Manchester United have had problems with goalies in the past, but not penalty-takers.
One-time Shelbourne custodian, Paddy Roche, was unlucky he was at Old Trafford when things weren’t going well. It was better in Roy Carroll’s time, but the Northern Ireland player never really inspired confidence behind the back four. He once got away with the biggest robbery since Ronnie Briggs made it over to the railway with a sack in his hand; but that was one of his few achievements in his role as the last line of defence.
The good ‘keepers were Alex Stepney and Peter Schmeichel, the latter one of Alex Ferguson’s bargain-basement, but also, great buys.
The great Man U teams, the ones that included Keane, Neville, Beckham, Scholes, Giggs and the like, had only to wait for Denis Irwin to make it up from the back whenever a spot-kick was awarded to them. Invariably, the ball would end in the back of the net.
The Corkman would place them, but way before his time, another from down around the River Lee, Noel Cantwell, would try to make a hole in the net.
What David Moyes would have given to have had either Dead-Eyed Denis or Cannonball Cantwell – or Wayne Rooney or Van Persie, for that matter - to call upon on Wednesday night of last week. Those were terrible penalty attempts by Welbeck and the rest - and Sunderland’s crew were only marginally better, but still good enough to get Poyet’s team back to Wembley for the first time since Len Ashurst was directing operations from the line in 1985.
And how about De Gea’s howler? That was a throwback to Carroll’s time.
There’s nothing left for United at domestic level but to try to get into the top four, and you’d have to imagine they are a big price to make significant progress in the Champions League. Juan Mata has come in to try to try to give midfield a bit of respectability, but what kind of scrutiny is he going to come under? The same, most likely, as Moyes did when he took over from Ferguson.
The sooner Rooney and RVP make it back the better.