At this rate the FA Cup will soon be sponsored by Friends Reunited. Liverpool and Arsenal, already scheduled to tangle in the Carling Cup quarter-finals, will meet again in the senior competition after a third-round draw which also brought together Martin O'Neill and Henrik Larsson and reacquainted Paul Ince with Chelsea.
The heavyweight tussles at Anfield and Old Trafford are among four all-Premiership ties. For either Liverpool or Arsenal, both off the pace in the title race, yesterday's draw ensured that the route to another trophy will be instantly closed off.
The clubs are no strangers when it comes to the world's oldest knockout tournament. Arsenal completed their first League and Cup double in 1971 at the expense of Bill Shankly's team at Wembley, and a Michael Owen-inspired victory over Arsène Wenger's side in the final comprised part of Liverpool's cup treble 30 years later.
There is also a historical sub-plot to Manchester United against Aston Villa, 2007 marking the 50th anniversary of Villa's controversial defeat of the Busby Babes in the final. It was the last time Villa lifted the Cup, but O'Neill, the Villa manager, may be more concerned by the fact that Larsson, for so long his talisman at Celtic, could be making his United debut.
Macclesfield have yet to produce a win in League Two under Ince's management, yet he has steered them through two tough ties and the reward is a meeting of the 92nd-placed club and the Premiership champions at Stamford Bridge. As part of the Manchester United team that beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 1994 final, the self-styled Guv'nor is assured of a warm reception. Ince, 38, becomes eligible to resume playing next month but admitted: "I'm not sure what the lads would think about me putting myself straight in for such a match. I've been on the phone to Frank Lampard and the banter has started already."
Premiership clubs at risk include Tottenham, who visit the Championship contenders Cardiff; Fulham, who go to Leicester; Newcastle, away to a Birmingham side on course for a top-flight return; and Manchester City at a resurgent Sheffield Wednesday.
Last year the non-League sides Burton and Nuneaton held Manchester United and Middlesbrough, and the Midlands again carries the hopes of those craving the biggest upsets. Tamworth, who lie 21st in the Conference but pushed Stoke hard last season, will face Norwich at home.
Salisbury, who did the Conference South proud by frightening Nottingham Forest yesterday, have a strong incentive for the replay in the form of another home tie, against the Premiership's bottom club, Charlton. Aldershot and Basingstoke, meanwhile, will be replaying for the dubious privilege of a trek to Blackpool.
FA Cup Third Round draw
Blackpool v Aldershot or Basingstoke
Barnet v Colchester
Sheffield United v Swansea
Reading v Burnley
Portsmouth v Wigan
Mansfield or Doncaster v Bolton
West Ham v Brighton
Leicester v Fulham
Derby v Wrexham
Wolves v Oldham
Bury or Chester v Ipswich
Manchester United v Aston Villa
Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester City
Tamworth v Norwich
Salisbury or Nottm Forest v Charlton
Cardiff v Tottenham
Preston v Sunderland
Liverpool v Arsenal
Bristol Rovers or Bournemouth v Hereford
Watford v Stockport
Crystal Palace v Swindon
Bristol City v Coventry
Peterborough v Plymouth
QPR v Luton
Southend v Barnsley
West Bromwich Albion v Leeds
Hull v Middlesbrough
Birmingham v Newcastle
Torquay or Leyton Orient v Southampton
Everton v Blackburn
Chelsea v Macclesfield
Stoke v Bradford or Millwall
Ties to be played 6-7 JanuaryReuse content