Fourth Round: Southampton 1 2 Manchester United & Torquay United 0 1 Crawley Town
Kick Off: 17 15 on the 19th February 2011, on TV @ ITV
The 2004 FA Cup Side
After the pandemonium of the Manchester derby, Old Trafford welcomes non-league Crawley Town on Saturday, in the FA Cup Fifth Round. Sir Alex is looking to win the FA Cup for the first time in six years (during which Chelsea & Arsenal have previously beat us in the final) and will be optimistic that his team can challenge for it this season. Nonetheless, Ferguson is likely to make widespread changes from the team that faced Manchester City; with a team more similar to the one that overcame Southampton in the last round.
With a week to rest and prepare for this match, Sir Alex will be hoping to keep his squad fresh and avoid injury for the tide of challenging games that follow this match, with fixtures against Marseilles, Wigan, Chelsea & Liverpool in quick succession. Against statistically easier opposition than Southampton, and with the advantage of being at home, Ferguson could justify fielding an even less experienced side on Saturday than in the previous rounds. Personally, I would have no problem with Ferguson playing a few of the very junior players (Pogba, Morrison, Keane) but I think he will play it safely with the second team. However, following his loan spell at Preston and impressive return of 8 goals in 5 games upon his return to the reserves, I would like to see Josh King given a chance as the ‘wild-card’ player alongside the experienced Michael Owen. Ferguson will be hoping to save the legs of as many players as possible but may be hoping to hand a substitute appearance to the returning Antonio Valencia, who started training with the Reserves on Monday- the Ecuadorian is bound to be short of match practise but has apparently maintained a good level of fitness through aqua therapy at Carrington. With Ji Sung Park possibly out for a month, the return of the winger will be a great addition to our team for the run in.
Can Gibson Endear Himself to the OT Faithful Once Again?
In the last round, Sir Alex deployed Gabriel Obertan (who may/may not have handed in a transfer request) as a striker alongside Owen based on his impressive scoring record for the Reserves but he failed to make an impression on the match. Instead, I expect the French player to return to the left, with Bebe on the right, who has been give time away from the spotlight to improve his fitness and technical ability. Excitingly, our new keeper, Andres Lindegaard, will be making his home debut and be fulfilling his childhood dream of playing at Old Trafford with what I expect to be an experienced defense in front of him. John O’Shea will probably captain the side again alongside the outcasted Wes Brown and much maligned Jonny Evans (injury permitting). Fabio, one of my stand out performers at St Mary’s, will play at LB although he has found himself playing more as an attacking midfielder in recent Reserves fixtures.
O’Shea Brown Evans Fabio
Bebe Gibson Anderson Obertan
Owen v Kuipers
The sparsely utilised ‘veteran’ will want to make the most of his playing time and is sure to get many chances against the relatively unknown opposition. Considering the chances, United are sure to create for the front men, the Crawley keeper will really just be hoping to keep the score down as low as possible. Kuipers showed his ability in the last round against Torquay but Manchester United are a totally different proposition.
Owen will be in line for another rare start
One to Watch
Crawley’s star striker knocked Torquay out with his great touch and finish to score the only goal of the game but he did also miss two penalties on the day. Nevertheless, with 28 goals this season already the striker is bound to be high on confidence and will be up for showing his finishing ability against the Premier League’s leader – if the Conference side want to get anything from this game (apart from the £2million they’ll get anyway) then their front man will have to capitalise on any chances that fall his way.
Manchester United 3 0 Crawley Town
Crawley Town have done superby well, as a non-league club, to reach the fifth round and will certainly make the most of their trip to Old Trafford. However, regardless of the side Ferguson decides to field, the Reds should comfortably win this match. Even though nothing is ever certain in football, I predict a modest drumming with goals from Owen, Obertan & Gibson.
Note: The 2004 FA Cup winners beat Millwall 3-0 @ the Millennium Stadium, with two goals from RVN and a goal from a very young Christiano Ronaldo. The team looks weaker, especially in defence, than the line up that could grace the Wembley turf this season- although Ferguson would love to have a Roy Keane is his side at the moment…