Sunday, 18 February 2018

United to host Brighton with Wembley on the horizon

United beat Huddersfield 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round to set up a home quarter final with Brighton&Hove Albion in a repeat of the 1983 showpiece. Chris Hughton's side are into the last eight for the first time in 32 years after they knocked out fourth tier side Coventry 3-1 at The Amex.

A few years ago, this would have been a dream tie for the club from the south coast but having enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top flight, it's a second Old Trafford trip of the season for the Seagulls as a Premier League team. The two sides met at OT in the league for the first time since '83 back in November in a tight contest, settled by Ashley Young's solitary strike. The return league fixture is the penultimate one of the season at the Amex in May.

But this is a fixture that will forever be synonymous with that meeting of 35 years ago, when the first Wembley match ended in a 2-2 draw, a tie famous for Gordon Smith's miss in the dying moments. United made Brighton pay in the replayed encounter five days later and eventually prevailed 4-0, with a brace from Bryan Robson added to with goals from Norman Whiteside and an Arnold Muhren penalty. 

A replay is not a possibility this time, with all ties from the quarter finals onwards to be played to a finish on the day. That means that extra-time and penalties could be needed to decide which team goes through to the last four, should things finish all square. There's also the option of a fourth substitute to be used in extra-time if needed. This is the fourth season in a row that United have got to the last eight of the world's oldest and most prestigious cup competition. The injustice of last season's quarter-final at Chelsea, when Eden Hazard's histrionics cheated us out of a shot at the semis, still lingers.

This time, there's a place at Wembley at stake for the winners with a spot in the last four up for grabs. Brighton's main priority is to secure survival in their debut Premier League season and you get the feeling that their attentions lie in the thrillingly congested relegation battle. But for United an FA Cup run is always welcome as the Reds chase a 13th title in this competition - one that would equal Arsenal's all-time record of wins in the Cup. With the Reds 16 points off the pace in pursuit of Manchester City, and a fourth European Cup crown improbable, this is a trophy that looks our most realistic chance of silverware. Elsewhere in the draw, Leicester face Chelsea in another all-Premier League tie, Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea wll play the winners of Rochdale's visit to Wembley to play Spurs, and Southampton travel to Wigan or Manchester City - who meet on Monday in a repeat of their famous 2013 final. 

 The ties take place across the weekend of 16 - 19 March. 

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