United challenge FA Cup tradition as Mourinho argues the “Premiership is the Premiership, but the FA Cup is an incredible trophy to win.”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Someone has informed me I could apply to the FA to have extra-time. It’s an interesting one. I’ve never heard of this in my life. But it’s always been there [in the rules]. It’s in the ­articles of the association that both teams can apply to have the game decided [in one game] and notify the referee before the game. The criticism would be that we’re not adhering to the principles of the FA Cup or the spirit of it – but why have the FA got it [the rule] in there? It is their problem. It’s their fault, really. We will investigate it.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Runner-up: “I don’t know if it is the English mentality he dislikes but there are not a lot of English players at Liverpool. I have mentioned that before when I was at Arsenal so I guess I have not had much luck with foreign managers. Last season I played 34 games and in a Champions’ League final the previous year for Rafa but now he has had a change of plans. It is not for me to question the manager because he has done so well for Liverpool but it seems very strange to go from playing every week to training on my own on Saturday afternoons. But that is Rafa for you and I don’t think half the players at Liverpool can work him out. I have been speaking to a lot of the other Liverpool players and they could not understand why I was not being selected, especially in the games at home where they have struggled to win. It was the same with Peter Crouch and he had to get away too because he was not being picked.” – Jermaine Pennant.

Today’s overview: The FA Cup returns today under a black cloud, as news filters through over Manchester United’s attempt to undermine the competition by using an obscure FA rule in order to avoid a replay.

Daniel Taylor tells the story. “Ferguson was so desperate to avoid adding another game to United’s fixture list he had tried to instigate talks with Tottenham about taking advantage of the Football Association’s Rule 11a, which stipulates that a game can go into extra-time rather than replays providing the clubs agree in advance.”

With Rule 11a now in the public eye, Oliver Kay lays out the options now for FA. “The choice for the FA now is simple: keep this longstanding but little-known rule as the preserve of non-League clubs, or embrace it, raising the possibility of a kind of sudden-death scenario that might actually have come across as groundbreaking had they only announced it themselves.” For Henry Winter the FA are looking to nip this issue in the bud, claiming “the FA… will now move to close the loophole.”

The Telegraph lead today with a fabulous article written by Jose Mourinho, in which the Portuguese manager looks to set the record straight. “There is no truth in stories that I have been approached about the Manchester City job… As for Jenas, I never worked with him but he is a player I have always followed. When he was at Tottenham, even when he was at Newcastle, he was a player that I liked very much. Who knows? If it is true that Tottenham have some targets in the Inter squad, then why not?” And in a second article by Jose Mourinho he touches on the magic of the FA Cup writing “Sure, the Premiership is the Premiership, but the FA Cup, well, that is an incredible trophy to win.”

Liverpool continue to be the subject of a potential takeover bid from Kuwaiti billionaire Nasser al-Kharafi, but Matt Scott and Andy Hunter point out that deal is less attractive than first thought as “Tom Hicks and George Gillett will have to settle for £110m less than they would have received last July” under the current terms of the offer. The plot thickens according to Paul Kelso as the Reds’ owners are far from sining from the same hymn-sheet. “Hicks’s discussions with the Al Kharafis, which are understood to have begun without the knowledge of co-owner George Gillett… Hicks’s decision to return to the family to try to execute a new deal is understood to have infuriated Gillett and will further deepen the distrust between the two.”

James Lawton speaks out against Liverpool’s latest takeover rumours. “[Why are] Barca, Real Madrid, Milan, Internazionale and Juventus are not, like Liverpool, on the verge of rubbing shoulders with such prestigious corporations as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Wimpy in the investment portfolio of the latest Middle Eastern magnate invited to see the glint of gold on the green fields of English football.”

One club not up for sale remains Chelsea, Jeremy Wilson claiming “Chelsea have reaffirmed that the club is not for sale and will refuse to even speak with a Swiss private equity group, which claims to be preparing an offer.”

Martin Samuel scoops an exclusive interview with Manchester City manager, Mark Hughes. Sparky: “I don’t buy that I am not big enough to manage the best players. It is not as if I am green behind the gills. I have been a manager for 10 years, I have been in the Premier League for five years. To have people questioning my ability is annoying because I know my ability, I know the ability of my staff, too, and the way we work is second to none. What should never be levelled at us is that we don’t know what we are doing or that we don’t know in what direction we want the club to go.”

Clearly Terry Venables failed to read Sparky’s interview in the Mail before writing his own column in The Sun slamming City. “City are trying to build a palace on quicksand… If they really must buy superstars then the men they should be looking at are Spanish internationals Marcos Senna and Carles Puyol. These are top-drawer players who will bring the qualities City need — leadership, strength, guts, never-say-die.”

The Times roll out their new signing Gary Lineker, who today writes about why management is not for him. “Strikers don’t make great managers – discuss. We’re a selfish bunch by nature and maybe that’s the problem. To be bluntly honest, I would be reasonably happy if we lost a game 3-1 if I’d scored. That’s quite an admission. I had a chat with Alan Shearer and he said much the same… I’d rather have my ears pinned back — or give up eating crisps — than take the England job, even if you offered it to me tomorrow.”

On the transfer front, Jason Burt claims that Arsenal are now in touching distance of buying Andrei Arshavin, while in a second article Burt writes that “West Ham United have told Tottenham Hotspur not to bother submitting a new bid to sign the striker Carlton Cole after they immediately rejected an £8m offer.” Spurs have already targetted their replacement striker, Simon Jones learning that “Sunderland are in talks to sell Kenwyne Jones to Tottenham and receive £6million cash plus Darren Bent.”

Gary Jacob writes that “Newcastle United have inquired about signing Michael Johnson during discussions about the possible move of Shay Given, the Ireland goalkeeper, to Manchester City.” Crystal Palace’s Ben Watson continues to attract attention, Colin Young reporting how “Wigan boss Steve Bruce is looking to snatch Crystal Palace midfielder Ben Watson from Middlesbrough’s grasp as the Teesside club stall over his £2million move.”

In other football news, Des Kelly wonders “at what point does slaughtering a team or individual in public become self-defeating? Hull, for instance, haven’t won a League game since that on-field reprimand.” And lastly, on Scottish football, Ewan Murray argues that the Scottish game would benefit tremendously if the season was re-shaped so that it either became a summer sport or, at the very least, had a winter break.