They say that the FA Cup has lost a great deal of its magic in recent times. As sad as that is, it’s also slightly true. To some teams, the FA Cup only places a further burden on their already congested fixture schedule; a home tie against a smaller side used to draw hoards of excited crowds, bursting with excitement. These days, a home clash with a small team yields half empty, disinterested grounds.
However, the odd tie comes around occasionally with such appeal and wonderful promise of something memorable happening, it enlivens that spirit that has so frequently evaded world footballs oldest competition.
In the 3rd round, that tie came in the form of 7th tier Blyth Spartans briefly going into a 2-0 lead against Birmingham City, only to eventually lose. That doesn’t matter though; it was a proper FA Cup tie. That’s what matters.
This time around, that tie is Cambridge United, a team playing in English footballs 5th tier last season, playing host to Manchester United. The Abbey stadium, a little ground that seats a paltry 8,000 will certainly recreate that partisan atmosphere that was so prominent back in the FA Cup’s heyday.
Louis van Gaal will certainly fancy his chances of emerging through January undefeated on the road. A team that has received its fair share of criticisms as a result of the unpopular 3-5-2 regime has actually only lost twice since early November (13 games). With Manchester United’s injury list no longer looking astronomical, Louis van Gaal could give chances to the likes of Adnan Januzaj, Herrera, Fellaini, Lingard to show themselves.
Victor Valdes could make his Manchester United debut in an environment that will provide the Spaniard with a severe culture shock having spent the majority of his career playing at the Nou Camp. The Abbey will be a real baptism of fire.
In their first season back in the football league, Cambridge have faired well. After 26 matches, they sit in 12th spot with 10 wins under their belt – the home side will be in the mood to go for Manchester United’s jugular come Friday following an undefeated start to 2015, with their last game ending in a 4-0 win to promotion chasing Newport.
Jonny Evans is a doubt for the encounter after limping off at Loftus Road; Luke Shaw wasn’t included in the squad that travelled down to West London. Robin van Persie could return. Ashley Young certainly won’t feature. Everybody else is available for Louis van Gaal.
This tie can go only two ways – utter embarrassment for Manchester United, or the visiting side blast through significantly inferior opposition (like they should) and the tie resorts to a damp squib for the neutrals. Lets hope it’s the latter.
Prediction: Cambridge United 1-4 Manchester United