Vieira rues FA Cup's lost charm

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MANCHESTER - The FA Cup Final has lost some of its charm this year because of when the match is being played but winning it would still be the start of a new era for Manchester City, Patrick Vieira said on Thursday.

For every English football fan, 3pm on the first Saturday after the Premier League season finishes means only one thing - the FA Cup final. Not this year, though, as City face Stoke City this Saturday with the league still in full swing.

Having won four FA Cups with Arsenal, Vieira knows a thing or two about the oldest knockout cup competition and, like the fans loitering on a footpath near City's training ground trying to spot their heroes before the big day, understands its magic.

"I am a little bit disappointed that the FA Cup is not the last game of the season," the midfielder told reporters. "The FA Cup final was THE game to watch.

"To move it forward, and there are so many games on the same day as well, I think it has taken off the charm of the FA Cup."

The timing of the final may have changed and the tradition of players grabbing microphones to record an FA Cup song may have been lost, but the value of winning the competition has not altered for Vieira.

With City seeking to break a 35-year trophy drought in the week they secured their first top-four Premier League finish and at least Champions League playoff round qualification, victory could be a springboard to further success.

"It will be really special," said the Frenchman, who has FA Cup winners medals from 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005 and who scored Arsenal's winning spot-kick in the penalty shootout in the most recent of those finals.

"The best way to start winning trophies is to win the FA Cup on Saturday. We will be proud to do it for the fans, we will be proud to do it for ourselves, we will be proud to do it for the football club.

"It can be the start of a new era. It can be the start of successful years."

PRESSURE OFF

Roberto Mancini's side may have to share the limelight on Saturday even if they win.

Cross-city rivals Manchester United will secure a record 19th English league title less than half an hour before the final kicks off if they get a point from their match at Blackburn Rovers.

The newspaper column inches hailing City's success might shrink but the magnitude of what the club have achieved this term would not as the club have met their main pre-season goal of breaking into the top four.

That league success has taken the pressure off ahead of the Cup final, according to striker Edin Dzeko.

"It's really good for us, now we can concentrate on the final and maybe third place (in the league) because we are only two points behind Arsenal (with two games to play)," the Bosnian told reporters. "But like you said, no pressure.

"If we win this (cup), it can only be better for us."

Assistant manager David Platt struck a note of caution, however, saying it was important not to get too hung up on this one trophy defining the future of the world's richest club.

"This is a football club that is still progressing," he said. "If they win it - great. But it doesn't mean we'll win trophies next year.

"If we didn't win it - god forbid - it doesn't mean we won't win trophies next year."