Manchester United and Chelsea played out an exciting 2-2 draw in the Quarter finals of the FA Cup which means they have to play a rematch at Stamford Bridge.
With an already air tight schedule, it is sure a burden for both the clubs. Both United and Chelsea are set to hold discussions today (Monday) with the FA and Premier League, but a look at the calendar makes it tricky to find a date for the game. There is usually a police requirement of 10 days notice for a replay to enable them to put in place a policing plan, which would take us forward to Saturday 23rd March – a date when the players will be away on International duties and those FIFA games also knock-out the following mid-week slot.
The weekend of 30th to 31st March looks a big possibility, though scheduling the match then would require the postponement of Sunderland v Manchester United and Southampton v Chelsea (both of them listed as Sky Sports live coverage games). The big question is would the powerful broadcaster object to losing not one, but two matches and would the clubs and Premier League be happy with both games being re-scheduled for a second time?
One mooted possibility is that both the Premier League matches could be played on Saturday and the replay goes to Monday 1st April which is a non-starter as Fulham host QPR on that night. However the problem with the security issue still remains as the Met Police will never permit that sort of draw on it’s resources on one night in Hammersmith and Fulham. Also the replay is unlikely to go to Tuesday 2nd or Wednesday 3rd April as both eat into the preparation time for Chelsea’s potential Europa League quarter final first leg, should they get past Steaua Bucharest.
With the FA Cup semi finals occupying an immovable place in the calendar on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th April, there is only one other place for the Chelsea v Manchester United replay to go which is the first weekend of April.
Nobody will want this to happen as it would require the postponement of Chelsea v Sunderland and, more significantly, the Manchester derby at Old Trafford (another game due to occupy Sky’s Monday Night Football slot). It would also mean the lions share of Wembley’s ticketing process having to be steam-rolled through in six days.
There is one radical idea to schedule the match this coming Sunday, in place of Chelsea v West Ham. It is theoretically possible that the Met could effectively copy and paste it’s West Ham policing plan for United. Whatever solution is devised the scheduling of this game, unwanted by both clubs, is likely to have a knock-on effect on several other matches.