Toasting the Health of the Cup
Medical opinions differ regarding the health of the patient. Hale and hearty on Saturday morning, when Bristol Rovers' throwback ground rambunctiously cheered its team into the quarter-finals; fighting fit when Barnsley picked off the eminently shockable Liverpool, the FA Cup slipped back into intensive care at Old Trafford, when Arsenal couldn't even be roused to care about it by the presence of their arch-enemies.
All that Manchester United's victory proved was that 75% of Alex Ferguson's best team was better than 75% of Arsene Wenger's, thus justifying the Arsenal manager's decision to ensure he would have at least two fewer fixtures over which to stretch his squad come the late season crunch.
If the FA Cup is a sickly patient, John Motson maintains a bedside vigil, mopping its brow. With the long term diagnosis necessitating a restorative visit to ITV, the BBC will soon abdicate the responsibility of administering CPR to the battered old trophy.
Shame really, as the job perfectly suits Motty. Being a classic old English eccentric, he's made for the task of stubbornly championing a beloved, but crumbling, national institution. Unable to confront the fact that neither of the teams he was watching would have traded three measly league points for a year looking after the old trophy, his voice crackled with bewilderment.
But the thing about these people - the types who hand out leaflets protesting the closure of libraries or who spend their free hours weeding a decrepit churchyard - is that they're usually right. Something valuable will be lost if their quixotic campaigns were to fail.
The 'magic of the Cup' thing is routinely - and rightly - derided as cash-in hokum. How often will the Beeb refer to the 'magic of the Cup' when they have but the footsoldiers of Five Live to tell its stories?
But equally, how many of an English football season's truly memorable, or at least unique and touching, moments come in the ancient competition? Chasetown, Havant & Waterlooville, Bury, Bristol Rovers, Barnsley - haven't they all at least sewn a colourful, individual edging into the occasionally monotonous blanket of league football.
Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez may have been thinking more of their impending duels with Milan's finest than navigating the road to Wembley, but, despite its interludes of poor health, the Cup can pack a mean punch when you're least expecting it.