Wembley is the dream for cup lover Michu
MICHU has enjoyed a fairytale first five months in English football — but there is another dream he hopes to realise.
The Spanish forward has been the surprise package of the top flight this season, earning rave reviews for his goalscoring exploits.
Little notice was taken when Swansea City completed Michu's transfer from Rayo Vallecano for just £2.2 million — a pittance in Premier League terms.
But it wasn't long before the 26-year-old started making waves.
A double strike against Queens Park Rangers on his Swansea debut caught the attention of pundits and opponents alike.
And Michu's reputation has been growing ever since.
Other memorable goals against Arsenal, Newcastle and Manchester United have seen him hailed as one of the top flight's best ever bargain buys, while the former Celta Vigo man has been promised a Spain call-up next month.
Michu could scarcely have wished for a better start to life on these shores.
But the Oviedo youth product arrived with another ambition — to run out at one of the world's most iconic football grounds, Wembley.
"It's a dream of mine," said Michu.
"When I came here I said I wanted to play at Wembley, and we are near in the Capital One Cup and now we have another chance in the FA Cup.
"It's going to be very difficult in both games but we are going to try.
"We've had good results (against Arsenal and Chelsea) so why not? We can be confident."
Of course, many of Michu's new team-mates have already run out under the arch on probably the most famous day in Swansea's history.
The likes of Angel Rangel, Ashley Williams, Garry Monk, Neil Taylor, Nathan Dyer and Leon Britton were all part of the side who secured a play-off final win against Reading to seal promotion to the Premier League.
Nothing is likely to match the stakes and nerve-shredding emotion of that day, but lifting a cup would represent another momentous achievement, securing Swansea their first major piece of silverware.
Swansea are just one step away from a showpiece occasion as they take on Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup.
And they have the chance to take another step along a more celebrated road to Wembley when Arsenal visit the Liberty on Sunday.
FA Cup third-round day is a landmark occasion in the English football calendar, and its significance has not been lost on Michu.
From Spain, Swansea's top scorer watched the oldest domestic cup competition in the world with interest.
He enjoyed all the drama as the mighty were felled by minnows, replays were decided on penalties and one lucky captain climbed those famous steps to lift the historic trophy.
Michael Laudrup has targeted cup competitions as a chance for Swansea to claim tangible reward for their efforts this season.
And Michu shares his manager's view.
"We are taking the cups very seriously," he said.
"We are in the semi-final against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup, we have a very difficult game against Arsenal on Sunday but the FA Cup is a big competition and we want to do well in it.
"We are trying to win both.
"I watched the FA Cup a lot in Spain. Sometimes it is the small clubs against the big clubs, but the draw has not been kind to us.
"But it's a very good game to play in and I am looking forward to it."
As well he might after starring in his first match against the Gunners.
Arguably Michu's finest hour in a Swansea shirt so far came at the Emirates Stadium in early December when his late double helped secure the club's best away win since returning to the top flight.
As the clock ticked down, Michu played a one-two with Luke Moore and found himself free in the Arsenal penalty area, closing down on Wojciech Szczesny.
Swansea fans behind the goal held their breath, but the tension seemed lost on Michu, who casually opened his body and lifted the ball into the corner of the net.
The away stand erupted, and it barely had time to recover before Michu pounced again.
Nathan Dyer tackled Carl Jenkinson to present Swansea's new sensation with a clear run on goal.
Michu had so much time he slowed to a canter before clinically side-footing home at the near post.
Now he is looking forward to a rematch against a side who have been in the goals themselves of late.
Arsenal put five past Reading and then hit Newcastle for seven before drawing 1-1 with Southampton on Tuesday.
"It will be a very good game, we both like to play good football and we saw the other day they can score lots of goals," said Michu, who was frustrated in his own efforts to find the net last time out.
Against Aston Villa he twice hit the woodwork during a dominant first-half performance from Swansea that should have seen them wrap up victory.
First he latched on to a defensive mistake to strike the base of Brad Guzan's right post before then superbly turning his marker and smashing against the other upright.
Wayne Routledge and Danny Graham were guilty of squandering other chances, and Villa eventually claimed a draw.
"It was two points lost. We played very well and created a lot of chances but we couldn't take them," added Michu.
"They shot twice and scored two goals and made it very difficult for us.
"We should have won.
"It was an unlucky day. We had a lot of chances and if we could have gone into half-time with two or maybe three then it would have finished the game, but that's football."
At least that match should provide good preparation for the FA Cup, a competition where things don't always turn out as they should.
Giants can be felled by plasterers and plumbers, and upsets are par for the course.
A few years ago, Swansea v Arsenal would have pitted plucky underdogs against top-tier superpower.
But circumstances change, and this tie is a little more evenly balanced.