Football FA Cup: Bruce relishes classic

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IN SPITE of the holders pleading a prior engagement and the traditional third-round date being yanked rudely forward to this weekend from January, the FA Cup insists on throwing up fascinating encounters.

None more so than today's meeting between the First Division leaders, Huddersfield Town, and Liverpool. A record McAlpine Stadium crowd is expected, and Huddersfield's manager, Steve Bruce, claimed the game "could have been sold four or five times over because the demand was so high".

"True, times have changed," he said. "Everybody would love the games to be on a Saturday, the way it used to be. But we've got to go along with those times."

During eight-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford, Bruce won the FA Cup three times, lifting the trophy as captain in his final game for the club, in 1996. He feels that United "were forced into going to South America [for the World Club Championship].

"Yes, they could have fielded a reserve side [in the Cup], but then a lot of people would have said that also undermines the competition. They were in a no-win situation. I can fully understand their position and think they were fully justified in pulling out.

"But we're now itching for our game to be played. I just hope we play the way we know we can, give them a helluva game and don't freeze on the day. This is one where I can say, `Come on, roll your sleeves up, have a go' and let's see if we can give our best performance. Because when you hang up the boots like I've done, you look back on the big games you've played in; I want the Huddersfield lads to remember this one."

Bruce is without centre-back Ken Monkou due to a medial ligament injury, while midfielder Chris Beech faces a late fitness test on a calf problem.