The magic of the FA Cup will be tested to its limit this weekend as Wembley will look to four teams to make it smile on a weekend when two of English soccer’s biggest rivals face off.
As far as cross-city rivalries go, Manchester United vs. Manchester City has equals in English soccer. Teams in such high league positions fight none of them out and the oil dollars of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan has reinvigorated this derby.
Carlos Tevez moving from one side to the other wouldn’t have happened under the original regime. Without the Argentinean in tomorrow’s side it’s hard to see where their inspiration will come from.
One choice open to Roberto Mancini would be to build the side around their most technically gifted player David Silva. Obviously it won’t happen, as technical ability doesn’t really carry much clout inside the stone defensive walls of Mancini’s head. It’s a nice pipe dream though.
United meanwhile will be without Wayne “f***ing ‘av that” Rooney after his outburst a few weeks back meant a two game suspension. Not that it matters as they have an in-form Javier Hernandez and the snarling genius that is Dimitar Berbatov as more than adequate replacements.
Add all this to the fact that City haven’t won in nine away from Eastlands and you can see a loss here kicking off a run that sees them fail to qualify for the Champions League for a second consecutive season and Mancini joining the dole queue.
The winner of that clash will face the victor of a game between the old masters of hit and hope, Bolton, and the new innovators of…hit and hope, Stoke.
Back in the day Stoke and Bolton were two of THE teams. In the early 1920s supporting Bolton was like being a Manchester United or Chelsea fan. Everyone was jumping aboard ye olde Model T Ford bandwagon. These days a lot has changed.
Since Owen Coyle took the reigns at the Reebok the ideology has changed and as the Premier League needs at least one team to be thoroughly unfashionable, Stoke took over as the heirs to that throne. Well probably not a throne but something resembling an armchair bought in the DFS sale might do, or even one procured from a second hand furniture shop. Fleas and all.
When it comes to London, Stoke aren’t a team that travels well. This season has seen them lose all six games in the capital and, well, they’re about as anti-London as you can get. If there were a side that personified working class Northern-ness Tony Pulis’ side would be it. You only have to look at the short time spent in the Potteries by Eidur Gudjohnsen and Sanli Tuncay. Gifted players aren’t in the Stoke mould.
This tie could and will go any way meaning that the magic of this once great competition is still there for all to see. If only the tickets didn’t mean you had to re-mortgage the house there might be a chance you could enjoy a pre-match burger.