Manchester United Aim To End Crawley Town’s FA Cup Run

There is, dare I say it, a small part of me that feels a tinge of remorse that, if all goes as it should, Manchester United will be the team that puts an end to Crawley Town’s FA Cup run.

Everyone loves, as they say in American sports culture, the Cinderella story, the underdog, the team or player with destiny written on them. And part of the lure and the mystique that make the FA Cup a must-see event every season is seeing the little guy hit the big time for a day, a few weeks, orr in Crawley Town’s case, more than a month.

Alas, the sensible and less sensitive part of me is mindful of the fact that, with the run of matches that lies ahead for United (and that may or may not include the toughest one of ’em all, depending on what happens at Stamford Bridge this afternoon), this is the very kind of matchup United needed to have this weekend.

This isn’t to discredit what Crawley Town have done or that they could potentially frustrate and annoy for a solid portion of the match. In fact, for anyone who’s watched United for an extended period of time this season knows that assuming an easy win is unwise.

Crawley Town, who sit second in the Conference (or Conference National, or Blue Square Premier…old habits die hard) and only three points behind leaders AFC Wimbledon with four games in hand, are the first non-league side to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup since Kidderminster Harriers did so 17 years ago. If you’re a believer in omens and such, this is a good omen for Manchester United. Five non-league sides had reached the fifth round in the post-WWII era before Crawley joined the club this year, and on three of those occasions (1947/48, 1984/85, and the aforementioned 1993/94 edition), the eventual winners of the competition were, you guessed it, United.

To position themselves for such a momentous occasion, Crawley have defeated three Football League sides, with two of those wins coming away from home. After stunning League One Swindon Town away in extra-time in a second-round replay, cardiac Crawley did it at the last-minute at home in the third round against Championship side Derby County, then booked their place in the fifth round with a 1-0 away win over League Two side Torquay United.

Of course, Manchester United at Old Trafford, even with the lineup that we’re set to send out today, is a much bigger animal than Derby County, Swindon Town, and Torquay United combined, but Crawley certainly aren’t cowering in fear, at least in the quotes department.

In the facts department, here are a few fun ones:

– Crawley sport the best defense in the goal-friendly Conference, with only 20 goals allowed in 28 matches. They’re one of only five teams in the division who are allowing less than a goal per game.

– Crawley also sport the Conference’s leading scorer in Matt Tubbs, who’s 25 goals in 26 matches is one less than the league-leading 26 (joint-top with now-teammate Richard Brodie, who was then at York City – hey, if you can’t beat ’em, have ’em join you, eh?) he netted in 42 appearances for Salisbury last season and seven ahead of the league’s second-most prolific scorers.

He’s also added three in the FA Cup, including the winner at Torquay, and no one in English football’s top five divisions has more goals this season. Take that, Berba?

– Crawley also sport the only Torres in English football who’s actually performing up to or above his talent level in Argentine midfielder Sergio, who scored the injury-time winner against Derby.

So, Crawley do have some elements of danger about them, and the mentality is certainly there to make them a nuisance. And with that in mind, we will see several regulars and veterans in the starting lineup today, as Fergie tipped his hand that there will likely be starting places for Chicharito, Rafael da Silva, Michael Carrick, Anderson, Darron Gibson, Wes Brown, and John O’Shea.

At the same time though, not only does the opposition offer up the opportunity to give some full rest to the weary and nicked stars ahead of Wednesday’s foray to Marseille (ooh, rhymes!), it also provides a chance to see some fresh faces on the bench and in the starting leinup. Along with the likelihood of Anders Lindegaard, Fabio da Silva, Gabriel Obertan, and Bebe all being in the starting lineup, youngsters Josh King, Ravel Morrison, Paul Pogba, and Ryan Tunnicliffe are all in the squad as well.

We’ll certainly have seen stronger sides from United, but the likely starting XI is more than capable of finishing Crawley off in enough time to allow us to get a good glimpse of what some of our best and brightest youngsters have to offer and not spend the latter moments wondering if Rooney, Berba, or Nani should have been given places on the bench.

Prediction: 3-1 United



  1. Anybody, how did Lindegaard do yesterday? Didnt see the match.

    As to Anderson, he sucks at 4-5-1 AM when we would expect him to really shine there. But there are a few points worth mentioning. Park played there often last season, and it is clear that Fergie does not see that position as a purely attacking one. Secondly, I wonder how playing as a deep midfielder mostly and then suddenly being asked to go and dribble and stuff makes sense for a emerging player like Anderson.

