As United's campaign to win the FA Cup continues, we reveal the blueprint for what the Reds need to go all the way...
1. Finish in the league's top three the previous season
Current league form is not always a reliable barometer for FA Cup fortunes; the Reds have won the cup five times during seasons in which we finished outside the league’s top three. United have twice won the competition while lying 13th in the table (1909 and 1990) while in 1963, during Matt Busby’s rebuilding era, we pulled off an even more unlikely triumph, beating Leicester at Wembley after finishing 19th – just above the relegation zone. Curiously, what the Reds do in the league the year before seems to be a more accurate indicator of our cup prospects: eight of United’s 11 FA Cup wins came after a top three finish in the previous season (1909, 1948, 1977, 1983, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004).
2. Reach the semi-final, go a goal down
Such is United’s recent record in FA Cup semi-finals, a place in the last four is the next best thing to a ticket for the final. How about this for a fact: since 1970, when we lost to Leeds, the Reds have played 13 semi's and won them all. That’s right, the lot! In six of those 13, United have been a goal down before recovering to win (Liverpool 1979 and 1985, Arsenal 1983, Oldham 1990 and 1994, and Chelsea 1996). Moreover, after coming from behind to win the semi, United have gone on to win the final on five out of six occasions.
3. Bring Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes out of retirement
Robbo, who led United to wins in 1983, 1985 and 1990, is one of only two men since the 1800s to have skippered three FA Cup-winning teams (the other is Tony Adams). Hughes also won the cup three times with United (1985, 1990, 1994) but lost a fourth final to Everton in 1995, his last game for the Reds. The pair bagged 27 FA Cup goals between them for United, with both players scoring in two finals (Robson in 1983 and 1990, and Hughes in 1990 and 1994). Perhaps their most memorable contribution came in the 1985 semi-final replay versus Liverpool