A SIMMERING rivalry that has already delivered fireworks this season is poised to be reignited after Manchester City were drawn against neighbours Manchester United in the FA Cup third round.
Holders City, who thrashed United 6-1 at Old Trafford in October, could now inflict more misery on them by dumping them out of the FA Cup at what is the first hurdle for top-flight teams.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men will view it as an ideal chance to avenge their humiliation, with the bonus of ensuring Roberto Mancini’s upstarts cannot complete a domestic treble.
City currently top the Premier League and last week reached the semi-finals of the Carling Cup, a competition United bowed out of after a shock home defeat to Championship side Crystal Palace.
The clash between England’s two leading teams is the standout fixture from the draw and one of only two all-top flight games, the other being Blackburn’s visit to Newcastle.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas will enjoy his first taste of FA Cup action when they host Portsmouth, winners in 2008 who have since dropped into the Championship amid serial financial catastrophes.
Resurgent Arsenal, back up to fifth in the table after a horror start to the campaign, entertain Leeds, who they needed a replay to overcome last season, in a repeat of the 1972 final.
High-flying Tottenham, who sit third following a run of six consecutive league wins, will be confident of negotiating the visit of Cheltenham, despite the League Two side’s strong form.
Fulham meet League One’s runaway leaders Charlton in a London derby, while QPR travel to MK Dons, West Ham are away at Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool will meet Southend or Oldham at Anfield.
THIRD ROUND DRAW | HIGHLIGHTS
Manchester City v Manchester United
Chelsea v Portsmouth
Arsenal v Leeds United
Tottenham Hotspur v Cheltenham Town
Fulham v Charlton Athletic
Milton Keynes Dons v Queens Park Rangers
Sheffield Wednesday v West Ham United
Liverpool v Southend Utd/Oldham Ath
Everton v Tamworth
Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa
Ties to be played weekend of 7/8 Jan