    Anderson is at his best in games which are open; people are available around him. He is not really the man for tight games, although one would expect that with his physical abilities, he should be handy.

    Anderson’s form mirrors United’s gameplay in some sense. For last two seasons, it has been erratic, confused, moody. Still, I believe that Anderson is a fantastic possibility.

  2. @Colver- I didn’t say Anderson can only link up play in a 4-4-2. I said in the games that he displayed good link up play, he had the attackers close to him. It doesn’t matter what system you play, as a CAM you need the attackers close to you. Didn’t you understand? If it’s a 4-3-3 then he needs to play behind the 3 attackers but still close to them. In fact, they all should be alternating positions in attack but in a very narrow setup. That’s not how we were setup. Had we been set up like that, he would not have had any trouble linking up. It’s not about 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. But the reality is the only time we’ve ever come up with a correct attacking setup was when we played something akin to a 4-4-2, which proves that’s the only thing the coaches get. It’s not the players.

    Anyway I’m used to it now. United fans will never criticise the manager and his staff. The logical thing is to bash the players. It’s amazing. Apparently the days of Carrick dismantling the likes of Roma are over. Well it’s not rocket science is it. He last played such a role back then so no wonder. Again not a player’s fault. I’m sure many will say the days of Rooney scoring 25+ are over because he has hardly set the world alight, but what of the role changes and the ever changing formations. No one asks such questions. The blame is always on the players. Finally let me ask you this. What makes you think getting another attacking midfielder will change anything when our current set up and system is all wrong? How can a Wesley Sneijder prosper if he is played under such self destructive conditions?

  3. Jay Wire I do appreciate your point. Bebe and Obertan were not doing their job because they were not cutting inside the way that Ronaldo and Tevez did in 2009. But at the same time Anderson was not getting forward enough. Like I said we do not really know what goes on behind the scenes.

    News of the World has an amusing feature talking about Ferguson overhauling our midfield and signing Modric Rodwell and Young! What do people think of that?

  4. United vs. Arsenal for FA Cup 6th Round (quarter finals)!

    Oh Yeah!!! 😈 😈 😈

  5. From Crawley Town to Arsenal… let’s see if our limp-dicked performance can overcome “might” Arsenal…

  6. Lovely comment on Bebe. I’ll extract some snippets:

    “Wasteful in possession and clueless off the ball, Bebe resembled a pub player rather than the raw diamond mined from the Portuguese backwaters”

    Throughout, crosses were struck by Bebe with reckless abandon, all of which fell either too short or too far over the intended target. That Bebe never seemed even to bother to look up and pinpoint an area to play the ball into just added to the sense that he was in way over his head once again.

    For someone supposedly blessed with a lightning turn of pace and the physique to bully defenders, he also criminally lacked the control and technique to win a yard of space.

    Bebe, however, looked at his most inadequate when Crawley found themselves in possession. Defending never comes naturally to wingers, but he made it look an entirely alien concept as he chased shadows and left Rafael exposed in the first half.”

  7. OPT the weird thing is we are still capable of raising our game against good opposition. It is against the little teams that we struggle! We have beaten Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City, Valencia etc.

    I really think there is something really wrong with the psychology of our squad. There is no logic to our performances. Most of the points we have dropped this season are against middle of the table or bottom of the table teams away from home.

  8. @Don: In fairness, there isn’t a club on Earth who wouldn’t suffer badly if they lost two or three of their very top players due to injury. City, Madrid and Barca have deeper benches but believe me, they would be derailed big time if Xavi and Messi were both out for extended periods at the same time. Look how badly Bayern has stumbled this season after lo0sing Ribery and Robben for the first half. Now they are back and the club is playing well again. Nobody has a bench that can adequately replace your very top players.

  9. @NicoQB: I agree. No way would Madrid balk at that deal because Madrid at that point had it real bad for Ronny and they would do anything to get him. Our lack of balls and short sightedness really cost this club badly. Hell we could have gotten two or three players for 70 million had Gill not been asleep at the wheel.

  10. @[OPTI]Madschester United: I say bring Vinny Jones back and place him at DMF. If needing a dirty player is all that we seem to want, then lets all get emotional and bring him back. 😉 😀 😀

    Point is that although Keano was dirty at times, he was gritty and technically brilliant also. Often imitated but unfortunately never duplicated.

