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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 13 December, 2018

Ireland's top manager faces wounded Man United in repeat of 1983 final and the FA Cup talking points

Chris Hughton’s Brighton are after a place in the last four, while former League of Ireland boss Paul Cook takes on Southampton, who have a new man in the hot seat.

Seagulls boss Chris Hughton.
Seagulls boss Chris Hughton.
Image: Alex Morton

1. Hughton out to pour more misery on Mourinho

IT’S BEEN AN extremely mixed week for Manchester United.

After getting the better of rivals Liverpool thanks to Marcus Rashford’s double last Saturday, the Red Devils crashed out of the Champions League after hugely-frustrating performances over two legs against Sevilla.

Despite possessing an array of expensively-assembled talent throughout their squad, Jose Mourinho came up short by the side currently fifth in La Liga. Instead of holding his hands up, the Portuguese coach then came out with bizarre comments referencing the fact that he had knocked United out of Europe twice in the past as manager of Porto and Real Madrid.

Those remarks won’t have been well-received by fans, and, with United 16 points behind Man City in the league, the FA Cup represents Mourinho’s last chance of silverware this season.

They host Brighton & Hove Albion in an evening kick-off on St Patrick’s Day (7.45pm), who are managed by the highly-regarded Chris Hughton. Since working as Brian Kerr assistant with the senior international team, the former full-back has gone on to become the best Irish manager currently working in football.

The 59-year-old picked up Premier League Manager of the Month last week, and taking the Seagulls to the semi-finals will only enhance his reputation further. The tie is a repeat of the 1983 final, when United needed a replay to eventually prevail 4-0.

Source: killianM2/YouTube

2. Spurs begin life without Kane

There is little doubt that Harry Kane has developed into one of the top striker’s in world football in recent years. Having won the Premier League Golden Boot for the past two seasons, the Tottenham star is currently joint-top of the goalscoring charts alongside Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.

However, damaged knee ligaments mean he is expected to be sidelined until April and Spurs must plan without their talisman over the coming weeks. First up is Saturday’s last-eight showdown with fellow Premier League side Swansea (12.15pm) at the Liberty Stadium.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino has insisted that his squad is capable of excelling without Kane. He listed the likes of Heun-Min Son, Dele Alli and Erik Lamela as possible replacements, presumably in a ‘false nine’ role, but Spanish target man Fernando Llorente will be favourite to fill in up front.

Opponents Swansea have managed to get their act together since the arrival of Carlos Carvalhal. With wins over West Ham and Burnley in the past month, they will provide a decent test for Tottenham, who are chasing their first silverware under Pochettino.

3. Cook’s Latics to cause another upset?

League One outfit Wigan Athletic have already sent Manchester City, West Ham and Bournemouth packing from this season’s FA Cup. On Sunday (1.30pm), they intend to add another top flight club, Southampton, to that list.

Latics manager Paul Cook won two FAI Cups as manager of Sligo Rovers and he has done a stellar job since taking over at the DW Stadium last summer. As well as their giant-killing, they are second in England’s third tier, and with three games in-hand on leaders Blackburn Rovers, automatic promotion is still on the cards.

Wigan Athletic v Manchester City - The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round Wigan boss Paul Cook. Source: Chris Brunskill Ltd

Contrastingly, Southampton supporters have had little to shout about this season, and it’s unlikely that the appointment of Mark Hughes as their new manager will improve the atmosphere at St Mary’s.

The Welshman was named as Mauricio Pelligrino’s successor this week after the Saints could only pick up a single win in 17 league attempts to leave them fourth from bottom and just one point outside the drop zone.

Hughes, who had a spell at Southampton during the latter stages of his playing career, will be eager to make an immediate impression, starting this weekend, as his contract is only until the end of the season.

4. Foxes hoping for a first against Chelsea

The final of the last-eight pairings is up for decision on Sunday afternoon (4.30pm), when Leicester City host Chelsea at the King Power Stadium.

History doesn’t bode well for the Foxes. In five FA Cup meetings with the Blues, they haven’t progressed once. On top of that, Chelsea have gone on to win the competition on each of the last three occasions they knocked out Leicester.

Claude Puel’s men are in decent form going into the tie, with two wins and two draws from their last four games in all competitions. Chelsea, meanwhile, were undone by a Leo Messi-inspired Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday night and Antonio Conte is looking for a strong finish to what will almost certainly be his last at the club.

Even if the Italian goes on to lift the FA Cup and finish in the top-four, he appears odds-on to leave this summer.

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Ben Blake

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