Friday 23rd January – 19:55 – The Abbey Stadium
In the first game of the FA Cup Fourth Round weekend, there’s a small chance of a huge shock as Manchester United visit Cambridge United. The hosts are currently 12th in League Two having won their past three matches. Their star opponents are 4th in the Premier League, meaning the two sides are separated by 75 places in the League pyramid. Louis van Gaal’s team beat QPR 2-0 last weekend, but hadn’t won in three league games beforehand. They needed goals from Ander Herrera and substitute Angel di Maria to beat Yeovil in the previous round, whilst Cambridge overcome local rivals Luton 2-1 to reach this stage for the first time in 15 years. Seats to the clash at the Abbey Stadium have unsurprisingly sold out, with some fans even camping outside overnight in order to get their hands on a coveted ticket. Could they witness a historic cup shock?
The Key Battle: Sullay Kai-Kai vs Paddy McNair
So good they named him twice. Not quite, but Sullay Kai-Kai has shone for Cambridge in recent weeks and is the most likely man to be a hero at the Abbey Stadium.
On loan from Crystal Palace, the 19 year old striker has got three goals in 11 games, which may not sound great, but with top scorer Kwesi Appiah having left after a loan spell, the goalscoring burden is on him.
Paddy McNair hasn’t got a burden on him, but a hell of a lot of pressure. Louis van Gaal substituted the young centre-back after just 39 minutes against Southampton two weeks ago, saying “he had no confidence”.
But with Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans both injured McNair may well get another chance at the back for United. A solid performance against a weaker attack could do him the world of good, but an error may well see him out of the team for a long time.
- Trio Jordan Chiedozie, Johnny Hunt and Matteo Lanzoni are all cup tied, having played for other clubs in this competition earlier this campaign.
- Midfielder Luke Chadwick, who started his career at Manchester United, is relishing the cup tie, but isn’t guaranteed starting place having scored just twice in 25 appearances this season.
- Defender Dominic Ball signed on loan from Tottenham on Thursday and can play to make his debut.
- Striker Robin van Persie has overcome an ankle problem and is available for Friday’s game.
- Full-backs Luke Shaw and Rafael are fit again, but Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young will all miss out.
- Louis van Gaal fielded a strong side against Yeovil in Round Three, so expect him to do so again. He’s taking this competition very seriously.
Cambridge United wins = 0 / Manchester United wins = 1 / Draws = 1
Last Meeting: Cambridge United 1-1 Manchester United (9th October 1991)
After losing the first leg 3-0 at Old Trafford a fortnight before, Cambridge had a mountain to climb in the second stage of their League Cup tie with Manchester United just over 23 years ago. Brian McClair gave the Red Devils the lead in just the second minute, which ultimately sunk The U’s, whose only reply was a Dion Dublin goal to end the fixture 4-1 on aggregate. Dublin would go on to sign for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side the following summer.
Stat of the Match
The season Cambridge previously faced United (1991-92), was also the campaign when they knocked a top-flight team out of the FA Cup when they beat Coventry City after a replay.
Where can I watch it?
BBC One are showing the game live, with coverage beginning 25 minutes before kick-off at 7:30pm. You’ll have to wait until the following evening to watch the highlights which are on the same channel at 10:25pm on FA Cup Match of the Day.
My Prediction: Cambridge United 0-3 Manchester United
Louis van Gaal has said many times that he is taking this competition very seriously, and his team could go out and show the rest of the country that they are in this competition to win it. It could be harsh on Cambridge, but goals from Wayne Rooney (x2) and James Wilson could see the U’s hopes of shock come crashing down.