THE TALK of a treble proved to be so much fanciful hot air last night when Manchester United were removed from the FA Cup. Barnsley have endured some grim moments this season but this will be remembered as a glorious occasion at Oakwell, no matter their fate in the League.
Unfancied, scoffed at even after a difficult time among the elite, they removed their third Premiership side from the Cup, defeating the favourites in a pulsating replay that earned them a quarter-final at Newcastle on Sunday week.
The man who got them there was an unlikely figure. Scott Jones was on the verge of leaving Barnsley a month ago, but last night he got two goals to add to John Hendrie's eighth-minute opener. A 22-year-old defender, he had never scored before.
"I was on loan to Mansfield," he said, "and it was all fixed that I was going to join them. The clubs had agreed a fee but at the eleventh hour I decided the Premiership is a good place to be." Would he be leaving now? "I hope not," he replied.
Study of United's team might suggest Old Trafford ambivalence towards a competition which they admitted was a third priority behind the European Cup and the Premiership. No Giggs, no Scholes and, initially, no Teddy Sheringham but there was plenty of determination to get to Wembley again. A look at Alex Ferguson furiously barking out instructions in the closing minutes showed how much they cared.
"My heart must have stopped 30 or 40 times they put us under so much pressure," Danny Wilson, the Barnsley manager, said. "They came here to win the game."
That was evident from the start. The last time the two teams met at Oakwell, in 1964, a promising 17-year-old by the name of George Best had opened the scoring and another relative United unknown, Erik Nevland, had a ripe opportunity to do the same after six minutes. David Beckham played a 40-yard pass to his feet but his lob over the advancing Dave Watson was wide.
Two minutes later, that miss looked more costly when Barnsley took the lead, although Hendrie looked to be a yard off-side when he received Darren Barnard's pass. Perhaps the Scottish striker thought so, too, because he showed extraordinary nonchalance to beat Schmeichel at his near post with a swerving shot hit with the outside of his right foot. No matter whether the pressure was off, it was a remarkable goal.
United's displeasure at the lack of an offside flag led to Gary Neville being booked, although Beckham almost made a more legitimate response after 13 minutes. His shot, from the edge of the area, appeared certain to be a goal but hit the inside of the post and bounced clear.
Beckham had a free-kick saved by Watson; the Barnsley goalkeeper swooped to his right to deny Andy Cole; at the other end, Ashley Ward almost caught Schmeichel at the near post again with a fierce shot from a narrow angle on the right that crashed into the side netting. It was breathless stuff played at breakneck speed.
Ferguson probably thought so, too, because he introduced Sheringham after 34 minutes to bring some calm to the frenzy, but before he could intervene Barnsley scored again. Gary Pallister was booked for a challenge on Hendrie and then was among a group of United defenders who stood and watched as Neil Redfearn's free-kick floated to the far post where Jones stabbed the ball in.
Cue a second-half Alamo. Sheringham got a goal back for United when his 57th minute shot on the turn was deflected past Watson and Barnsley seemed to be buckling. Instead they scored.
Once again United's defence ought to be questioned because the Barnsley centre-back was unchallenged as he rose to meet Redfearn's corner, heading past Schmeichel off the bar.
United pounded forward, Cole gave them hope when he pounced on Sheringham's header with nine minutes remaining and even in injury time Gary Neville had a shot blocked close to the line and Ben Thornley blazed over from four yards.
"I'm proud of my players tonight," Ferguson said. "They didn't deserve to go out but you need a bit of luck in the FA Cup and we didn't get it. If we'd put away a quarter of the chances we created we'd be safely through to he next round."
Barnsley (3-5-2): Watson; Markstedt, Moses, Jones; Appleby (Sheridan, 64), Bullock (Marcelle, 73), Bosancic, Redfearn, Barnard; Hendrie, Ward. Substitutes not used: Liddell, Tinkler, Hristov.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Clegg (Twiss, 79), May, Pallister, G Neville; P Neville, Beckham, McClair (Irwin, 48), Thornley; Nevland (Sheringham, 34), Cole. Substitutes not used: Casper, Van der Gouw (gk).
Referee: M Riley (Leeds).Reuse content