Since taking charge of Shrewsbury Town a little over a season and a half ago Micky Mellon and his team have made quite the name for themselves as giant killers. Last season the Shrews beat current Premier League table-toppers Leicester City away from home and then toppled Norwich City, winning themselves a glamour tie with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup. The Shrews were unlucky on the night, losing 2-1 thanks to a last minute own goal from Jermaine Grandison.
And Mellon’s team are looking to go one better this season. Having beat championship opposition in the shape of Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday in the last two rounds, the Shrews now look to take down Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United in the fifth round of this year’s FA Cup tonight.
The Shrews are having a torrid time in the league this season – they have had a torrid time at home and sit just four points clear of the relegation zone with a rather tough run-in lying ahead – so the FA Cup comes as a somewhat welcome distraction for their disgruntled fanbase. The Manchester United tie has provided a rejuvenated sense of optimism around the Meadow, but are any of the fans actually expecting Shrewsbury to be heading to the quarter finals this year?
Glamour ties are a massive opportunity for lower league clubs – the financial returns from the game alone promise to be a huge aid in the future – but are these games merely exhibition and nothing more? Shrewsbury have to take on Colchester shortly after in a tie that is a hell of a lot more important to the club and their league status. Having drawn with Fleetwood Town and narrowly beaten Blackpool the club are in dire need of a victory and another defeat could leave them staring down the barrel of the gun.
But what about Manchester United? The FA Cup is their only real chance of any success this season and most of their fans will be looking at the game as an easy trip into the quarter-finals – a mistake made far too often by big sides. This year’s FA Cup has been devoid of any of the magic of previous years, with no Premier League side yet to fall to the hands of lower league opposition. It seems like a big ask of Mellon’s men to be the first to buck that trend, but maybe, just maybe, they could make it happen. United are likely to be wary of this and will no doubt field a strong side, one which the Shrews will struggle to handle.
Whatever the outcome, for Shrewsbury Town and their fans, myself included, this is a once in a lifetime kind of game. Progression to this stage of the FA Cup is a rarity in itself, so having the opportunity to take on, what is, arguably, the biggest club in the world today is nothing short of phenomenal.
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