That Was The Weekend That Was: The FA Cup Fourth Round

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the kerfuffle over Manchester United having now had thirty-eight consecutive FA Cup matches shown live on the television is that it took thirty-eight matches for many people to really notice it. There was considerable anger this weekend over the fact that Manchester United’s home match against Fulham was selected by ESPN as its choice of match for Saturday evening, but did nobody really notice this phenomenon until yesterday? Did nobody realise at, say, twenty, twenty-five or thirty matches that the biggest box office draw always gets chosen, and probably above everybody else? For all the commercial pressures that they are under, the broadcasters – and their lack of imagination – got what they deserved on Saturday, a dreadful match between Manchester City which was won with five minutes to play by Pablo Zabaleta’s header and ninety minutes of one-way traffic at Old Trafford which effectively ended as a contest with the award of a penalty for the home side after ninety seconds. If Saturday afternoon had a retro feel to it, then this was likely in no small part because the main talking points were taking place away from the prying eyes of the live television cameras. The match that we might have expected to have been one of the live television choices for the weekend, Brighton & Hove Albion vs Arsenal, played...

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