All change in the beautiful game

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The Independent Online

According to Sir Bobby Robson, the former England football manager, it is "the greatest single match outside the World Cup Final". Rob Styles, who has been selected to preside over the game, regards it as "the pinnacle of any referee's career". They are both, of course, talking about the FA Cup Final, which will be contested at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium today between Manchester United and Arsenal. And as the hype this week demonstrates, this grand old fixture in the English football calendar still has the power to quicken the pulse.

According to Sir Bobby Robson, the former England football manager, it is "the greatest single match outside the World Cup Final". Rob Styles, who has been selected to preside over the game, regards it as "the pinnacle of any referee's career". They are both, of course, talking about the FA Cup Final, which will be contested at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium today between Manchester United and Arsenal. And as the hype this week demonstrates, this grand old fixture in the English football calendar still has the power to quicken the pulse.

This year's final has been billed as the latest instalment in an epic rivalry between two managers - Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger of Arsenal. Yet there can be no disguising a feeling of emptiness. The runaway success of Chelsea in the Premiership, not to mention Liverpool's surprise appearance in the final of the Champions' League, has made this encounter feel like a side show. This just goes to show how quickly things can change in football. And that, no doubt, is an important part of its attraction. Next year, the final is scheduled to return to Wembley Stadium. Business as usual? Don't count on it.

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