MANCHESTER ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Micah Richards (R) of Manchester City tackles Patrice Evra (L) of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on February 12 2011 in Manchester England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: City Defeat 10-Man Red Devils 1-0 Thanks To Toure Goal

Manchester City face off against arch-rivals Manchester United at Wembley. The prize? A trip to the FA Cup final.

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Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Full Time, Yaya Toure Steals The Show

Yaya Toure has stolen the show at Wembley Stadium for Manchester City, as the Blues have put together a fantastic final hour of football en route to a 1-0 win over their rivals Manchester United. City will be headed to their first FA Cup final in 30 years, where they will likely be favorites against the winner of tomorrow's semi-final between Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers.

The lone goal came in the 54th minute from Toure, who might have been named man of the match even if he didn't score the winner. The chance was created when Michael Carrick sloppily gave the ball away to Toure in his own half, and the Ivorian took advantage. After getting the ball, he powered past Nemanja Vidic and finished calmly, giving City the only goal they would need.

Manchester United almost got back into the game in the 65th minute through Nani and a bizarre free kick sequence. His effort took a deflection off of the head of Mario Balotelli, forcing Joe Hart into an awkward save. He could only manage to tip the ball onto the crossbar, but that was good enough to prevent the goal.

In the 72nd minute, Paul Scholes received a straight red card for a high boot on Pablo Zabaleta in true Paul Scholes fashion. His card put a serious dent in United's hopes of coming back, and though they pumped balls into the box late in the game, they never recovered from going down to ten men. After a good first 30 minutes for United, the final hour belonged to the Blues.

Unfortunately, the match ended with a fight of sorts, which is hardly surprising. Also not surprising were the men involved in starting the incident, Mario Balotelli and Rio Ferdinand. Both of them shoved multiple players and appeared to use abusive language towards each other and other opposing players, and it will be interesting to see if the FA imposes any kind of retroactive punishment.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: City Earn 1-0 Win Over 10-Man United

We're into the dying seconds of the match now and Manchester United are still trailing their cross-city rivals by a goal to nil, and are also down to ten men. Cross after cross is being swung in, but that's a foul by Fabio da Silva with no time left and that must be the end of the line for United and victory for underdogs Manchester City. Indeed it is! Mike Dean puts his whistle to his lips, and three peeps later City have booked their place in the FA Cup final!

Mario Balotelli, of course, can't help himself but to mock Rio Ferdinand after the final whistle, and the two start a bit of a contretemps and have to be separated by Edwin van der Sar. United's players trudge off as City celebrate on the Wembley turf - Wayne Rooney watches on from the stands. How different would the match have been had the inspirational striker been able to play?

Manchester City, of course, won't care. They're just one more win from their first piece of silverware in decades, and their place in the final is well deserved. Will they be facing Stoke City or Bolton Wanderers? We'll find out tomorrow.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Yaya Toure Nearly Wraps Things Up

Manchester United's Nani has just tried for the spectacular equaliser, but Gareth Barry was up to the task and the midfielder managed to burst upfield, nearly putting Yaya Toure in for his second goal in the process. Toure was nudged over by Nemanja Vidic in the process and Roberto Mancini was creaming for a penalty, but it wasn't given  (for the reason that it almost certainly wasn't a penalty). As that attack was going, the fourth official's board went up - we're going to get at least five minutes of stoppage time.

Manchester City fans will have their hearts all aflutter until the final whistle or a second goal, and they very nearly got to celebrate early after Shaun Wright-Phillips burst through on the right and nearly managed to thread a ball through to Yaya Toure in the centre, only for Edwin van der Sar to cut the ball out. United still don't look like scoring though...


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Substitutions For Both Sides As United Try To Find An Equalizer

Sir Alex Ferguson does indeed deploy Manchester United's final roll of the dice - it's Fabio da Silva for the astonishingly ineffective John O'Shea in an effort to get more width on their right without sacrificing any defence (which would be impossible, because O'Shea hasn't provided any). With five minutes to go, that move seems a little bit futile, but there's not much Ferguson can do - Paul Scholes getting himself sent off right after Javier Hernandez was introduced  has well and truly scuppered his plans.

