Manchester United travel to Villa park this Saturday for the Third Round of the FA Cup, with the hope of putting on a more convincing performance in contrast to those we’ve seen in the past few weeks. Whilst picking up most of the points on offer over the festive period, United seemed to be missing the cutting edge we have become accustomed to. Most notable are the past two games we’ve played against West Ham and Birmingham, with the reds losing out on all of the points at Upton Park, and clinging on to their one goal advantage at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day.
A couple of seasons ago, we would have drawn or lost the game we just saw out against Birmingham. We have the ‘luck of the Champions’ at the moment, enabling us to grind out results we don’t seem to entirely deserve, more often than not. One moment of brilliance was all it took to collect the three points after firing blanks for much of the rest of the match. United really seem to struggle to keep their attention spans and urgency levels up when we’re playing the ‘smaller’ teams, as we saw against McLeish’s men. It is for this reason I am content with knowing we’ve got a team fighting for a top six place in the Cup, rather than a non-league no mark side.
If you look at United over the past few years in the Cup, they have more often than not breezed through to the Fourth Round. However, there have been two stumbling blocks; non-league sides Burton Albion in 2006 and Exeter City in 2005, who both forced us to a replay.
At a time when United are struggling to get themselves up for the ‘smaller’ teams, I am grateful that we have a more difficult game to focus our attention on. Villa Park has been kind to us over the years, whether facing Villa or playing in other Cup fixtures, and that is just what we need to help us along. A 0-0 with a lower league side would be on the cards for this weekend had we been drawn such opposition.
United are going to struggle somewhat with their lineup, following the injury to Carlos Tevez on New Year’s Day. Wayne Rooney should have recovered, meaning we could play a similar team and formation to that which faced Birmingham, only with Rooney leading the pack instead of our Argentinian. Park played well and deserves his spot in the starting lineup for the Cup, presumably with Ronaldo or Giggs acting in the supporting role. It remains to be seen whether Louis Saha is able to hack a place in starting lineup, with Ferguson chopping and changing what he feels our striker can handle.
It will be a tough game, no doubt about it, but I’d much rather us see a more difficult team at this stage, forcing us to be on top of our game, rather than putting on a poor show against a team of nobodies!
Will this current uninspired United line up get the result they want on Saturday?