Oh, for the days when clubs just played their best players and tried to win things, when you could second guess the manager and pick the team that would be on the pitch in front of you.....
My heart sank yet again last week watching the Carling Cup games unfold - and not only because of United's result against Crystal Palace. The awful spectre of the "bigger clubs" fielding weakened sides and not taking either the competition seriously, nor the opposition.
First we have city. They have one of the biggest squads, probably in world sport, and that bloke with the out-sized scarves was still complaining it was too many games etc.etc. Please just get on with it, it's only a couple of games a week and you have enough players to have two Premier League teams playing each week and both end up top half of the table.
Then - United side v Palace - fantastic result for Palace, that can't be denied. It was, however, against an extremely weakened United side. Ah, you cry - that is what these big squads are for, after all, even fergie commented that 9 internationals would be wearing a United shirt. Well, they must be giving those caps out like confetti - or is it just short sightedness on behalf of international managers, who can't see past a certain number of clubs, and if Fergie et al pick them, they must be good?
There was a stream of players that shouldn't be in a united first team. Yes, I realise these players need game time - something Sir Alex has now also admitted, but that game time should be elsewhere - just how big a squad do teams need? We get to the point where players who have not featured in a competitive game all season are then thrust in to matches against teams with points to prove. How do the players feel, knowing they have little part to play in the clubs season - just happy to pick up the pay-cheque?
(was I correct in thinking that Sir Alex's first apology went along the lines of "I apologies to MY fans..." - your fans!! sheesh - at least I can still wear my Fergie Bar-Scarf with pride....)
Of course, United couldn't have expected such a performance from Palace. They were facing United at the Theatre of Dreams, after all. It doesn't matter which players were wearing the shirt, they opposition are beaten before the step on to the pitch, aren't they? er, no. If ever you need a lift at Old Trafford, just look at a teamsheet like last Wedneday's.
And speaking of them, how about the fans? I know the result will have cockle-warmed the rest of the country and particularly Palace fans, but 50,000 people paid to watch that team.
And finally, Blackburn and the famous forfeit. This one can go two ways - put full strength team out and win the game - what a great confidence boost.
However, chicken out (PUN MOST DEFINITELY INTENDED, I thank you) and play a weakened team, therefore forfeiting (Steve Kean's words) the match. This shouldn't affect morale, we can go back in to the league matches without fear. Win, it's a bonus, lose - so what? But, again, what about the morale of the fans? How good would it feel to be in a cup semi-final, eventually to have been against Crystal Palace, with a real chance of a cup final and possible trophy to distract from a miserable season.
What exactly do we watch football for? Is it to see 38 games of pure tosh and a turgid season-long battle to stay in the top flight, just to go through it all again the next season? Or is it to dream of glory. To have a cup run and enjoy some grand days out? Relegation isn't nice, but the championship looks like a fantastic league - run the risk, as long as your accounts can check out (see Leeds, Portsmouth..)
Trust Mr Yakubu to go and ruin that part of my rant at the weekend and partly show that Steve Kean was right to rest so many players - still, just think - only a home and away leg (against lower league opposition) away from a Wembley final. You'd have taken that, wouldn't you?