Roberto Mancini has made a substitution as well, introducing Patrick Vieira for David Silva, who just happened to be on the opposite side of the pitch as the board went off. A long slow walk followed, eating up a good thirty seconds, but eventually Silva managed to make his way to the bench and Manchester City are now fielding three defensive midfielders in an attempt to see the rest of the game out. Patrice Evra's bizarre snap-shot attempt won't dent their belief that they can do just that.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Flurry Of United Shots Stopped By Joe Hart

Michael Carrick has come reasonably close to getting Manchester United on the scoresheet, but ultimately his end product wasn't worthy of his build-up and he sent his curling attempt straight into the grateful arms of Joe Hart after doing very well to find himself space to shot inside the area. Manchester City don't seem too worried about the threat of ten-man United, which could easily come back to bite them - Javier Hernandez nearly squirmed through in the box and Park Ji-Sung drew a routine save out of Hart with a cross.

Roberto Mancini has made his first substitution of the match, by the way, bringing off the tiring Adam Johnson for Shaun Wright-Phillips, who looks more than capable of blowing by Patrice Evra at will whenever he has the ball - Sir Alex Ferguson might to well to replace Evra with someone who doesn't look quite so exhausted. That said, John O'Shea is also looking terrible, and Ferguson has just one more substitute available to him. Hmmm.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Paul Scholes Shown Straight Red For Challenge On Pablo Zabaleta

Paul Scholes has been sent off for Manchester United and that's going to make it very difficult for them to get themselves back into the match now. For reasons that will be known only to him, Scholes went in high and late on Pablo Zabaleta, catching the Manchester City right-back in the thigh with his studs after the ball was well away. Mike Dean had very little choice but to show Scholes a red card there, and the midfielder has trudged off the Wembley turf in disgrace.

Sir Alex Ferguson has had to re-jig his team shape now, and he's gone to a 4-4-1, removing Dimitar Berbatov in favour of Brazilian midfielder Anderson. It was going to be difficult enough to breach the City rearguard with eleven men, and with ten it may be well on impossible for the Red Devils to get back into the match. Nigel de Jong has also picked up a booking, incidentally, and Aleksandar Kolorov wasted a good chance after skinning defensive liability John O'Shea and shooting into the side netting rather than passing to David Silva. Despite those minor setbacks, it's looking pretty good right now for City, who have fifteen minutes left to hold on.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Nani Hits Crossbar After Chicharito Comes On

That was an odd save from Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, who just about managed to avoid conceding from the free kick which saw Pablo Zabaleta booked. Nani stepped over the ball and smashed it towards the top right corner, only to see the ball deflected back towards the centre after grazing Mario Balotelli's head in the wall. Hart had already started his dive and so was forced to stick out a hand to deflect the shot over, just about suceeding in tipping the effort onto the crossbar. That's as close as Manchester United have come all game.

Before the free kick was taken, incidentally, Antonio Valencia was taken off for Javier Hernandez as United shifted to a 4-4-2. Will it be enough to get Sir Alex Ferguson's side back into the match? Obviously it's impossible to write off United at any point, and City are going to be very uncomfortable until they get that second goal. Meanwhile, Mario Balotelli earend himself a booking for hacking down Michael Carrick. Nervy? You bet.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Joleon Lescott Wastes Big Chance To Make Score 2-0

Manchester City are still putting pressure on Manchester United both with and without the ball. They've been more than happy to drive towards the penalty area when in possession, and although they have a rather unfortunate habit of trying to run through the whole defence when they do lose the ball they are getting it back very very quickly. It was that pressing that led to the goal, and it's where Yaya Toure excels. Where Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes were running the game for United in the first half, Toure's owning the second so far.

Adam Johnson came close with a darting run into the penalty area which Edwin van der Sar just about stopped, but following a series of corners Joleon Lescott should have made it 2-0 when he planted an unmarked header well wide. As if to remind their opponents that wasting chances against them is a bad idea, United have mounted their first attack of the game, winning a free kick in a dangerous position that also saw Pablo Zabaleta booked. Can United make something of this?


