Everyone loves an FA Cup giant killing. That is, until you’re on the end of a particularly nasty one yourself.
And in a couple of weeks, Shrewsbury Town, who are languishing in 20th place in League One, will welcome Manchester United to their Greenhous Meadow Stadium.
It’s a glamour tie for the locals, and one which can distract the diehard fans from what has been a tricky season full of ups and downs. Ultimately, the Shrews are in a fierce relegation battle and need to survive. Relegation at this level can be absolutely disastrous for funds and future projects so this FA Cup game will provide welcome relief for manager Micky Mellon.
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It all sounds well and good, until it dawns on you that you’ve got to play Manchester United.
Yes the Red Devils haven’t been fantastic this season but they have started to hit a rich vein of form, arguably at the precise right time too.
They’ve seemingly brushed some of the criticism directed at their attacking play aside and look a lot more confidence going forward, buoyed by recent performances. A late title push isn’t out of the question yet, as long as they can win the majority of their 13 games remaining in the Premier League.
But their exit from the Champions League makes the FA Cup that little more important to them this year, make no mistake about it.
They will want silverware, and despite recent optimism and form, the Premier League crown will be a tricky one to reach. European glory would be welcome, but sadly, the Europa League is not held in nearly as much stead as the Champions League and this wouldn’t be recognised as a landmark in Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United career.
So the FA Cup is a big one this year and its very much doubted that United will be taking this any less seriously as any Premier League game.
Silverware is silverware and if this is one of a couple of opportunities to get some, van Gaal will be heading to Shropshire with a strong team, set out to do the job professionally.
After all, a potential defeat or poor performance will only put the pressure back on his shoulders, and the Jose Mourinho rumour mill will only start turning again.
So it’s in both team’s interest to play well on the evening and come out on top, but can the Shrews be giant killers? They did well to despatch Sheffield Wednesday in the last round but this is an entirely different cut of mustard.
They have home advantage, which is vital. The Greenhous Meadow pitch will be choppy and unforgiving and they will have a partisan home crowd on their side, who are locked in close to the pitch.
They need to be in-your-face and ugly to stand any chance of winning. Everyone loves a giant killing but United need this too much this year. It promises to be a cracker.