A furious Sir Alex Ferguson was so livid with his squad for blowing the chance of winning the treble in 2008 that he blanked his players for two weeks, according to Wayne Rooney.
A United side which boasted the attacking talents of the former England captain, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez were well on course to win the Premier League and had reached the latter stages of Europe by the time Portsmouth visited Old Trafford in the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
Ferguson fielded his strongest possible line-up but United were unable to penetrate a Portsmoth defence mashalled by a veteran Sol Campbell and ultimately lost the game after Tomasz Kuszczak, a half-time replacement for Edwin van der Sar, was sent off for a professional foul.
United’s legendary manager opted to select Rio Ferdinand as an emergency goalkeeper but he was powerless to stop Sulley Muntari’s 78th penalty which put Pompey on course for a semi-final tie against West Brom which they won, before going on to beat Cardiff, then a Championship side, in the final.
Recalling that particular defeat, Rooney told the Manchester United podcast he felt Ferguson made an error by not selecting him to replace Kuszczak and opting for the ‘taller’ Ferdinand instead.
He said: ‘We knew we should’ve had it. I’ll always remember to this day the biggest mistake the manager made was not putting me in goal. I used to practice in training after I’d finished all my stuff. I’d go with the goalie coach and the goalies and I’d go and practice kicking with the keepers, I’d practice saves. I was just energetic and had too much energy.
‘I always remember saying if a keeper got sent off any time he’d have to put me in. I think he was probably worried I wouldn’t have saved it and then we’re 1-0 down and he’d need me to try and score.
‘I remember the boss, I think it was about two weeks he didn’t speak to us.
He knew that was the chance of doing the treble again.’