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: City Dominant Following Opening Goal

It's interesting that Manchester City's opener came immediately after a horribly shanked clearance from Edwin van der Sar, because a few minutes before that it was Joe Hart who did much the same thing with a scuffed punt that nearly went straight to Dimitar Berbatov at the edge of the area. Fortunately for City, the Manchester United striker couldn't quite get on the end of that one, and they'd take the lead in a mirror scenario at the other end of the pitch.

Yaya Toure's opener hasn't seen City drop into a defensive shell like many might have expected - they're still going for it and severely testing a shell-shocked United defence. Although the goal hasn't quieted the red half of Wembley, who are still singing along quite happily, it's given City some extra impetus and they look more likely to grab their second than their opponents do to equalise. United have done nothing yet this half.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Yaya Toure Gives City 1-0 Lead

City's first real attack of the half comes within a few feet of being a goal. John O'Shea has always been a bit of a liability at right back, and he was sucked well inside when Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure drove down the centre of the pitch together. This left nobody covering Aleksandar Kolarov, who was fed by a neat reverse pass by Balotelli, cut into the box, and saw his cross turned just wide by the Italian striker. That was very close.

But they wouldn't be denied for long. A bad error from Edwin van der Sar saw the veteran goalkeeper pass straight to David Silva, and although Michael Carrick retrieved the ball he then gave the ball straight back to City, finding Yaya Toure with an attempted pass to Paul Scholes. Toure blew straight past Nemanja Vidic before clipping the ball between van der Sar's legs for that priceless opening goal. It's now Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United in this FA Cup semi-final.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: 0-0 Halftime, No One Brought Their Finishing Boots

Both Manchester United and Manchester City came to play in their FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley Stadium, but neither team has been able to finish thus far. Dimitar Berbatov had the first half's best chances and he absolutely should have put the Red Devils ahead early, but he wasn't the only person guilty of poor finishing.

Berbatov's chances came back to back in the 15th minute. The first came after a great bit of build-up play, capped off by a through ball into the box by Park Ji-Sung. Berbatov ran onto the ball and got a shot away, but it was well saved by Joe Hart. Seconds later, Nani sung a low cross into the box that met the foot of Berbatov, but the striker inexplicably skied his easy chance over the bar.

Other than that sequence and a header over the bar by Nemanja Vidic in the 25th minute, the match was fairly uneventful for the first 30 minutes, at which point the action picked up considerably. Berbatov had another opportunity on a corner kick in the 30th, but hit his header over the bar.

Manchester City then had all of the chances from that point until the end of the half, as the flow of the game changed considerably. In the 32nd minute, David Silva hit a low pass across the box to Gareth Barry, who made a very impressive turn to open himself up for a shot, but he hit the side netting to Edwin van der Sar's right.

City's last few chances came from long shots, and all of them failed to hit the back of the net in an unlucky fashion. Mario Balotelli took a great long shot from 30 yards in the 34th minute, but was denied by van der Sar. Joleon Lescott missed with a volley off of a set piece in the 36th minute, and Vincent Kompany missed a long shot in the 43rd minute, following a corner created by Yaya Toure.

Manchester United were very much in control of the first 30 minutes of the game, but after a half hour, Manchester City's central midfielders started to pressure higher up the pitch, which created more possession and more chances for City. It will be interesting to see what strategic changes, if any, both managers make for the second half.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Long Punts Ahoy As Second Half Gets Underway

Manchester City get us going in the second half and almost immediately attempt a silly long pass forward that Manchester United mop up and shuttle to Michael Carrick. The immediately attempts a silly long pass forward that goes out for a goal kick, and then Joe Hart's punt downfield is retrieved by the United defence. It's a bit like a pinball match here.

