream for most clubs, the Premier League is a trophy that requires a huge slice of luck with injuries, as well as top level consistency.
It means that clubs need to maximise every opportunity to lift silverware – and the FA Cup is a genuine chance to keep supporters on board and keep the club relevant when it comes to transfer targets.
Success breeds success, so having your name etched on the cup means that next season gets a firmer foundation to build from. It also makes the lustre of the club a little more alluring for any potential new players.
Our own relative woes have exacerbated the FA Cup’s rise to prominence once more. Winning the Cup in 2014 against Hull, and in such dramatic circumstances that really turned heads at other outfits.
Then, when we won it the next year by smashing Aston Villa, we not only regained it, we yet again saved our season with the lifting of the old cup.
Two seasons ago was perhaps the best example. We slipped out of the Champions League places for the first time since 1996/97, we also slipped below our hated neighbours for the first time in over two decades, but the fact we won the FA Cup, meant we had silverware in our trophy cabinet.
The ‘drought’ we suffered between 2005-14 may seem a long time, but as the top teams get better and the gap becomes more disparate, decades between cup wins will become commonplace for most.
It means any cup win should be embraced – just look at City and United in recent years when winning the League Cup. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are considered to be among the leading lights of world football management – and lifting this cup meant a fair amount to them.
The FA Cup is a grand old competition, and our previous wins are amongst our most glittering. The recent cup wins are among them. The 2014 final snatched from the jaws of defeat especially seems vivid upon recall. The Cup matters hugely.
Being knocked out by Nottingham Forest last season smarted a fair bit, and FA Cup fixture weekends without our club – the most successful side in FA Cup history – seemed a tad remiss.
We can glow with pride at the fact we’ve won this famous cup more than any other side – but we can also take a little satisfaction that we’ve reminded other clubs that the Cup is well worth winning indeed.
It grants you a European place, it gets you a slot in the Charity Shield – but it also gives us fans a memorable day – and those memories are what binds fans to a club.