Tuesday 7 December 2021

United to face familiar foe in the FA Cup

Manchester United have been drawn against a divisional rival in the third round of the FA Cup. In other news, water is wet. 

It's that time of year again when the 44 sides from England's top two leagues enter the world's oldest and most prestigious knockout cup competition. 
The draw was made at Wembley on Monday evening by Arsenal Ladies Legend Faye White and men's counterpart David Seaman, a four time winner, and there were some eye catching ties.

For seemingly the umpteenth time in succession, United were paired with Premier League opposition, with Aston Villa to visit Old Trafford on an unconfirmed date between 7-10 January 2022. It felt inevitable we would be drawn to face another Premier League team having already been knocked out of the League Cup by West Ham. As is so often the case, the tie comes with a subplot to the proceedings. 

It means of course former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will return to M16 for the first time since his retirement as a player, with Gerrard having recently been appointed as manager of the west Midlands side when he replaced the sacked Dean Smith last month. 

Gerrard has a fair bit of history against United and will no doubt receive a *warm* reception from the Old Trafford faithful with plenty of chants about him slipping on his rear end. I'm not too bothered about the FA Cup but it would be nice to knock a side managed by Gerrard out and deny him another trophy, wouldn't it? 
In fairness to him, he has improved the Villains fortunes with three wins from his first four games in charge of the club - only a narrow loss to Manchester City has prevented an unbeaten start to Gerrard's time in the Villa Park hotseat. 

The tie will be the first of a double header with the Reds set to travel to the Second City to face Villa in the league on the 15th January as we look avenge the 0-1 loss at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.

This will be the thirteenth meeting between two of the biggest clubs in the country - with nineteen FA Cups between us - and the fifth this century. United came from behind to knock Villa out of this competition in 2002 and 2004 (en route to winning the trophy) with third round victories in consecutive seasons - at Old Trafford in 2007 and then in the Midlands the following season, the Double-winning campaign of 2007/08. 

United are 12 times winners of the famous trophy, with our last victory back in 2016 under Louis van Gaal. Villa haven't won the FA Cup since 1957, ironically against the Reds in a match infamous for Peter McParland's shoulder barge on United keeper Ray Wood - McParland went on to hit both goals to seal the club's seventh - and to date last - FA Cup triumph. 

Elsewhere, United's Premier League rivals were handed kind-looking ties with Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City all set to face lower league opponents as always seems to be the case.
Antonio Conte's men host third tier Morecambe, Jurgen Klopp's side also play a League One team in Shrewsbury whilst European champions Chelsea will host National League leaders Chesterfield at Stamford Bridge. Pep Guardiola will be happy with his team's annual bye to the fourth round as their remarkable run of favourable draws continue with City to travel to League Two high flyers Swindon. Arsenal, winners on the most occasions (14), face a potential banana skin when they visit Championship side Nottingham Forest. 

Holders Leicester host Watford and former manager Claudio Ranieri in one of three all-Premier League fixtures - West Ham against Leeds is the other -  and there's an intriguing south London derby between Millwall and Crystal Palace. 

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