If anyone doubted the magic of the FA Cup, this weekend certainly reaffirmed that it very much remains. The Cup weekend started with Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough taking on the challenge of facing a strong but struggling Manchester United side.
The Red Devils fans seem split on the signing of Ronaldo and frustrations at the lack of energy and effort that all the players are putting in for the shirt has been questioned at Old Trafford. United got a penalty awarded after Paul Pogba drew a foul in the box from Middlesbrough right-back Anfernee Dijksteel. Ronaldo missed the target, sending a penalty wide in the 20th minute but Sancho then stamped his authority on the game 5 minutes later as he fired in a goal in his FA Cup debut. Ragnick’s side had a significant 30 shots on target which represented their dominance on the ball but their lack of quality in the final third was highlighted in this match and some decent saves after a nervy first few minutes for the Boro keeper, Joe Lumley helped keep them in the game.
Ironically, lifelong United fan, Matt Crooks levelled with controversial goal where the ball clearly hit the hand of Duncan Watmore whilst he was controlling the ball before firing in the cross which led to the goal. Most in the stadium, even the Middlesbrough manager seemed convinced it would be ruled out by VAR however the unpredictability and confusion in the rules and the use of technology was emphasised yet again.
Despite the controversial fashion in which Boro got their goal they defended in a strong fashion and were well organised to not let United through. After 120 minutes could not part the teams, United youngster, Anthony Elanga, 19, sent his penalty sky high the penalty shootout.
With the FA Cup being Manchester United’s most realistic piece of silverware seeing as a Champions League trophy seems highly unlikely, United go another season with no additions to their trophy cabinet.
What a night for Middlesbrough and it is difficult to think of a better way to spend a Friday night than knocking out Manchester United in their own back yard. Boro are now on a decent run of unbeaten games with this being their 11th game on the trot without defeat.
With Middlesbrough sitting just outside the play offs in the Championship they will be hoping that this impressive victory can spur on the side to push up the table as well as continuing a fine cup run on the side.