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United set their sights on Wembley

Wembley Stadium 2012United continued their astonishing run of drawing Premier League opposition in the FA Cup when they drew Chelsea in the 6th Round last month. I’m not sure of the facts exactly but I know it’s something like 23 out of the last 28 draws we’ve faced Premier League opposition.

United are currently bwin’s 2nd favourites for this season’s competition which (for us) kicked off with a trip to Upton Park to face West Ham in the 3rd Round which took a last minute pearler from then in-form Robin van Persie to secure a replay at Old Trafford a fortnight later where United progressed comfortably.

In Rounds 4 and 5 United faced Fulham and Reading at home and again progressed comfortably into the next round. Tomorrow however sees a tougher test as a wounded United take on Rafa Benitez’s Chelsea in the final round of ties to be played outside Wembley.

The two clubs have met 11 times in the FA Cup with Chelsea winning just 2 of those ties, one at Wembley in the 2007 final and the other way back in 1950 at Stamford Bridge.

Giggs celebration v Arsenal 99 FA CupTies between the two sides solely at Old Trafford read United 3, Draw 1, Chelsea 0. In those four ties Chelsea netted just the once. The drawn fixture was in 1999 (0-0) with the replay at Stamford Bridge a week later producing one of the performances of a very special season in a 2-0 win which secured United a semi-final appearance…..cue Peter Schmeichel, Ryan Giggs and that hairy chest!

All the talk this week has been about Wayne Rooney’s omission from the starting eleven on Tuesday against Real Madrid but in yesterdays press conference Sir Alex confirmed Rooney would play a part on Sunday.

After the cruel fate of Tuesday’s knockout it’s difficult not to expect a certain amount of hangover in the squad, but perhaps the hype over Rooney will have helped cure that rather than if the spotlight had remained on Nani and his shocking red card all week.

Sir Alex has done his best to refocus the attention away from Tuesday and on to Sunday but has admitted his players “were in shock” after the red card and also said “Our analysis of Real was perfect with exactly all the qualities all the players have. We made sure we were going to be a problem for them.

Nani red card v Madrid March 2013“Playing Ryan Giggs in off the right-hand side gave the left-back a big problem, whether he should push in or stick and protect the area because Rafael was hunting that space all the time. And Nani’s performance in wide left against the boy [Alvaro] Arbeloa was terrific.”

It’s been a week to forget thanks to one man with a big ego and a bigger mouth, one man who UEFA refuse to criticise despite the entire football world knowing he made an unbelievable mistake.

Hopefully Chelsea don’t capitalise on the inevitable hangover and probable slow start to Sunday’s tie before United get into their stride and find football to be the cure. With that in mind you have to consider the first twenty minutes to be crucial again.

What chance Sir Alex opts for a very similar looking team to that which finished the game on Tuesday?

Some of Tuesday’s performers will be itching to get back out there and cast away their feeling of injustice, I reckon the boss will use that to his advantage. Nani will start I expect, so too Rooney with those two having equal reason to vent a bit of anger from the start but both for totally different reasons.

Ryan Giggs lost his head on Tuesday BIG TIME and may have been given the opportunity to get it out of his system but he’s been ruled out along with Phil Jones.

Shinji Kagawa’s hat-trick against Norwich City last week could put him in with a big chance of starting and Javier Hernandez could also point to his record against Chelsea as reason to start.

Danny Welbeck will surely be rested after his lung busting efforts in midweek and it’s possible the boss has a dilemma on his hands with van Persie. The somewhat out-of-form striker hasn’t found the net since Everton at Old Trafford at the beginning of February. Replaced by Welbeck in the last two league outings and not getting a sniff on Tuesday, does the boss give him game time to recapture the fine form he showed up to February or does he rest him to recharge his batteries? I guess we won’t know the answer to that until tomorrow afternoon.

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Tomorrow’s victors will make their way to Wembley for the semi-final in a months time and as usual that will be hotly debated and why not!? Of the eight clubs still involved in the competition SIX of them are Northern clubs. It’s not unrealistic to predict the entire semi-finals will comprise of Northern clubs, surely this again makes a mockery of the decision not to use other neutral venues such as Villa Park and Hillsborough to host the semi-finals? I think it’s something EVERYONE in football would like to see regardless of the FA’s need to pay for Wembley.

If you fancy a bet on United bwin are again giving away a free bet to new customers. I’m using the £20 I got back for Giggs not even starting last week (I predicted he’d score anytime during the match v Norwich) to have a bet on Nani to score first United to win 2-1 @ 41.00.