It took ages to get over that final defeat to Sunderland

John Giles

John Giles

Anyone who loves the FA Cup will be looking forward to Monday's big tie between Chelsea and Manchester United. It has all the ingredients which make knock-out football so exciting.

This would be a highlight if any season but particularly given the history between Mourinho and Chelsea and Antonio Conte's march on the Premier League title with essentially the same players.

I'll bet lads like Fabregas, Hazard and Costa will be straining at the leash to win this one.

I know that their motivation won't have much to do with the glory of the FA Cup but it adds a great edge to the game, an 'all or nothing' fixture offering endless potential for heroes to emerge.


As everyone knows by now, the FA Cup has always been a love of mine and with good reason. I played in five FA Cup finals and along the way, experienced my greatest moment in football and my worst.

The greatest was the first win in 1963 with Manchester United alongside Tony Dunne and Seán Cantwell. Jack Charlton's No 2 with Ireland, Maurice Setters, was in the team too.

It was United's first FA Cup win since 1948 when Johnny Carey, a hero of mine and one of my main inspirations for pursuing a professional career, lifted the trophy.

In my mind I was following in his footsteps which was all I ever wanted to do.

My worst was the last; that awful May day in 1973 when Sunderland beat Leeds, a personal low in my career which, thankfully, was a rare enough occurrence over the years.

Time, and a bit more maturity, allows me to see now how much that win meant to Sunderland and a generation of their fans, even if I was angry about that result for a long spell .

In between, I played in the 1965 final for Leeds against Bill Shankly's Liverpool after moving on from Old Trafford.

It was Liverpool's first time to win the trophy and the next final I was in was 1970 against Chelsea also made a bit of history because it was the first to go to extra-time and the first to go to a replay. Unfortunately, Leeds lost it.

As luck would have it, Leeds reached the final in 1972, the Centenary FA Cup final and a great day to beat Arsenal.

These are memories which are shared by thousands of fans of both teams and I was reminded of that by Luis Enrique's heartfelt words after beating PSG when he said that every kid in the stadium would remember that night for the rest of their lives.

That's what is being lost because of the continuing disrespect being shown to the FA Cup by almost everyone.

For Jose Mourinho, knock-out football is his lifeline this season and he has one man to thank for that. Zlatan Ibrahimovic won't be on the pitch against Chelsea but I think Manchester United will cope and I don't see them collapsing.

The reason he is missing would not be a major concern for me. He has a hot streak, he likes a physical battle but he has been fantastic all season and these things happen.

I was wrong about him, I admit that and his season at Old Trafford has been exceptional.

When his form required everyone to re-evaluate his contribution, Eric Cantona sprang to mind but on reflection, he is much more than that.

He has been doing it alone. Cantona had great players around him.