Villa lose to Manchester United in the FA Cup as Dave Woodhall reflects.
Two things are never going to happen. Villa are never going to win the FA Cup again and no club is ever going to be allowed to win at Old Trafford twice in a season. Particularly not one who aren’t part of the Other Five.
Steven Gerrard became the first Villa manager in years to put out a virtually full-strength side in an FA Cup third round tie, but it would have made no difference if he’d pressganged the first eleven supporters through the turnstiles. We were never going to win.
Being as honest as possible in the circumstances and bearing in mind the current state of my temper (ie fuming) you could make a case for either team being the better over the ninety minutes. Yet again against one of the top sides, some of our players fell short of the level they needed to be at for us to have a chance of overcoming both sets of opponents. The midfield didn’t function like it should for much of the game and the proof that Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings can’t work together is now overwhelming. We concede a goal that could perhaps have been prevented and didn’t capitalise on the periods owhen we were on top.
But, that’s not what this match hinged on. We equalise when John McGinn puts over the perfect defence-beating free-kick. Ings bundles the ball over the line. There is, for some reason, a VAR check, probably to squeeze in an advert break somewhere in Asia. It’s not offside. There’s no handball. So the tiniest, undetectable to the naked eye, supposed infringement by a player who didn’t get within ten yards of the ball was penalised. If that’s going to happen regularly you may as well put your wages on every game finishing goalless because virtually every goal could be disallowed.
Just how far back do you check and how long do you check for? In this case it ws three minutes 35 seconds from the time the ball crossed the line until the decision was made. There is np way that can be clear, or obvious. The incident was a fiasco and its result reduces football to the level of farce. And that’s without taking into account that in a lot of other games during this round the goal would have stood without question because there was no VAR in operation. How can a competition have different rules for different competitors? Send your answer to the Football Association, Old Trafford, Gtr Manchester.
One door closes, another one opens, We have the same opponents on Saturday. Normally I’d be desperate to be playing them, to have the opportunity to get a rare double and finally end the second-longest and most embarassing hoodoo in our history. Tomorrow, I’ll probably feel like that. Tonight, though, I really couldn’t care less. It feels as though even if we do win, it won’t matter in the long run. Everything in football is stacked against clubs like the Villa. We’re not small enough to be plucky underdogs, we’re not big enough to write our own rules. Teams like the Villa, and many like us, are here to make up the numbers, and to be slapped down if we ever start getting ideas above our station.