Local rivalry and the battle for Europe add interest to semi-final draw
Monday 14 March 2011
"What a great day out. Let's av iiiiit with em." What Rio Ferdinand's tweet lacked in grammar it more than made up for in passion. On a weekend when the capital hosts the London Marathon, it will also provide a stage for the long-running Mancunian feud between City and United.
The first headache is scheduling the event at Wembley which is unlikely to be decided before Manchester City face Dynamo Kiev on Thursday night. Should City go through – and they trail 2-0 from the first leg in Ukraine – they would be on course to play in the Europa League on the Thursday before semi-final weekend, which would force the game to Sunday 17 April, the day of the London Marathon. If City are eliminated, the match is likely to be played on the Saturday, with Bolton facing Stoke the following afternoon.
For the first time since 1977 all four semi-finalists come from the north of England. Then, Everton played Liverpool at Maine Road and Manchester United and Leeds squared up at Hillsborough. Now more will see the semi-finals at a cost of massive travel disruption.
This will be the eighth time Manchester's two halves have met in the FA Cup and United lead 5-2. Their last encounter was in the fifth round in 2004, the year United last won the competition. However, for Roberto Mancini and his players, it is something to look forward to. "I will let you guess how much our next opponents mean to us," commented Vincent Kompany, while his manager said: "I think we have a good chance to go to the final but for sure the semi-final will be very hard."
Since the winners of the other semi between Bolton and Stoke will be guaranteed Europa League football, the big losers from the draw are Liverpool. To be able to stage European football at Anfield next season, Liverpool will either have to win the Europa League or finish fifth.
Bolton have not made an FA Cup semi-final for 11 years, losing to Aston Villa at the old Wembley, while Stoke, who have never reached an FA Cup final, last made a semi in 1972. Their manager, Tony Pulis, however, said he was not celebrating being handed an easier draw. "If you look at Bolton and their history, they have been a Premier League side a lot longer than us and have some very experienced Premier League players."
Manchester City v Manchester United
Bolton Wanderers v Stoke City
* Ties to take place at Wembley on weekend of 16-17 April.
* Final Saturday 14 May, Wembley
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