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Alan Hansen's take on the FA Cup semi-finals

Carlos Tevez
Losing Tevez is a major blow to Man City's hopes of reaching the FA Cup final

Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

The FA Cup semi-finals take to the Wembley stage this weekend, offering up two contrasting ties with Manchester City meeting Manchester United in a local derby and a pairing of the remaining underdogs Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City.

And if we are examining contrasts, then we can instantly turn to Saturday's game game between City and United after the week enjoyed by Sir Alex Ferguson and endured by his Eastlands counterpart Roberto Mancini.

I can only endorse what everyone else said about City's performance in the 3-0 defeat at Liverpool on Monday. Yes, Liverpool were very good but City were an absolute disgrace.

United showed how it should be done before a big FA Cup semi-final with a committed, organised and excellent win against Chelsea at Old Trafford 24 hours later to reach the last four of the Champions League.

If you put in a showing like that before a major FA Cup semi-final, then it is difficult to see how you can come back

Alan Hansen

City's display was abject and will be of real concern to Mancini and their supporters. If you put in a showing like that before a major FA Cup semi-final, then it is difficult to see how you can come back.

The FA Cup is big for Manchester City but there is also the danger they could drop out of the top four in the chase for Champions League places if they offer up anything more like that.

It is likely the owners would expect the top four to be a minimum requirement for Mancini after the money they have pumped in and if there was a concentration on the FA Cup semi-final when they produced that lamentable display at Anfield, then it was a mistake.

Form is not something you can turn on and off like a tap. This is not Brazil's 1970 World Cup winning team we are talking about here. Manchester City cannot just go out and play knowing everything will turn out fine.

The effort, or lack of it, in certain areas was a real travesty for their fantastic supporters who continued to back them all night. You can play badly, that happens, but what cannot be excused is when you put in a performance that contains so much non-commitment in the game before a Wembley semi-final and with a Champions League place on the line.

Javier Hernandez and Ji Sung Park
Manchester United's team spirit gives them an edge

I do sometimes feel that success is a bonus rather than an essential with some of the multi-million pound players today. They have the finance, they have the trappings and too often it seems to me that they think success is something that is fine when you get it, but if you don't there is always another day.

When we enjoyed our successes at Liverpool we had to earn what was regarded as the big money in those days. When we reached the 1978 European Cup Final, we were on £250 to win the semi-final - but that jumped to £6,500 if we beat Bruges. It was incentive-based and let me tell you it worked. I'm not sure it applies these days.

The defeat and display was bad enough but what Mancini did not need to accompany it was the injury to Carlos Tevez that looks certain to rule him out of Wembley. Of all the foreign players who have come to the Premier League, certainly the forwards, Tevez has got the best work rate.

He shows such commitment that he drags his team-mates with him, elevates them. They see him chasing every lost cause and feel obliged to do the same. It is a lesson Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli would do well to learn because they were awful at Anfield.

If we look at the opposing managers, I think we have one at City who expects total commitment and one at United who demands it. Ferguson will defend his players to the ends of the earth, as all great managers do, but they must fulfil their part of the bargain by giving the maximum for every second of every game.

Manchester City can beat Manchester United because they have got very good players but too often they play like total strangers and that would concern me. I recall it happening against Tottenham when they needed a result to reach the Champions League last season and it happened once more at Anfield on Monday.

I would suggest United are together 99% of the time while City are together 9% of the time

Alan Hansen

When I walked out of the dressing room at seven minutes to three as a Liverpool player, I had the words of Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran ringing in my ears. I can still hear them now: "Be together. Whatever you do, be together."

I would suggest United are together 99% of the time while City are together 9% of the time. If they can somehow bridge that 90% gap at Wembley then they have got the chance to make a big statement.

I think City are lucky that United are also still fighting on three fronts. If you listed United's priorities it would be a tough call between the Champions League and the Premier League but the one they may sacrifice if they were obliged to make a choice would be the FA Cup, although Ferguson will not want a Wembley loss to City anywhere near his wonderful CV.

And another thing that should help City is that any player or manager who suffers the sort of nightmare 90 minutes they had at Anfield on Monday will crave a big game quickly to exorcise those demons. They won't come much bigger than this one.

The big question for me is whether City have got the commitment, the players, the willpower and the manager who will not simply expect commitment but demand it.

If City can achieve those things then they can turn this week's form on its head - but it will be quite a task.

That game will see Manchester resemble a ghost town on Saturday, but don't tell anyone in Bolton or Stoke that their tie should take second billing 24 hours later.

Bolton fans
Bolton fans are ready for their first appearance in a Wembley semi-final since 2000

For either side to reach the FA Cup Final would be a wonderful achievement and a deserved reward for the work of two excellent managers in Owen Coyle and Tony Pulis.

It is the beauty of the FA Cup that sees these two great old clubs fighting for a place in the final. If they get there, it will revive memories of the sort of support and build-up we used to see before Wembley FA Cup Finals 20 years ago. It is pretty much impossible to see either club in the Champions League so it would be the ultimate occasion for them.

Stoke have got a wonderful fan base and Bolton's passionate backers have relished watching them not just survive but flourish under Coyle.

Bolton are also driven by a sense of destiny that this might be their year following the recent death of their great club icon Sir Nat Lofthouse, who scored twice when they beat Manchester United 2-0 in their last final appearance in 1958. Stoke will have something to say about that.

I think this has got the prospect of being a really good game. Both sides have no relegation fears and can really go for it and I fully expect Coyle and Pulis to do so.

What I like about these managers is that they play to their strengths. There has been a lot of talk about Coyle trying to play a shorter game than Bolton did previously but he has mixed it up wisely, varying the tactics. Pulis and Stoke are often discussed in terms of Rory Delap's long throw but tell me what is wrong with using a weapon as potent as that?

And Pulis has creative players too in the shape of Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant so they certainly have more than one string to their bow.

Matthew Etherington, Jonathan Walters and Jermaine Pennant
Pennant and Etherington have added creativity to Stoke City

Many managers have floundered in the Premier League by deciding the tactics first then looking at the players at their disposal. Coyle and Pulis have done exactly the opposite and got the success they deserve.

If Delap's long throw and the service provided by Etherington and Pennant will be central to Stoke's hopes, then we can be sure Kevin Davies will be the main man for Bolton.

Davies has done a phenomenal job for that club. He is so difficult to play, brilliant in the air and with plenty of ability on the ground. He reminds me of an old adversary of mine, Everton's Graeme Sharp, who played in such a manner that you were forced into fouling him as you tried to get around him and cope with how awkward he was. This results in set pieces and Bolton have the ammunition there to take advantage.

How Stoke's powerful defenders cope with Davies will be one of the focal points that could decide this one - and it will be a very close call on who goes through to that Wembley date against City or United.

Alan Hansen was talking to BBC Sport's Phil McNulty.



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see also
Rooney explains swearing mistake
13 Apr 11 |  Man Utd
Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea (agg 3-1)
12 Apr 11 |  Europe
Shawcross proud of Wembley honour
12 Apr 11 |  Stoke
Tevez hit by month-long lay-off
14 Apr 11 |  Man City


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