FA Cup diminishing as focus shifts to league success

Onus on big boys to restore aura of premier competition

FA Cup diminishing as focus shifts to league success

 FA Cup fans will be hoping that top premier league sides field full-strength squads. AFP

It seems unthinkable that an Old Trafford meeting that conjures up memories of some classic Cup clashes when Leeds were a major force in the 1960s and 1970s could now be seen as an unwelcome distraction for both teams.  However, such is the reduced allure of the world's oldest knockout competition, which Manchester United have won a record 11 times, that it could well be a reserves parade on Sunday.

Manchester United are desperate to overtake Premier League leaders Chelsea and win an unprecedented fourth successive league title, while they also have an eye on their forthcoming Champions League tie with AC Milan.

Manager Alex Ferguson regularly rests his big names in the Cup and paid the price last season’s semifinal loss to Everton on penalties.

Leeds will also be wary of being diverted from their main priority: securing promotion to the Championship (second division) with a view to getting back to the Premier League they last graced in 2004.

Currently eight points clear in League One, they are looking good. Recent opponents have included Brentford, Accrington Stanley, Hartlepool United and Stockport County and their fans will savour a now rare visit to opponents who once feared them.

Forty seasons ago, it was unthinkable that teams would field weakened teams in the FA Cup and although Leeds manager Simon Grayson is yet to reveal his hand for Sunday's game, he gave a hint when he said after the draw: "The league is our bread and butter. It's the league that counts and picking up points to get us closer to where we want to be.

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