IF the FA Cup was a Christmas movie it would be Die Hard – an absolute classic from a bygone era which refuses to go quietly.

The Champions League now over-shadows the famous, old competition which turned 148 this year but there is still a place for the world’s oldest national football tournament.


Bruce Willis’ 1988 action hero Detective John McClane might not be as moody as Christian Bale’s Batman; as good looking as Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, slicker than Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft or more inspiring than Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.

Likewise the FA Cup is not rich, powerful or compelling as Europe’s elite competition but it does not mean it is dead and you can’t love both.

The third-round threw up its customary shocks and fairy-tale stories like League Two Newport County knocking out Leicester City, National League side Barnet winning at Sheffield United and Oldham getting the better of Fulham.

Like the Foxes, league leaders Liverpool made wholesale changes and promptly lost 2-1 at Wolves. Jurgen Klopp brought in nine new faces, including three rookies in 17-year-old Curtis Jones, Rafael Camacho, 18, and 16-year-old sub Ki-Jana Hoever.

Simon Mignolet – who could not save a Word document – and Alberto Moreno were recalled and once again proved they are nowhere near the calibre required for a club fighting for serious silverware.

Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi are fifth and sixth in the Reds’ striking pecking order and they started – it was a team that smacked of let’s put all our eggs in the Premier League-shaped basket.

Fine if the German achieves his lofty aim but a travesty if he does not. The stakes – already so high – have been lifted further at Anfield.

In the Carabao Cup merciless Manchester City blew away Burton Albion 9-0 – and there’s still 90 minutes of the second leg to go!

One of the best – if not the best – team in the world versus a mid-table League One side –  there was only going to be one outcome.

Those crying that Pep Guardiola’s side disrespected the Brewers can’t have it both ways. The big clubs have been criticised in recent years for not taking the league cup seriously so sometimes when they do these kind of results will happen. The only surprise is that it doesn’t happen more often,

But before their renaissance, City enjoyed Christmas as much turkeys do with back-to-back shock losses against Crystal Palace and Leicester which handed Liverpool the advantage in the title race.

But since then they have won four in a row, including edging out the Reds 2-1 and scored 21 goals in the process. They are currently hotter than that piece of gammon sweating over his future after verbally abusing MP Anna Soubry.

TWO games stand out in the Premier League this weekend – Tottenham v Manchester United and Brighton v Liverpool.

Jose Mourinho was hardly the cheeriest bunny in the warren but United did not axe him because of some vague notion that the club stands against the immediacy of modern life or is run by any higher principles.

They got rid when the fixture list threw up a run of games that read Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Reading. Talk about easing interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in!

But Spurs away this Sunday is where it really starts for the Norwegian.

The Red Devils have not won away in this fixture since 2012 and Solskjaer is up against the man widely tipped to replace him in the summer.

Mauricio Pochettino has played host to United four times and has not lost once – the Argentine has also overseen two 3-0 drubbings with the last one in August’s home fixture.

Preening. Obnoxious. Galling. Bothersome. Annoying.

Guess for who I’m talking about? Yes Paul Pogba – United’s talisman who has suddenly found form now he won the war to get rid of Mourinho and played some easy opponents.

The Portuguese used the subs bench as a naughty step for the arrogant Frenchman, while Solskjaer has gone the opposite way by putting an arm around the midfielder and stroking his massive ego.

Mourinho never settled in Manchester and lived in a hotel for his entire three years at United. Under him the side had become so passive that there were signs of rigor mortis visible to the naked eye. They were a group devoid of confidence, made miserable by their habitat.

Confidence is a brittle thing – easily built up and just as quickly destroyed but Pogba & Co’s levels are brimming over after five straight victories under their jovial club legend.

Fans are giddy with the change but if you’re too open-minded your brains will fall out.

So on to the Amex and Liverpool will be fighting to avoid falling to a third straight defeat in all competitions.

Anyone swallowing the false rhetoric that the Reds have been lucky this season needs to give their head a wobble.

Seeing a ball not cross the line by a hair’s breadth at the Etihad in the biggest game of the season is not lucky.

Having all your big injuries in one key position is not lucky.

Fighting a title battle with the record point scorers and one of the best teams not just in this era but any era is not lucky.

If the whispers are true that Virgil van Dijk has a mystery injury/illness  then Jurgen Klopp will be without his first, second (Joe Gomez – leg fracture) , third (Joel Matip – fractured collarbone) and fourth choice (Dejan Lovren – hamstring) centre-backs.

People will mutter about squad depth but how many players can you have in one position? Five, six, seven? And when everyone is fit how are you going to keep these players happy and give them game time?

Lose against the Seagulls and Klopp will feel he couldn’t currently ride a nightmare without falling out of bed but win and that elusive first title in 29 years inches one step closer – 22 down, 16 to go . . .

AND finally I can’t wait for Jose Mourinho to utter the words ‘I’m joining the biggest club in the world’ when he becomes Real Madrid boss for a second time.

Come on, he won’t be able to help himself. The guy loves a burn and it will hurt more coming from a former employee.

Manchester United fans constantly say they’re the biggest club in the world but 33 titles and 13 times kings of Europe compared to 20 and 3 tells a different story.

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