THE FA CUP (Quarter Final)
VENUE – Old Trafford (Capacity – 75,811)
KO – 1630 GMT
Referee – Howard Webb
Manchester United play hosts to Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea at Old Trafford vying for a place in the semi finals of the FA Cup. Both teams suffered losses in European competition in midweek. Whilst Manchester United felt that they were hard done by the officials against Real Madrid, Chelsea were visibly poor against a Steaua Bucharest side. Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez will once again lock horns after their battles while Benitez was managing Liverpool. Both managers know each other very well and will be looking to get one over the other. Benitez went on one his famous rants a week ago when he blamed the owner and the fans for not respecting him and his position. Manchester United has won the FA cup for a record 11 times but have not tasted success since 2005 when they beat Milwall to secure a 11th title. Chelsea on the other hand is the reigning champion and the competition is realistically the only trophy that might get their hands on. Neither team will take the match lightly but have completely different reasons for success. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are chasing a domestic double and Benitez is hoping to win the competition to silence his critics at the Bridge. From a neutral point of view the fixture promises a lot.
Sir Alex Ferguson was clearly upset at the events that transpired in the midweek game against Real Madrid. He was not alone as the players were visibly shaken up on Tuesday. The Scot manager knows better than most not to dwell too much on the past. His side faces a Chelsea side not in the best of forms, for a place in last four of the FA cup. Wayne Rooney was left on the bench against Madrid, causing speculation about his future at the club. Sir Alex squashed all the speculation claiming that Rooney’s future is at Old Trafford. The Red Devils wouldn’t be out for blood against Chelsea but they will definitely be pumped up for the fixture. They would love to exorcise the demons of Tuesday and beating Chelsea will help. Despite being eliminated from Europe a domestic double is still on the table for the league leaders. The fact that Manchester United has not won the competition since 2005 will be an added incentive. Rafael Benitez is a familiar foe for Sir Alex Ferguson and he will be excited to renew his rivalry with the Spaniard.
Chelsea is having a catastrophic season. They have the dubious distinction of being the first holders of the Champions League to be knocked out at the group stage. Roman Abramovich sacked Roberto di Matteo and appointed interim manager Rafael Benitez, a decision which was not taken well by the fans. One of the reasons why Benitez was brought in was to revive Fernando Torres to his Liverpool days but that has backfired and Demba Ba was signed from Newcastle to repair the damage. 19 points behind the league leaders and facing elimination in the Europa League, the FA cup is of utmost importance for the Blues. They are the reigning holders of the competition and anything less than reaching the semi-finals will be unacceptable for the owner as well as the fans. They face an uphill task against a Manchester United team looking vengeance after being dumped out of the Champions League. Rafael Benitez is under a lot of pressure and a defeat at Old Trafford might prove me to be one of the final nails in the coffin for Benitez.
Manchester United – Sir Alex Ferguson surprised the whole football world when he benched Wayne Rooney for the clash against Madrid. The tactics were working brilliantly in the absence of the star striker until things headed down the drain. Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck worked very well but Rooney might start this one alongside the Dutchman. David de Gea did not have much to do except seeing his side getting eliminated from Europe. He will start in goal with Rafael and Evra on the full back positions. The manager will put out a full strength squad and with Vidic still recovering from his knee injury Evans might partner Ferdinand in the centre of defense. Nani despite getting sent off had a good evening and will be a definite starter ahead of Valencia while Young may replace Giggs on the left flank. Carrick and Cleverly worked brilliantly against Madrid which means they might get the nod ahead of Scholes or Anderson. Rooney will partner Robin van Persie upfront against the reigning FA cup champions.
Chelsea – Demba Ba, the January transfer signing will probably start the match in place of Fernando Torres who has been going through a wretched season. The Spaniard has only scored 2 in his last 18 matches. Petr Cech will start in goal for the Blues with Ashley Cole, an unused sub on Thursday starting on the left flank. Serbian defender Ivanovic will start on the right back position with captain John Terry partnering Brazilian David Luiz in the centre of defense. Benitez went for an unorthodox 4-2-3-1 in Romania and is expected to keep the same formation at Old Trafford. Lampard, enjoying a great vein of form lately will partner Mikel in the middle of the park. The trio of Hazard, Mata and Oscar will take up the job of the creative force just behind the lone striker Demba Ba.
Manchester United – Wayne Rooney– The English international striker will be fired up after starting on the bench against Real Madrid in the Champions league. Sir Alex Ferguson will be aware of that and will start him alongside Robin van Persie. Danny Welbeck was preferred to Rooney on Tuesday and he will be out to prove to everyone that his best years are behind him. He has been touted as being as past it in many quarters of the game, an accusation which probably will be put to rest on Sunday. The former Everton man hates people doubting him and given the events in midweek, Chelsea need to be prepared for a fierce back clash from a wounded animal in the form of Rooney and his teammates.
Chelsea – Juan Mata– The Spaniard has not had the best of campaign thus far but he still one of the most creative forces that Chelsea have had this season. His ability to thread the ball through the eye of the needle is impeccable and gets along well with Lampard and Oscar in the middle of the park. He loves playing against Manchester United. In the short time he has been in England he has put in a stellar performance against the Red Devils. He did not feature in the midweek fixture in Romania and will be relatively fresh. He is an street smart footballer and Manchester United will need to be on guard against the wily Spaniard.
Written by ABHIMANYU HALAKHANDI
Devils_Trifecta on twitter