FA braces itself for the Manchester invasion

During liverpool's glory, glory years, Kenny Dalglish used to refer to Wembley as "Anfield South". Next month, as three clubs from within a 20-mile radius of each other head to London for the FA Cup semi-finals, it will become "Greater Manchester South".

Some 100,000 fans from the two Manchester clubs and Bolton Wanderers will descend on London for the semi-finals and, although Stoke lies 50 miles to the south, its supporters too are likely to use the same rail line.

The FA will meet tomorrow to decide on the scheduling of both games. Semi-finals at the new Wembley, which is contracted to stage these fixtures until 2036, have tended to start at 5pm or 5.15pm on Saturday with a 4pm kick-off time on Sunday.

The showdown between United and City is likely to be staged on Saturday, 16 April, to avoid the London Marathon the following day and the prospect of fans from City, United and Liverpool – who are at Arsenal on the Sunday – converging at Euston Station.

And it is Euston that symbolises the absurdity of a Wembley semi-final. If the 5.15pm match finishes in 90 minutes, there will be two trains available with a combined capacity of 878 seats, of which 290 are first class. With extra-time and penalties, there will be one scheduled train service that will get supporters back to Manchester Piccadilly. It leaves Marylebone at 10pm and arrives, via a couple of changes at Birmingham, 12 hours and 39 minutes later.

However, Virgin, which runs the West Coast franchise, said it has already received requests to hire charter trains while extra relief trains could be put on, depending on the availability of crew and rolling stock.

An FA spokesperson said: "The fact two teams are coming down from Manchester does pose different circumstances, but we deal with different issues like this on a regular basis. We are not expecting huge problems or issues over this. We will also be talking to rail transport providers who will be bringing fans from Manchester."

The Metropolitan Police will have a major say on what day the all-Manchester semi-final, the first since 1926, will be held, but they are fully prepared for the influx of thousands of fans. "We deal with football matches – FA Cup semi-finals and final, internationals – all the time," said a spokesman.

For those in Manchester's sky blue half who are emerging from the shadow cast by Old Trafford, it scarcely matters where they face United. Every player in Roberto Mancini's squad is aware of the banner on Old Trafford's Stretford End that season by season ticks over the years Manchester City have gone trophy-less. It stands at 35.

"It spurs us on," said Micah Richards, whose header at Eastlands against Reading set up the semi-final meeting. "But we have a good squad now and it would be nice to be part of a team that pulls it down one day. We have players coming back from injury in Nigel de Jong, Adam Johnson and James Milner. We are going to need them, although we still feel we can do something this year."

After their first-leg defeat by Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League, the FA Cup may be the only realistic route to silverware. "Playing United makes it special but it would have been even more special had it been the final," said Richards. "But at least we know that if we beat United there is a really good chance we could win it."

Richards embraced Mancini after the goal, a make-up after the defeat in Kiev that had ended with a dressing-room row about the quality of City's defending in the Lobanovsky Stadium.

"I have always said that since Mancini's been here, he's been good to me," said Richards. "He has given me a chance from day one and he is still playing me. Having been here so long and having come through the academy, it did feel really nice to score such an important goal."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living