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Football: FA fearing a new Cup explosion.


FOOTBALL'S most bitter managerial rivals face an FA Cup showdown next month - and Soho Square will be on stand-by to make sure the fury does not boil over again.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson will lock FA Cup horns for the fifth time in the clash of the last 16.

And while history says the winners will be parading round Wembley in glory in May, FA disciplinary chiefs will be more concerned that the underlying tension between the teams and managers does not break out into open warfare again.

Fergie has never forgiven Wenger for his failure to condemn 'Pizzagate', when he was splattered with food by Cesc Fabregas after the Gunners' record 49-match unbeaten league run was ended in controversial circumstances.

The Arsenal chief vowed he will "never" talk about the Scot again after being branded a "disgrace" for calling Ruud van Nistelrooy a "cheat" in that game but remains convinced Fergie sends his team out to try to kick Arsenal off the park.

And with Wenger and Ferguson aiming for a Treble and only goal difference separating them in the battle for the Premier League crown, their mutual determination to steal a psychological march ensures the game will be played with all the seething animosity of the past hanging in the air.

Wenger's Gunners will travel to Old Trafford for the fifth-round tie on February 16 and while the rest of the draw keeps alive the prospects of a side from outside the top four gate-crashing Wembley on May 17, the lessons of the past suggest the team which triumphs at United will go all the way.

On all four previous occasions that Wenger's side have taken on Fergie's, the victors have gone on the lift the trophy.

Arsenal won the Cup after a penalty shoot-out triumph in Cardiff in 2005 and also lifted the trophy in 2003, after a 2-0 fifth round win at Old Trafford overshadowed by Fergie's dressing room bust-up with David Beckham.

But United will have fond memories of their epic 1999 semi-final replay win at Villa Park, going on to complete the second leg of their Treble. And they were also Cup winners in 2004 after another Villa Park last-four victory over the Gunners, secured by a Paul Scholes strike.


Bristol Rov v Southampton

Cardiff v Wolves

Sheff Utd v Middlesbrough

Liverpool v Barnsley

Man Utd v Arsenal

Preston v Portsmouth

Coventry v West Brom

Chelsea v Huddersfield

Ties to be played on the weekend of Feb 16-17th


MATCH OF THE ROUND: Wenger and Ferguson; ANFIELD DATE: Davey
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 29, 2008
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