City manage to put a few (short) passes together and look at least vaguely dangerous for a while, but a clean(!) sliding challenge by Paul Scholes cuts out the opportunity, and then United are free to give the ball back to City with a long pass. At some point those punts are either going to actually work or no longer attempted, right? Please? City might be a boring team but they appear to have picked up the memo much faster than United have in this half, and consequently are looking more dangerous.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Vincent Kompany Hammers Wide In Dying Moments Of 1st Half

The first half is drawing to a close and although the first quarter of an hour was fairly poor the game's come to life since. Both teams are in the match now and both have seen clear chances go un-taken - I think you'd have to give the edge to Manchester United for that Dimitar Berbatov double-chance that saw the Bulgarian pick up zero goals and one injury, but Manchester City have been doing very well in the late stages of the first half and are certainly looking like a threat to score themselves.

Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany are the most recent City players to have a pop at Edwin van der Sar's net, and although Toure's attempt was blocked by Vemanja Vidic before it could threaten the only reason Kompany's brilliant first-time strike failed to give the underdogs the lead is because it skimmed the wrong side of the post on its way past the goal line. If Vidic had tried to block that he'd probably have had to go off the pitch for treatment.

Two minutes of injury time saw not much in the way of real action, so we're going to go into the interval at 0-0. It's not been too bad of a match so far, and it would be surprising if we ended up going to extra time or penalties here.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Balotelli, Lescott Both Come Close For City

Edwin van der Sar in the Manchester United goal has had to make his first save of the game here at Wembley, and it was a pretty good one too. The 40 year-old Dutch goalkeeper shouldn't have had to make any sort of save as Mario Balotelli picked up the ball in a fairly benign area of the pitch, but the volatile striker looked up, saw a chance, and unleashed a blistering long-range drive that van der Sar did well to tip over the crossbar. A series of Manchester City corners followed, and Joleon Lescott should probably have done better than volley well over when the ball dropped to him unmarked eight yards out. It's hard to blame him for not getting that one though, as defenders aren't really known for their aim on the volley.

Encouraging signs from City, however, who ten minutes ago were well and truly on the back foot. That's not to say that United aren't attacking, though - Joe Hart had to be very alert to snuff out a low cross as Nani smelled blood, and the winger also had a twenty yard attempt go wide of the post a minute or so later. We have a real game here now.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Gareth Barry Hits Side Netting With First City Chance

Manchester United are still well on top at Wembley, although they haven't managed to manufacture any chances as clear-cut as the ones Dimitar Berbatov wasted in the early going. Their latest attempts include a Nani free kick that slammed into the wall and bounced out for a corner as well as an acrobatic headed effort from that corner by Berbatov, who saw his header loop over Joe Hart's crossbar and then saw Pablo Zabeleta's head coming towards him at speed - the Bulgarian is now being treated for a bloody nose.

City used the brief spell of having a man advantage to try to settle the game down a little bit, and by the time Berbatov was back on the pitch they were in the middle of manufacturing their first real chance. David Silva swung in a cross from the right, and although Mario Balotelli got his feet tangled up he was able to eventually shuttle the ball to midfielder Gareth Barry, who turned John O-Shea expertly while taking a shot, only to see it miss the post by about two inches and slam into the side netting. Very good try by the oft-criticised England man.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Nemanja Vidic Nods Wide From Corner

Manchester United - particularly Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes - are bossing this game now and things are starting to get a little bit tetchy. Nani's getting the brunt of Manchester City's collective ire, but we're seeing a lot of fouls all of a sudden and it's all a little bit unpleasant. It's hard to blame Pablo Zabeleta for fouling the winger, though, because when he tries to make a legitimate tackle Nani just blows right by him, so there's really not a whole lot he can do about it.

Anyway, United well on top and Nemanja Vidic could easily have put them ahead from their latest corner. The Serbian defender rose well to not towards the far corner from an inswinging delivery, but although the header was hit hard it was also planted well wide of Joe Hart's goal. No problems there then.

