Big clubs don’t care about the FA Cup?Nonsense.

JUNE 2, 2023: This season’s FA Cup final should be something special. A local derby will appeal to the fans, if not the players, with Manchester United eager to prevent City from winning the treble and also so show Pep Guardiola and his team that they are a force to be reckoned with once more. United have been suffering for a decade, cast into the shadows a little by the loss of their most successful manager, the rise of City and a succession of poor decisions. They want to win at Wembley, to complete their own double of two domestic trophies, repeating Liverpool’s 2021-22 success.

People continue to moan that the FA Cup doesn’t mean anything to the Premier League clubs, and yet since 1992-93, the competition has been won 26 times out of 30 by one of the so-called “big six” with only four winners from elsewhere – Everton (1995), Portsmouth (2008), Wigan (2013) and Leicester (2021). A total of 39 of the 60 finalists have finished in the top six in the Premier League. Of the 30 finals prior to 2022-23, 28 have been all-Premier games.

This season, the Premier League saw nine of its teams fall at the first hurdle, including Newcastle and Aston Villa, who lost to Sheffield Wednesday and Stevenage respectively. It is a fact that some Premier clubs send out weaker teams when they play cup ties, but they are invariably too strong even with a side of squad players. The Premier managers know that they can deal with the FA Cup with a few changes, such is the power of the league. Both City and United will field their strongest available selections at Wembley, even though Guardiola’s men have an even bigger occasion on June 10 in Istanbul.

Crunch time in Denmark

MAY 16 2023: It almost summer in Copenhagen this weekend, with crowds flocking to see the Danish capital’s marathon and Brøndby playing FC København in the Superliga. The home side, from the west side of greater Copenhagen, are not in the running for the title, but FCK are battling it out with FC Nordsjaelland with Viborg hoping they will both slip-up. In a few days, the Danish Cup final will take place with Aalborg facing FCK.

FC Nordsjaelland are from Farum, a sleepy town of 20,000 people about half an hour from the city on the S-Tøg. They’ve been champions once, in 2012 and that earned them a Champions League campaign that saw them in the group stage and up against Chelsea and Juventus. Their Right to Dream stadium holds 10,000 people and has an artificial pitch.

By contrast, FC København play at Parken, the national stadium in Denmark in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Østerbro. Founded in 1992 from a merger of B1903 and KB, FCK are drawing some good crowds at the moment and their second stage games have attracted 90,000-plus. Interestingly, Parken also has one of those exceedingly expensive Nordic cuisine restaurants, Geranium, where lunch, called “Spring Universe” can cost you DKK 3,800 (around £450). Tickets for games at the ground are somewhat cheaper.

FCK beat Brøndby 3-1 with goals from leading scorer Viktor Claesson, Christian Sørensen and Claesson’s fellow Swede, Jordan Larsson. Later in the city centre, a few FCK shirts could be seen in Nyhavn, celebrating with probably the best lager in the world. FC Nordsjaelland drew 1-1 in Aarhus, and are one point behind FCK.

With UEFA introducing the Conference League, clubs from countries like Denmark can hold realistic hopes of a very decent European campaign. This season, Basel have demonstrated what can be done with focus and a little good fortune. Danish domestic football is still overlooked by many people, but a team like FCK should be able to hold its own in the Conference League. They may not be able to compete in the Champions League or Europa League, but the third tier should be far more comfortable for the best Danish teams.

Neil Fredrik Jensen