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FA Cup Betting: Sir Alex Ferguson will be fired up for clash with Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez meets his old nemesis for the first time as Chelsea manager on Sunday

"Sunday will be the first time Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez have met since the Spaniard’s departure from Liverpool and the pair have a fiery history to rekindle."

Back the draw at 3.953/1

Manchester United have not won the FA Cup since 2004 but have a great opportunity to do so this season, says Hannah Duncan. Sir Alex Ferguson's side host Chelsea in the Sixth Round on Sunday but it's more than just the on-field action which could catch the eye...

Manchester United may have seen one trophy dream broken with defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League this week, but Sir Alex Ferguson's side still have plenty left to play for this season.

And while another couple of medals for the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will probably mean they need to build extensions to their trophy rooms at home, some of United's most prominent stars have the opportunity to lift a certain piece of iconic silverware for the first time.

Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney may have plenty of Premier League titles and even a Champions League crown to their names, but neither player has yet won domestic football's oldest competition - the FA Cup.

But, fuelled by their Champions League exit, they have a great chance to be victorious at Wembley in May and win their first FA Cup since 2004, despite facing holders Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Ferguson's side are second favourites behind neighbours and 2011 winners Manchester City to lift the FA Cup at 3.39/4, while Chelsea are at 7.87/1 to retain their title. 

Chelsea and Manchester United last met in the competition in the first final at the 'new' Wembley in 2007, where only a Didier Drogba goal in extra time separated the sides in what was a pretty drab encounter for the neutral.

Prior to that, the clubs had met in the FA Cup on 10 occasions - including one replay - with Manchester United enjoying far the better of the clashes, emerging as victors in eight of those matches including a 4-0 final win in 1994, with Chelsea coming out on top just once.

And given the Blues' recent plight under Rafael Benitez (more on him later), the tie almost seems a foregone conclusion.

But Chelsea have a proud recent history in the competition to uphold. First winning the FA Cup in 1970, they have lifted the trophy six times in the past 15 years, including four victories at the new Wembley. Manchester United are still heavy favourites at 1.855/6 to progress past Chelsea on Sunday, with the Blues outsiders at 4.57/2

But the one thing neither side will want is a draw 3.953/1, with both clubs already suffering from typically congested fixture lists as we reach the business end of the season.

A replay would be especially bad news for Chelsea, who have barely had a free week since the start of the season, with the Uefa Super Cup, Capital One Cup, FA Cup, Champions League, Europa League and Premier League matches - not to mention international fixtures - making this season one of (if not the most) fixture-laden of recent times.

But away from the action on the pitch, there will also be an interesting sideshow to keep an eye out for on the Old Trafford touchline.

Sunday will be the first time Sir Alex Ferguson and Benitez have met since the Spaniard's departure from Liverpool in 2010 and the pair have a somewhat fiery history to rekindle.

In 2009, Benitez went on a 'rant'(where have we heard that before?) at Fergie, listing 'facts' about the Scot's alleged influence over referees and his persistent complaints about Manchester United's fixture list.  

Despite the passage of time, the interim Chelsea boss reignited the spark between the pair in January by bringing the subject up again, saying it is up to the FA to choose what they do about Ferguson's comments towards officials.  

But whatever goes on in the press room or the dugouts on Sunday will mean little to the likes of Ferdinand and Rooney who have one final winners' medal to add to their sizeable collections, while John Terry, Frank Lampard and co. won't want to let their title go without a fight.

Recommended bet

Back Manchester United and Chelsea to take the game to a replay, with the draw at 3.953/1.

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06 March 2013

FA Cup


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