Straight after Chris Wilder’s post-match interview on Radio Sheffield last Saturday a Wednesday fan got through on “Praise or Grumble”.
The first thing he said was. “I wish we had a manager like that,” and went on to contrast Wilder’s straight-talking honesty with the excuses and blame-throwing spouted by his team’s manager after yet another lame performance.
With Wilder it’s never the referee’s fault, or the fans’ fault, or the fact that the opposition used a different formation from what was expected, that we lost, but his own and his players’.
There’s a school of thought that a manager should never criticise his players in public, but Wilder does it so rarely (there haven’t been many times when it has been necessary) that when he does you know he really means it. Sometimes we might think it’s a bit harsh – such as after winning at Leeds and the defeat at QPR – but he demands the highest standards, from everybody, all the time.
That’s why this ‘blip’ will be temporary and before we know it United will be back again scrapping with the top two.
My view of the ideal FA Cup draw has always been to get the worst team left in the competition at home. Then, assuming everything goes to form, soon the worst team left in it (apart from us) will be Liverpool or Arsenal in the quarter final.
On the other hand, the worst possible draw is a decent team from the same division away from home, a long way away at that, and where the crowd will be small. Ipswich Town away ticks all those boxes. I doubt if I’ll be going.
But hold on – the last two times United drew Ipswich in the FA Cup we went on to reach the semi-final. In late January 1988 United grabbed a 1-1 draw at Ipswich in the fourth round thanks to Dean Saunders scoring the rebound after his penalty was saved.
In this game United were so short of players that only Lee Morris of the five subs had ever played in the first team, and then only fleetingly. If you’d like to have a guess at who the other for were, the answer is further down this page.
In the replay Don Hutchison scored from the spot as United won 1-0. United then beat Reading and Coventry (on penalties) before going down 1-0 to Newcastle United in the semi at Old Trafford.
Five years later, again in round four, United went 3-0 up at home to Ipswich with two from Michael Brown (one of them another of the many specials he scored that season) and Phil Jagielka, but Ipswich fought back to 3-3. A replay looked inevitable but super-sub Paul Peschisolido scored a late winner. United then beat Walsall and Leeds on the way to playing Arsenal in the semi, again at Old Trafford. It was another 1-0 defeat.
So the semis in 2018 it is.
* Those four other subs were Matt George, Ryan Ludlam, Ville Lehtinen and Kevin Davies (no, not that one). I don’t think any of them ever did play in the first team.