  11. @Grognard: I didn’t say anything to disagree with that notion. I just said Hargreaves was simply the closest we came to a world class midfielder to replace Keano. We need a bare minimum of 2 more midfielders, and we need a left winger to succeed Giggsy.

    Bale is so tempting. Maybe Sir Ryan can say something to really turn his head? Who knows…

    As for the midfielders, who can we actually sign this summer? Sneijder, Ozil, Schweinsteiger… all wasted… wasted…

    Apparently we are after Rodwell, but I’m not a big fan to be honest, I’d much prefer Fellaini.

  12. @colver: Jee, sounds like an echo. It seems to take so many a ton of games to come to the conclusion about a player whereas it takes me a few. So far I have been right about Bebe, Anderson and Obertan. How many more auditions are needed before the old man cuts this garbage loose?

  13. @Jay wire: Every season has high’s and lows and no team can go through a year without finding some bad form but to think that nothing would change if we actually spent money well and intelligently is as wrong as you can be mate. Ask Barcelona and Madrid what quality buys? Neither has been perfect this year but they never put up as many awful performance in 4 years combined that this club can put up in a two week period. Perhaps that is an exaggeration for effect but I speaks the truth. Every bloody week our central midfield is exposed for being pretenders and every week Fergie continues to ignore the reality of the situation. Fact, this club will continue to suck every second match until that weakness is dealt with. The fact we are where we are despite all thes bad performances has got to go down to Fergie’s genius as a manager and a whole lot of luck. But one needs more than luck to win the Champions League and to also go into the Emirates, Anfield and Stamford Bridge and come out with points. Lets see how we do before we start poo pooing the instant remedy a good wad of money would accomplish for this club.

  14. Grognard, I don’t know what is wrong with the old man. He has made terrible decisions in the transfer market before. But he cut his losses pretty quickly. In fairness Bebe is not getting a game and I imagine he will go the same way as Manucho and Fergie is intelligent enough to select Giggs or Park ahead of Obertan. But I do wish more thought went into our transfer signings especially as we are clearly operating on a very tight budget.

    As for Anderson it is mind-boggling. He has been with us three years. Fergie clearly does not see him as a first teamer. So if he has no faith in the player, why keep him? Especially as we could get £10 million or so selling him and that could go towards a new player.

  15. Warning. If you don’t like tactics or think the technical side of football is overrated and a waste of time please go ahead and move to next post.

    The issue to me is not why Bebe’s crosses were so poor, but why was he even assigned to cross. The same applies for Obertan. The freshest memory of a similar game is against City. All we ever did was try to get the ball wide for Giggs to cross or for Nani to do the same. But we had only one player in the box. And cross after cross, met with the head of either Vincent Kompany or Joleon Lescott. So is it that Nani or Giggs are generally poor crossers of the ball? I think the answer is no. They had a very small target to aim for and it needed extraordinary accuracy to hit that target. And in almost all cases they failed. I may be mistaken but I’m sure I heard one of the commentators or probably read it recently that United attempt the most crosses in the league. And if true I won’t be surprised. But the crossing game works not with a narrow system. So why do we continue crossing incessantly when it has proven to fail?

    Now looking at Nani’s goal in the first half, it demonstrates the way a 4-3-3 and it’s variations apply. The attack is through the middle, with the players very close together. Both centre backs were drawn in due to Rooney’s deeper position. Zabaleta, City’s left back was completely taken out of the game because Nani was not wide and also Giggs was just a few feet away from Rooney as was Nani. This meant the City defence unit had to gravitate towards the middle and that’s how they got dismantled. That’s probably the only time we saw the front 3 playing close together. But why were we not employing that same tactic throughout? Instead we kept pinning our hopes on speculative crosses to a very isolated and small target. As much as we scored the other goal from a cross, it took 2 important events. A mishap/fortune(decisive deflection) and a moment of magic that we are not likely to see for a very long time

    City were playing a very similar system, but the key issue is their attackers were very close to each other. The one twos and combinations of Tevez and Silva in particular caused us real scares, none more than that early miss from Silva in front of goal. If there was any wingplay, it came from Richards and Zabaleta, the fullbacks, the same way Chelsea’s wingplay is mainly the responsibility of their fullbacks. So we can go on and on about how useless players are eg Bebe , who ironically has been commended for his excellent crossing. But we miss the real problem that is right in front of us, laughing it’s head off at us.

