Weekend Witness - - Sport -

LON­DON — Manch­ester United will hope there are no lin­ger­ing ill-ef­fects from their re­cent Pre­mier League set­back at Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur when they host Ful­ham in the FA Cup fourth round to­day.

United con­ceded an in­jury­time equaliser in a 1-1 draw at a snowy White Hart Lane last week­end, al­low­ing cham­pi­ons Manch­ester City to breathe new life into the ti­tle race by cut­ting their ri­vals’ lead to five points.

United have gone nine years with­out win­ning the FA Cup, lead­ing man­ager Alex Fer­gu­son to state that he wants his side “to try and have a go” at it in the cur­rent cam­paign.

To that end, he will find lit­tle dis­cour­age­ment in Ful­ham’s re­cent form.

Martin Jol’s men, who squeezed past Black­pool af­ter a third-round re­play, have col­lected just 12 points from a pos­si­ble 45 in the Pre­mier League; a run that has seen them slide to 14th in the English top flight.

The United squad have spent the week in Qatar for a warmweather train­ing camp ahead of to­day’s re­u­nion with former strik- er Dim­i­tar Ber­ba­tov.

The Bul­gar­ian is ex­pected to make his first ap­pear­ance at Old Traf­ford since leav­ing the club in the close sea­son and United de­fender Phil Jones is look­ing for­ward to pit­ting him­self against his former team-mate.

“It’ll be great to see Berba back at Old Traf­ford. Tech­ni­cally he’s a fan­tas­tic player,” he said.

“The FA Cup is a great com­pe­ti­tion and one we want to win. We want to go as far as we can. It’s a com­pe­ti­tion I’ve al­ways ad­mired. Hopefully we can get the re­sult we want and con­tinue to progress in the com­pe­ti­tion.”

Ar­se­nal, with­out a tro­phy of any de­scrip­tion since beat­ing United on penal­ties in the 2005 fi­nal, will hope to carry their mid­week mo­men­tum into the cup when they visit sec­ond-tier Brighton and Hove Al­bion.

Brighton knocked out New­cas­tle United in the third round, but Ar­se­nal go into the game on the back of a 5-1 thrash­ing of West Ham United on Wed­nes­day that rein­vig­o­rated their chal­lenge for Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

“I never felt that the play­ers didn’t know how im­por­tant it is,” said Ar­se­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger.

“I was more wor­ried that they are some­times a bit in­hib­ited in the re­cent big games from the start. But this team has a fan­tas­tic men­tal­ity and good qual­ity. That’s what we want to show un­til the end of the sea­son now.”

As in the pre­vi­ous round, the draw for round four was low on all-Pre­mier League con­fronta­tions, with Manch­ester City’s trip to Stoke City the only other tie to fea­ture two top-flight clubs.

Stoke were thrashed 4-0 by Chelsea in their last home game, but they boast an ex­cel­lent home record against City, who have not won at the Bri­tan­nia Sta­dium on their last six vis­its.

Min­nows in need of in­spi­ra­tion need look no fur­ther than Brad­ford City, who over­came As­ton Villa in the League Cup semi-fi­nals in mid-week to be­come the first English fourth-tier side to qual­ify for a ma­jor Wem­b­ley fi­nal.

Macclesfield Town of the fifth­di­vi­sion Con­fer­ence Na­tional, con­querors of Cham­pi­onship lead­ers Cardiff City in round three, host Wi­gan Ath­letic, who needed a re­play to see off third- tier Bournemouth in the pre­vi­ous round.

Fel­low non-league side Lu­ton Town, who slipped out of the Foot­ball League in 2009 af­ter go­ing into ad­min­is­tra­tion, also face top-flight op­po­si­tion in the form of Nor­wich City.

Sun­day of­fers up three evoca­tive cup ties, with third-tier Brent­ford and Old­ham Ath­letic gun­ning for up­sets against the re­spec­tive might of Chelsea and Liver­pool, while Tot­ten­ham travel to Leeds United.

Chelsea will be ea­ger to re­turn to ac­tion af­ter go­ing out of the League Cup to Swansea City on Wed­nes­day in a game that saw Eden Haz­ard sent off for kick­ing a ball boy. — Sapa-AFP.

Fix­tures To­day: Stoke City v Manch­ester City; Bolton Wan­der­ers v Ever­ton; Brighton and Hove Al­bion v Ar­se­nal; Derby County v Black­burn; Hud­der­s­field Town v Leicester City; Hull City v Barnsley; Macclesfield Town v Wi­gan Ath­letic; Mid­dles­brough V Alder­shot Town; Nor­wich City v Lu­ton Town; Queens Park Rangers v Mil­ton Keynes Dons; Read­ing v Sh­effield United; Manch­ester United v Ful­ham To­mor­row: Brent­ford v Chelsea; Leeds United v Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur; Old­ham Ath­letic v Liver­pool

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