Shortly after the Vidic chance, City make a rare foray up the pitch only to see Gareth Barry float a frankly pathetic cross straight into the arms of Edwin van der Sar. They desperately need to retain possession for a spell, and stuff like that (or an inexplicable long pass aimed at Mario Balotelli that went out for a goal kick) isn't helping at all.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Dimitar Berbatov Goes Close Twice In Quick Succession

Ooof, that's very close by Dimitar Berbatov twice inside a minute. Instead of having given Manchester United the lead, however, the enigmatic striker has missed two clean chances and injured his ankle to boot. His first opportunity came after being slipped in behind the defence by a clever pass from Park Ji-Sung, but Pablo Zabeleta was able to cover and provide just enough pressure to let Joe Hart come out and make a good stop.

United weren't done there, however. The ball popped out to Nani on the left wing, and the Portuguese - apparently all recovered from that Nigel de Jong kick of a few minutes ago - worked his way into the area before sending in fizzing low cross that Berbatov was first to. The Bulgarian slid in but got tangled up in his Aleksandar Kolarov's feet, sending the ball flying over the crossbar from three yards out and simultaneously twisting his ankle in the process. He should be ok to continue, however. It's all United right now, though.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Nigel De Jong Gives Nani Unfriendly Kick To The Face

More shenanigans at Wembley Stadium. Manchester United winger Nani tangles with City enforcer Nigel de Jong, both go to ground, and as more players pile into the fracas de Jong takes the opportunity to give his Portuguese opponent a nice little kick in the face with his studs. Mike Dean failed to see it and ignored Nani's protests - that would be his reputation biting him once again, I'd imagine.

We've also had our first shot and first corner of the match - Adam Johnson sending a low long-range effort well with of Edwin van der Sar's left post after a decent move found the England man in space, and then Nani did well to earn a corner at the other end of the pitch. Nothing came of it, butit has sent Manchester United onto the attack, and they're now quite happily camped out in the Manchester City half of the pitch.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Neither Side Attacking, Dull Game Thus Far

Five minutes into the match and we have our first controversial call. Poor play by Joleon Lescott allows Dimitar Berbatov to nick the ball in a dangerous part of the pitch, but Manchester United's Bulgarian forward was promptly blocked off the ball and Manchester City's defence could scramble clear. That looked like a foul, but nothing doing according to referee Mike Dean.

So we're rather back to square one here - slow passing play that builds up to nothing but totally pointless punts forward. One of these two teams would do well to even try to attack; their fear of being hit on the counter is obviously curtailing their more aggressive tendencies.

That said, City just came up with a quarter chance on a two-man attack, with Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli surging up the middle of the pitch. Balotelli outsped his marker and Toure's throughball came very close to finding him, only for the ever-alert Edwin van der Sar to reach the ball just ahead of the Italian striker.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: Game Underway At Wembley Stadium

We are underway at Wembley Stadium, with Park Ji-Sung kicking off to Dimitar Berbatov to get us started in this FA Cup semi-final. Manchester United against Manchester City with a trip to the finals at stake - it's hard to imagine a more compelling cup game than this. For United, the chance of notching a historic treble is on the line, but for City this is all about getting the monkey off their backs and finally winning a trophy.

The match has started fairly slowly, with City content to stroke it about in midfield and United pinging rather futile long balls in the vague direction of Berbatov, and thus giving it right back to City. If Sir Alex Ferguson' side are going to break down their rivals' formidable defence, they'll have to make use of their width, with Antonio Valencia against the erratic Aleksandar Kolarov on the right looking particularly tempting.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: City Lineups

Mario Balotelli will lead the line for Roberto Mancini and Manchester City as his side look to overturn decades of misery by reaching the FA Cup final at Manchester United's expense. Without Carlos Tevez, that won't be easy, but Mancini has opted to go for an attacking side which will probably be at least mildly troubling for the experienced United defence: Balotelli will be flanked by Adam Johnson on the right and David Silva will have the chance to display his artistry against John O'Shea at right back.

As expected, the formidable duo of Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry will shield a vulnerable looking defence, but contrary to previous reports, Micah Richards is not fit to start and will be replaced by Pablo Zabeleta at right back. The City defence will face a tricky United trident featuring Nani, Dimitar Berbatov, and Antonio Valencia - but at least there'll be no Wayne Rooney to torment them this time around.

