The FA Cup draw delivered an extra special present this time around, matching Manchester City and Manchester United against each other in the third round proper. The Red Devils are set to visit Etihad Stadium, but there's more than a spot in the next round for them after they were taken apart by the Citizens to the tune of 6-1 earlier this season. Now it's a matter of getting revenge too and thanks to a long list of absences on the Citizens' side, they might be able to get it.
When it comes to Manchester football and the midfield it is usually United who have problems, but this time around it is the Citizens who have midfield problems. Injuries, suspension and the Africa Cup of Nations have combined to leave City depleted in the center of the pitch. All of a sudden, United might have a rare advantage in the middle.
Yaya Toure has been barred from playing in Sunday's clash by the Ivory Coast, who are insisting that he report for training ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations despite the pleas of City manager Roberto Mancini and Toure. Gareth Barry is also out to to suspension and Owen Hargeaves is injured. That leaves Nigel de Jong and James Milner as the Citizens' only fit central midfielders, which could become quite the problem if either gets hurt or tires late in the match.
Exactly who Sir Alex Ferguson chooses to plays in his mess of a central midfield is unknown, but whoever he goes with has a fighting chance all of a sudden, especially late in the match when Mancini doesn't have another option to go to. For reasons unknown to anyone who has watched the Red Devils in recent years, even the retirement of Paul Scholes wasn't enough to convince Ferguson to buy a central midfielder, but maybe he was really more clever than anyone else and just knew that his opponents' central midfielders would start dropping like flies? Luck or luck (it's luck), the Red Devils have a chance in the middle now.
The center of the midfield isn't the only place that the Citizens are hurting. Like his brother Yaya, Kolo Toure is being called for national team duty and cannot play, while Mario Balotelli isn't available as he battles an ankle injury, while Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri are still a bit of a doubt as Dzeko battles a balky knee and Nasri an illness. The list of unavailable might soon be longer than the list of available at Eastlands, giving Manchester United a way back from their 6-1 humiliation to the fourth round of the FA Cup and putting a smile on the faces of those on the red side of Manchester.