    It’s like someone takes a dump on your doorstep and you start spraying room fragrances all over and even forcing everyone at ur house to take bath after bath and drown themselves in aerosol sprays and perfumes. You can ignore the smell, it won’t kill you and you’ll still live(win trophies). The smell(poor technical standards) however, will not go away by continuous addition of expensive fragrances(so called better players and flavors of the month). Your house will still stink until you take a shovel, mop and bucket of water(good coaches) and take the crap off your door.

    PS: Wiseguys, the crap is not the players

  16. @colver: i thought ando was playing better than the other two despite gibbos cross and couple threw balls i doubt he completed 50% of his dribbles and short passes. ando rarely lost possession and completed his passes only for gibbo or carrick to cough it up.
    he was removed bc of hamstring not poor play. and when he was removed for the second half for roon that is when we played like shit and they ran rampant on us

  17. Jay Wire, even if your theory is true, then how do you explain we have played crap with a 4-4-2 on many occasions this season? And why is it that defensively even with a three man midfield we so often get overwhelmed?

  18. @Jay wire: I read the last paragraph of your last entry! 😀 And I like it!
    What’s your fix for our foul odor? CQ?

  19. I didn’t watch much of the match. Was Obertan and Bebe playing?! I started watching the game after Brown scored & I thought we had 2 players sent off as it seems that it was 9 vs 13 players

  20. @PissedOffRed: Come to think of it, but we go to France, Brazil, and other places and get their youth… should be a worldwide ban on non-regional youth or no ban at all.

  21. @[OPTI]Madschester United: Well I am guessing that UEFA is attempting to appease certain counters after their complaints. If Barcelona never complained about Pique, Fabregas etc getting poached from them, UEFA would’ve turned a blind eye.

  22. @colver: Don’t get me started mate. I could go on until the cows turned purple when it comes to Fergie’s stubborn acceptance and tolerance of mediocrity on this club.

  23. It truly amazes me that you have the unmitigated gall to question Fergie strategy and tactics knowing full well that your premise about players not being the problem is just nothing more than utter total rubbish. Eleven league title, five FA Cups and two Champions League titles tells me you are totally full of shit.

    I have my bitch with Fergie but it has everything to do with his alliance to the ownership of this club and the questionable standards they are using when it comes to buying players of late. As for his S&T’s, Fergie is only doing what he is doing out of desperate necessity as he has a team filled with old men, mediocrities and misfits and the only way to ensure results with a group like that is to play negatively and cautiously.

    You beleive that he is too blame for the fact Bebe’s and Obertan’s crosses only fail because their is only one target in the box. Well that never stopped Giggs, or Beckham from finding that one target in the past. Why? Because they were good enough to accurately send a cross into the box unlike Bebe is horrendously awful at keeping a cross in bounds period.

    Bottom line mate is you are totally full of shit blaming the manager and not the players. The players on this team as a whole are only as good as Fergie’s magic formula. Under any other manager this club would be struggling for 7th or 8th place right now. I think Barcelona and Real Madrid are laughing right now at your theory because it is frankly written on toilet paper. Talent makes all the difference mate, and you must register that. Yes talent also needs to learn how to play as a team but then again that has never been a problem for Man Utd under Fergie now has it? United has gone wrong in their scouting and buying od mediocre players who are under the radar and who aren’t very good and nowhere near United class. That alone is where the problem lies and at the root of our present misery. Blame those owners you seemingly love to death for limiting Fergie’s financial options because I can say right now without a doubt, adding quality players who are pricey at the right positions and I god damned guarantee this team would be much greater. And to think the opposite of that is to be daft as a retarded monkey. 🙄

  24. @[OPTI]Madschester United: Good question. It’s similar to the United States immigration policy or even worse, job outsourcing. The FA need to step on the people who let this happen if indeed it was not them. And if it was, then the teams in all of English football need to secede from the FA and leave them sitting in the rain.

  25. @Jay wire: I’m sorry but, what a load of BS. Is this the best you can come up with? I’ve heard/read certain rationale concerning self justification of the rediculous, but yours takes the biscuit. I was shaking my head with total disbelief then i read it again, this time i took it to be comedy, and i quite enjoyed it.
    Time to smell the coffee! Your irrational hatred of Fergie seems to blind you from the truth, the simple truth that no matter what tactics are employed, its down to the players to perform.
    Warning. If you don’t like tactics or think the technical side of football is overrated and a waste of time please go ahead and move to next post.” Just wondering? Can you get anymore Smug?

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