Man City (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Aleksandar Kolarov, Joleon Lescott, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta; Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry; David Silva, Yaya Toure, Adam Johnson, Mario Balotelli.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: United Lineups

Sir Alex Ferguson has opted to go to a 4-3-3 against Manchester City for United's FA Cup semi-final showdown against their cross-town rivals at Wembley. With Wayne Rooney suspended, Dimitar Berbatov will lead the line with Javier Hernandez available off the bench if required. The Bulgarian hitman will be flanked by Nani on the left and Antonio Valencia to the right, who'll serve to pin back the City fullbacks as they try to get forward.

Michael Carrick, Park Ji-Sung, and Paul Scholes comprise a solid three-man centre. With Carrick suddenly finding top form again and Scholes more than happy to use his vast experience to pick out a pass, expect United's midfield to be excellent at getting the ball out to their attacking players. The back line is fairly standard, with John O'Shea starting in place of the injury Rafael da Silva.

Manchester United (4-3-3): Edwin van der Sar; Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, John O'Shea; Park Ji-Sing, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick; Nani, Dimitar Berbatov, Antonio Valencia.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final: David Silva City's Main Threat - The Busby Babe

With Carlos Tevez out of action for several weeks and the likes of Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko currently less-than-threatening, Manchester United must have someone to worry about for the FA Cup semi-final match between themselves and Manchester City on Saturday, right? Otherwise this whole match will probably be a bit of a farce. Who will trouble Nemanja Vidic and company in the Red Devils' back line?

According to Gene Um at SB Nation's Manchester United blog the Busby Babe, that man is Spainish international David Silva. The tricky attack-minded midfielder has caused United plenty of grief already this year, and Gene is expecting Silva's movement to result in some mayhem at Wembley:

At times this season, United's defense have struggled to deal with sides that have good movement in the attacking third. Whichever side that Silva is deployed on, he'll likely have the freedom to glide around in search of space and time on the ball. This is worrisome for United because he is a fantastic dribbler, has good vision, and he has the range of passing to break down the United defense. When the Spaniard drifts to center, he may be the one that can make up for his teammate's lack of creativity in the attacking third of the pitch. It will be vital for United's defenders to track his movements and zonally defend him; this requires clear communication and organization.

It's difficult to see a fool-proof strategy for beating Silva, so United might have more success in blocking off his obvious passing opportunities. Contain whichever one of Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli Roberto Mancini fields (on recent form this is not particularly difficult), don't let Yaya Toure break through the lines and suddenly Silva becomes far less of a threat.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City: Game Too Close To Call - Bitter And Blue

While tomorrow's battle between Manchester United and Manchester City may seem pretty easy to call on the surface - United have been better in the league than their rivals, more accomplished in Europe and a more coherent team overall - it might not be so wise to predict that Sir Alex Ferguson's men will simply coast to victory in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

It's easy to forget that City have on occaision played brilliantly this year, certainly well enough to beat United should the league leaders come out at something less than their best. Danny Pugsley at SB Nation's Manchester City blog Bitter and Blue is reminding everyone that City do have the talent not to simply get rolled over by United and that the game could be much closer than many expect:

It is a difficult game to call. Clearly there is not a huge amount in terms of separation between the two sides, and lest we forget prior to the defeat at Liverpool the garden was rosy following the 5-0 demolition of Sunderland. In recent times though, United have possessed that edge that has seen them gain the upper hand; call it resolve, strength of will or just plain old experience of having continually been in and emerged victorious from similar situations.

On paper, United are the stronger side, and I don't think you'd find anyone who'd suggest that they aren't also far more capable of dealing with playing on this sort of level than are City. But it's sensible to bear in mind that even without Carlos Tevez, even with all of those trophy-less years hanging over their heads, they're not a force to be taken lightly.


