In years gone by, the prospect of meeting Chelsea in a cup competition would have earned groans all around the Manchester United fan clubs, however, with the current demise of the Stamford Bridge club, it is almost a relief! Of course, Chelsea have themselves to beat Middlesbrough away at the Riverside Stadium first in their 4th round replay, a feat which is not necessarily the walkover it may once have seemed. Middlesbrough are one of the top teams in the Championship this year and whilst their form away from home has been a little patchy, their home form has been good.
Should Chelsea get past Middlesbrough, they then face an away trip to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Bearing in mind that they are currently 16 points behind and given United`s home form, this is a daunting task. It also will remove one of the remaining obstacles between United and a place in the FA Cup final, something they have not achieved since 2004. They also have the edge when it comes to previous results, having beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in October 2012 by 3-2, when Chelsea were arguably playing their better football.
With Manchester City also getting a home draw to lowly Barnsley from the lower reaches of the Championship, there remains the possibility of the very first Manchester derby Cup Final. Assuming that both Manchester teams win their respective matches, they only need to avoid each other in the semi-finals to make this a distinct possibility.
All United eyes will be focussed on Old Trafford tomorrow night as they take on struggling Reading in their 5th round match. Reading are as we know, fighting to stay in the Premier League, so this cup match is not really very high on their list of priorities. United will inevitably make changes and I expect a totally different team from that which played against Real Madrid in the Champions League last week.
Into the team will come Vidic, Anderson, Giggs and maybe Scholes, Smalling, Hernandez and maybe a couple of the younger players from the reserves. This team will be more than good enough to see off Reading, whose away form is diabolical.
If United win tomorrow night as expected, thoughts will start to stray towards the treble, something which Sir Alex said would never be repeated. Watch this space!