The FA Cup Set Up

Manchester United learned that they will play host to their most-hated rival, Liverpool, in the Third Round of the FA Cup, but it will be a very difficult fixture at the start of the new year.

At this same stage last season, United were handed what was suppose to be an easy draw as they renewed the “War Of The Roses” rivalry with Leeds United, and the Reds failed to show up and lost 1-0 at Old Trafford.

United has won more FA Cup titles than any other club in the prestigious history of the famous cup, but they have not really had much luck in this competition in the last couple of years.

Yes, before last season, United made it to the semi-finals in the 2008/09 season and the final the season before, but in spite of winning 11 titles, Sir Alex Ferguson has only guided them to one medal since withdrawing from the competition in 1999/00.

This has been the longest stretch under the Gaffer’s 24 year tenure that United has not won the FA Cup – stretching a total of six seasons.

Sure, any knockout cup competition offers a good opportunity for an underdog to pull off an upset, but when that is coupled with a rivalry match, then all bets are clearly off.

No matter the record of either team, the Northwest Derby normally offers up some of the feistiest matches in all the land, and the United supporters should not expect anything different in January.

Some are thinking that United are going to cruise into the next round of the competition with ease, but the only way they will do that is if Roy Hodgson rests all of his star players to focus on improving their pathetic position in the Barclays Premier League.

These two were paired up in the 2005/06 FA Cup, and United were on the wrong side of 1-0 scoreline at Anfield, which was the first time that Liverpool triumphed over the visitors in the FA Cup in 85 years.

That match will not be remembered for Peter Crouch’s winning goal, though, but rather Alan Smith’s stomach-turning dislocated ankle, and then the despicable actions of the vile Liverpool supporters who attempted to tip over the ambulance he was being transported to the hospital in.

United and Liverpool have already met once this season and the former prevailed to a 3-2 at the Theater of Dreams earlier this season, which should have been a comfortable win, but the Red Devils made it difficult on themselves with carelessness.

Dimitar Berbatov, who became only the third United player to score five goals or more in one game against Blackburn, was the difference between the two teams as he grabbed the first hat-trick for United in 64 years in the Northwest Derby.

Depending on where United are in the league standings, will more than likely dictate whether Sir Alex chooses his first-choice or his fringe players for the match-up with Liverpool.

The FA Cup Third Round match between Manchester United and Liverpool will take place the weekend of January 8/9, which the Red of the North should walk out of Old Trafford and into the next round.

Either way, the Manchester United supporters will be entertained, because, hopefully, with virtually the entire squad fit, every player will want to give their all, so that they are being considered for places in the season’s run-in.

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