The top clubs in the English Premier League put in some dismal performances in the fourth round of the FA Cup and most of them paid for it by being eliminated. The weekend got underway on Jan. 23 with a shock result as mighty Manchester United was held to a 0-0 away draw by fourth-tier Cambridge United. Cambridge went into the match a full 76 positions below Man United as they were ranked 80th out of 92 pro teams in England while United was ranked fourth. The League Two team, which cost nothing to assemble, will now face the multi-millionaires of Manchester in a replay at Old Trafford.
While Man United was the joke of English soccer for a day they were relieved to have the attention taken away from their awful performance when the top three teams in the Premier League were all ousted from the FA Cup tournament the next day. League-leading Chelsea, reigning league champions Manchester City and third-place Southampton were all eliminated on Jan. 24 after losing on their home grounds to inferior opposition.
Chelsea, who went into the match 10 for 10 at home this season, jumped into a 2-0 lead against third-tier Bradford City at Stamford Bridge, but the minnows fought back for a 4-2 victory. Meanwhile, at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, second-tier side Middlesbrough shut out the reigning league champs Manchester City 2-0. Down on the south coast, Southampton twice held the lead, but were ousted 3-2 by the 13th-place Premier League side Crystal Palace.
Fifth-place Arsenal managed to avoid embarrassment when they narrowly beat second-tier Brighton 3-2 on the road, but sixth-place Tottenham Hotspur was also eliminated at home when they dropped a 2-1 decision to Leicester City, the last place team in the Premier League. Seventh-place West Ham managed a 1-0 away win over second-tier Bristol City, but eighth-place Liverpool were held at home to a 0-0 draw against second-tier Bolton Wanderers. Swansea City, the ninth-place Premier League team, was also humiliated by losing 3-1 to second-tier Blackburn Rovers on the road.
The lower-ranked Premier League teams fared better as Crystal Palace and Leicester won, as did ranked 15th-ranked Aston Villa, who beat second-tier Bournemouth 2-1 at home in Birmingham. Tenth-place Stoke City also managed a win when they beat Rochdale 3-0 on the road. It was the first time in the 144-year history of the English FA Cup that the top three clubs were knocked out on the same day. In total, none of the top four teams managed to win, four of the top six were eliminated and seven of the top nine failed to win with five of them crashing out of the competition.
As Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho put it, “It’s a disgrace for a big team to lose to a small team from a lower league.” And who can argue with him. As for the remainder of the FA Cup, bet365 lists reigning FA Cup champions as the favorites at 9/4 followed by Manchester United at 3/1 and Liverpool at 13/2.