Consider our FA Cup final interest well and truly piqued after all

consider our fa cup final interest well and truly piqued after all

Bruno Fernandes has already scooped a gong as he prepares to take on Rúben Dias and Manchester City. Composite: The FA/Getty Images; Manchester United/Getty Images

THE ROAD TO WEMBLEY

When Big Website broke the exclusive that Big Sir Jim Ratcliffe plans to sack Erik ten Hag even if Manchester United beat Manchester City at Wembley, Football Daily felt its first twinge of something approaching interest in this season’s FA Cup final. At the exact moment that news of the Dutchman’s imminent exit became public, we were spell-checking a finished article which detailed how the first Cup final we recalled with anything resembling clarity was played in 1982 and won by Tottenham, who eventually beat QPR in a replay.

Without checking we stated with certainty that Peter Hucker, Glenn Hoddle, Gary Waddock, Mark Falco, Clive Allen, John Gregory and Steve Archibald all played, only to subsequently do a perfunctory bit of research and discover that one of those mentioned hadn’t. Not that Falco’s inclusion mattered, of course. The point we were trying to make was that having watched each of the 41 FA Cup finals since with varying degrees of interest, trepidation, horror and fascination, we can’t ever remember having had less enthusiasm for the annual showpiece than we did when it comes to Saturday’s Wembley jamboree.

This may not sound like much of a revelation in an era when the FA Cup has lost so much magic that even radio phone-ins, devoted to the amount of magic the FA Cup has or has not lost, have got to the point where they have lost their magic. Because make no mistake, Football Daily remains a misty-eyed old romantic in whose flinty heart the FA Cup will always have a special place – it’s just that until 10 minutes ago, the outcome of the contest between the double Double-hunting City and their beleaguered neighbours was unlikely to elicit any reaction more emotional from us than a weary shoulder-shrug o’apathy. Now we know Ten Hag is headed for the Old Trafford door marked Do One regardless of the outcome, consider our interest well and truly piqued after all.

While United have yet to comment on the news that Ten Hag is to be binned off, the club’s new Ineos overlords are already being accused of demonstrating a serious lack of class and no doubt a deluge of indignant, chin-stroking, think pieces are already in the pipeline. Football Daily’s piping hot take, for what it’s worth, is that Big Sir Jim and his clipboard-wielding lackey and fellow knight of the realm, Sir Dave Brailsford, will almost certainly be enraged that the news has been leaked and had every right to roll out their succession plan when it became obvious their current manager is delusional and clearly out of his depth. A shock win at Wembley won’t alter that.

“In big clubs like United and City, when you don’t win you are always in trouble,” honked Pep Guardiola, before news of Ten Hag’s impending dismissal had become public. “I have huge respect for his job in the past, and now at United. They’ve had a lot of [knack], [the] manager has suffered a lot.” Ten Hag could suffer considerably more in the next 24 hours and the final could make for car-crash viewing. Whatever the outcome, Big Sir Jim and his regime of expensive new suits will almost certainly end up looking more like amateurish clowns – meet the new bosses, same as the old bosses.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Out – 27 January: “I decided it some time ago; the people closest to me know. It’s a situation that I think affects the club now. It affects me but when it affects the club I think I have to leave” – Xavi explains his decision to leave Barcelona after the 5-3 defeat by Villarreal in La Liga.

In – 25 April: “Xavi will stay, he’s really happy and excited” – chief suit Joan Laporta is seemingly delighted as he confirms the head coach has performed a remarkable U-turn. “Circumstances have changed,” cheers Xavi.

Still just about in – 18 May: “We have the same enthusiasm and ambition to take on this season and next. And that’s it: calmness. I know the surroundings are noisy but nothing changes” – Xavi claims he is going nowhere but …

Out – 24 May: “The president of Barcelona, Joan Laporta, has informed Xavi he will not continue as coach of the first team in the 2024-25 season” – a club statement puts an end to the Catalunyan hokey cokey, with Hansi Flick (last seen overseeing Germany in a 4-1 thrashing by Japan) lined up for the top job.

WIN A DAVID SQUIRES PRINT!

Thanks to our friends at the Guardian Print Shop, we’re giving away more David Squires cartoons. To enter, just write us a letter for publication below. We will choose the best of our letter o’ the day winners at the end of each week and that worthy winner will then be given a voucher for one of our top, top cartoonist’s prints. And if you’re not successful, you can scan the full archive of David’s cartoons here and buy your own. Terms and conditions for the competition can be viewed here.

FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS

I see Xabi Alonso has taken defeat in Big Vase final with grace and decorum (yesterday’s Football Daily), thus simultaneously confirming that he was right to avoid any managerial overtures from the Premier League. I mean, what use is a manager if, when his team loses, he doesn’t rant and rave about VAR, bemoan the substandard on-field officiating and take serious offence to the openly provocative digestion of sandwiches. We have standards, you know” – Colin Reed.