Preview: Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, FA Cup Semi-Final

The Battle of Manchester will be set on unfamiliar turf this round. Not content with merely sparring each other at a local level, Manchester United and arch-rivals Manchester City are taking their brawl to that national stage. It's not quite the FA Cup final, but it's the next best thing, and it's all happening on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester United are having another successful season and will presumably view this game as one more obstacle in their path to a possible treble now that they have a stranglehold on the Premier League and have dispatched nemeses Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals. City, on the other hand, have a chip on their collective shoulders.

The narrative is all skewed to one side here. City are perennial losers, something that their cross-city foes enjoy pointing out ad nauseum, and they stand a very good chance of winning the competition if only they can dispatch their demons against Sir Alex Ferguson and company.

Two two sides have met twice already this season - Wayne Rooney scoring a brilliant overhead kick to secure victory at Old Trafford and playing out to a goalless draw at the Eastlands, but a look at the wider picture does not bode particularly well for Roberto Mancini's side. Since the Italian took the helm, he has faced United four times and secured only one positive result, and the last time City did earn a win over United in the League Cup semi-final last season, it was overturned in the second leg, and United progressed to win the competition.

Mancini then has good reason to wish to change history for his suddenly beleaguered club:

All my players should understand very well that this is a big moment for us. The first trophy is the hardest but it is time for City to win something...

...The important thing is that we don't go there and think about the enormity of the game. We cannot afford for our heads to get full with the occasion.

United legend Paul Scholes, meanwhile, has made it plain that he doesn't much care about City, claiming that the only reason that they're even considered rivals at all is because of their geographical proximity:

When [City] are fourth or fifth, or wherever they are in the league, I don't think they can be classed as a main rival. Our main rivals are obviously Arsenal and Chelsea. I think City are just a rival because of where they are [geographically], and Liverpool the same.

In other words, one team's going to get themselves worked up into a frenzy, while the other side - who are better - are just treating this like another day of work. Either the extra motivation will actually get City to play good, free-flowing football, or they will implode in spectacular fashion. Does anyone really want Mario Balotelli riled up?

Injuries and Suspensions

Two huge names are out of the competition: Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez. are out through suspension and injury respectively, with Rooney serving the final game of a two-match ban after swearing into a camera during United's 4-2 win over West Ham United, an act which the FA frowned on. Tevez. meanwhile, suffered a nasty hamstring injury during City's loss to Liverpool at Anfield earlier in the week, and the rest of his season is in some doubt. He certainly won't be playing much here.

They're not the only ones missing, however. Manchester City right back Jerome Boateng has been ruled out thanks to a knee injury, although Micah Richards has declared himself fit to play. United's Jonny Evans is still suspended for his red-card tackle on Stuart Holden last month, midfielder Darren Fletcher is still a doubt thanks to a bad virus which has kept him out of action for most of the month, and Rafael da Silva is still absent thanks to a knee injury sustained against Chelsea.

Key Battle

United have been content to use a 4-4-2 in recent weeks, and that didn't change for their match against Fulham with Rooney out. City, meanwhile, will almost certainly field a 4-2-3-1, but although we might normally expect such a shape to have control of the centre, Mancini's side plays so deep against capable teams that it acts more like a 6-3-1 split side. In order to get into the match City have to push their two defensive mids high enough forwards to impose themselves on the game. Nigel De Jong, Gareth Barry, and Yaya Toure will have to win their battle against a resurgent Michael Carrick and midfield partner Paul Scholes in order to give Manchester City any chance of achieving a result.


5:45 PM GMT (12:45 PM EST), Saturday April 16th.

Projected Lineups*

Manchester United (4-4-2): Edwin van der Sar; Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, John O'Shea; Nani, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia; Dimitar Berbatov, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Aleksandar Kolarov, Joleon Lescott, Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards; Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong; David Silva, Yaya Toure, James Milner, Edin Dzeko.

*As much as you can project Sir Alex Ferguson's lineups, anyway.


Although Manchester City are clearly the more motivated side, that's an awful lot of pressure for a team that's never really showed it can handle it. They're slumping in the league and looking like they might not even keep hold of fourth this year, while Manchester United are soaring. Losing Wayne Rooney will hurt the league leaders, but the absence of Carlos Tevez will hurt City even more. 2-0 Manchester United.

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