THE DAILY BUNG'S LUNCHTIME HEADLINES
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Algeria and Egypt meet in the second Africa Cup of Nations semi-final today with officials hopeful the enmity between the countries will not spill over. Not so, however, the players. 'For both sides this will be a war,' said Egypt striker Mohammed Zidan, with judicious understatement, 'this is a matter of life and death'.
And Juventus' legal suits are giving Liverpool manager Rafa Benítez's contract the once over to see if there is a loop hole big enough in it to squeeze the Spaniard through. May take a while though, seeing as Benítez had the thing redrafted eight times during negotiations and it has more clauses in it than Tiger Woods' next prenuptial agreement.
CUP OF CHEER
After all the petty recriminations, name calling, boasts and counter boasts that coloured the build up to last night's Carling Cup semi-final at Old Trafford there was a real danger that the main event wouldn't live up to its heightened billing. There was a danger, but in the end nothing to fear, we got what we wanted except for another 30 minutes we seemed to have been promised just when things were reaching boiling point.
If the first leg at Eastlands gave the dying Carling Cup a timely kiss of life, last night's fun and games shoved a couple of vodkas down its throat, stuffed a couple of Viagra in its sweaty palm, told it to dress up nice and took it out on the town dancing.
Old Trafford was seething with expectation and vitriol. Carlos Tévez played his role of pantomime villain to a tee; hustling and harrying, his little legs digging ditches in the turf he was so enthusiastic, before nicking ahead of Rio Ferdinand to score City's equaliser on aggregate late in the game after Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick had overhauled Manchester City's first leg lead.
In a second half that ebbed and flowed Wayne Rooney and Craig Bellamy took it in turns to excel, Rooney's turn and pass to release Ryan Giggs for what led to the first Manchester United goal was glorious to behold.
So when the dust has settled, Bellamy has got the smell of stale cider and beer out of his hair and the Old Trafford ground staff have pocketed a few pennies to put towards their Christmas party, what does it all mean?
The lesson to all is write United off at your peril. Sir Alex Ferguson picked his team and tactics perfectly last night, with Darren Fletcher in midfield doing the graft to support Giggs and Scholes' creaking but still gifted legs. Rooney can lead a line on his own, and then some, and any team that has him has got a better than even chance of pulling off something special.
City, too, despite defeat, enhanced their reputation as a coming force. Over the two legs there was little between the sides and last night City made as much of the running as their hosts. Tévez would be a 30 goals a season striker if the Manchester derby could be staged twice as often each year as it will be this season.
The two games, City fans will be forced to accept this morning, has not marked the changing of the guard in football supremacy in this great footballing city. United still score late goals and reach finals; City still wait for a trophy over three decades on.
But what it has done is light the blue touch paper and revive a rivalry that was so one sided in recent times as to represent bullying rather than an even fight. English football has been gifted thanks to the generosity of an Arab Sheikh - another flash point for its season and is a better place for it.
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