As part of his visit to Vale of Glamorgan brewery (yesterday’s Football Daily, full email edition), Rishi Sunak also met with one of Camra’s national directors. While I’m a member I don’t always see eye to eye with Camra’s leadership, and indeed, am something of a bete noire to them. However, their collective ability to be on hand when the prime minister makes a complete and utter fool of himself is something we should all admire” – Ed Taylor,

Smartly, the BBC added David Moyes, Thomas Frank and Cesc Fàbregas to continue their Euros coverage (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs, full email edition) after Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand bow out in the quarter-finals” – Steve Mintz.

Derek McGee’s note about German dolls (yesterday’s Football Daily letters) reminded me of this absolute horror show” – Andy Korman.

Send letters to [email protected]. Today’s letter o’ the day winner is … Colin Reed, who joins the other winners from this week for a chance to win a David Squires cartoon from our print shop. And our letter o’ the week winner is … Derek McGee. We’ll be in touch. Terms and conditions for all this can be viewed here.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Former Premier League referee Rodger Gifford has been banned from all football-related activity for five months after telling a black assistant referee that he couldn’t see him in the dark.

Claudio Ranieri has confirmed his departure from Cagliari but, alas, an emotional return to Chelsea is not on the cards because he is retiring aged 72.

Yup, over at Stamford Bridge, Todd Boehly has turned his attention to Leicester boss Enzo Maresca because he’s determined to get his hands on a promotion-winning manager one way or another.

Milan manager Stefano Pioli is also on his way out of the exit door with a year still on his contract at San Siro. The club extended their “heartfelt thanks” to Pioli as they shut the door behind him.

Bruno Fernandes wants to “keep fighting” for Manchester United under [insert manager of choice here] next season. “I don’t want to leave. This has always been my ultimate dream,” blathered the midfielder. “I just want my expectations to fit with the expectations of the club.”

“They definitely didn’t expect that” – A-League Men All Stars winger Nestory Irankunda hasn’t got much flamin’ sympathy for a bunch of Newcastle whippersnappers who his side thumped 8-0 in a post-season friendly that Eddie Howe probably found as useful as a faulty cassette player.

Wolves fans are furious after season-ticket price increases of up to 17% at Molineux. One supporter, Ryan, from The Wolves Report podcast, sniffed: “What a day. It’s really hard to stomach for me, sitting in the North Bank with my elderly mother. A 17.6% rise from £625 to £735.”

Conservative peer Lord Sharpe has gleefully waved through a law that allows pubs to open later during Euro 2024, saying it gives him “particular pleasure” to pass an order that “basically allows people to get properly on the lash”.

And look away now Plymouth Argyle fans: Wayne Rooney is the top candidate to take charge of your club. We warned you, just don’t blame the messenger.

THE ROAD TO HAMPDEN

Never mind Wembley, it’s the Scottish Cup final on Saturday and you’ll never guess who is in the final? Yes, that’s right, it’s Bonnyrigg Rose v Elgin City Celtic v Rangers. The lads from the blue half of Glasgow are out for revenge after being bundled aside by their city rivals late in the title race, but Philippe Clement’s squad is not exactly a picture of good health before the big match. Defenders Leon Balogun, John Souttar, Borna Barisic and Connor Goldson were among seven players to miss their final game of the league season against Hearts last weekend, while forward Abdallah Sima has only just returned from knack.

Clement says he’s going to “take some risks with players” to get a team out who will “go hard with all the energy they have left” because an Old Firm final is “always more than just a trophy between these two clubs in this country”. Stirring stuff, eh? Meanwhile, Celtic have a fully fit squad and, according to Brendan Rodgers, are “on fire”. Yikes. They also have a goalkeeper in Joe Hart playing his final game of professional football. “I can’t thank the club and the Celtic family enough for how they’ve embraced me and made me feel welcome from day one.” But will he end his career singing celebratory songs on the megaphone?

STILL WANT MORE?

“World class” Phil Foden is the man of the moment for Manchester City as they prepare for the FA Cup final, writes Will Unwin.

Kobbie Mainoo gets his chat on with Jamie Jackson.

The FA Cup final might have lost some of its lustre but this year’s Manchester showdown will make it big in Asia, reports John Duerden.

After a surprise run to the German Cup final, fallen giants Kaiserslautern need a miracle against Leverkusen – but they still have hope, reports Will Magee.

And Patrick Bamford is keen to break the “vicious circle” and help Leeds back to the Premier League, writes Louise Taylor.

MEMORY LANE

It’s a long day for everyone, even the FA Cup, when it comes to the final. Here it can be seen taking a well-earned breather in the luggage rack on the train back north after Everton’s 3-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley in 1966.

ANOTHER BANK HOLIDAY, YOU SAY? SEE YOU ON TUESDAY

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