Manchester United were held to a surprise goalless draw to League Two new boys Cambridge United in their FA Cup fourth round tie a few weeks ago . Whilst Man Utd were lacklustre throughout the 90 minutes and lacked that cutting edge, there has been a lot of criticism about the team which seems like a knee-jerk reaction.
Fans on radio phone-ins and social media have been extremely critical of Louis Van Gaal and the player’s performances so far this season but it is hard to read too much into a one off fixture like this. You have to remember that Cambridge played out of their skins and probably won’t be able to replicate this type of performance again, particularly in tonight’s replay at Old Trafford. In a small cut up ground like the Abbey Stadium, Man United’s foreign superstars would be extremely unfamiliar to these types of surroundings, the occasion and the atmosphere.
To smaller teams, the FA Cup is a completely different kettle of fish to what players such as Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo are used to, which makes it difficult for them to play the way they want to. The fact is United managed to scrape through – albeit only to a replay – but are still in with a fantastic chance of lifting the FA Cup come May.
Tonight’s replay shouldn’t present many problems for Louis Van Gaal’s side, with the occasion completely different to that of the tie at the Abbey. Add to that the fact Louis Van Gaal is almost certain to play another near full strength side means United are extremely likely to line-up against either Preston or Sheffield United in the fifth round. An away trip to either of these League One sides will be tough, but Man United should still have the fire power in their team to overcome this tie, whether it be on the night, or back at Old Trafford.
With Man City and Chelsea both knocked-out by lower league opposition in the fourth round, United have automatically been labelled as one of the favourites to lift the trophy, alongside Arsenal and Liverpool. Van Gaal knows he has a great chance to win a trophy in his first season at Old Trafford, and experiences such as the one at the Abbey Stadium can only help his team become familiar to what the FA Cup means.
One man that United could have done with is Captain Wayne Rooney. The 29-year-old is the club’s top scorer so far this season and has plenty of experience to know what the FA Cup is all about and how to avoid a giant killing. Van Gaal made a mistake by not including Rooney in the match day squad for the first game, but it’s a mistake that is unlikely to be repeated, increasing United’s chances of going all the way.
The Red Devils haven’t been able to get their hands on the FA Cup since defeating Millwall 3-0 way back in 2004, when a young Cristiano Ronaldo helped them secure the trophy. With the Premier League’s top two already out of the competition, Van Gaal’s side won’t get a better chance of putting this statistic right, especially with a kind draw like the one that awaits them in the fifth round.