The game that no one wanted is now the game that potentially sees us through to an FA Cup fifth round tie considering the league status of our potential opponents. I fancy a trip to the Kassam Stadium and I don’t fancy a ‘football free’ weekend at the back end of this month, so I’d really quite like to win this game.
Looking across the country at the pathetic third round attendances, United’s pricing for the game is yet again to be commended. I hope the public repay that gesture by turning up in numbers. There’s still two days to go to the game at the time of writing but we look set for less than 30k. Hopefully we get over that amount and SJP is once again bucking the trend for a lack of interest in Cup competitions.
The team is down to the bare bones of course. There isn’t any room for ‘rotation’. Sammy Amoebi and Jamie Sterry are both cup tied (both would have likely played) and Mitrovic, Gayle, Hayden and Anita are all out. Sels, Lazaar and Hanley will provide a break for a couple of players. Murphy will start. We may yet see Cheick Tiote involved, however with his name constantly linked to the exit door and the shocking level of his performance in the original tie, I’m not sure about it.
The big news is that Jon Jo Shelvey makes his long awaited return to the first team. He’ll be lacking match fitness and this is the perfect game to come back into the fold. I imagine it’ll be him and Colback in the middle. Haidara may come back into the side after a good run out in the replay. Formation wise I’ve no idea what Rafa will do.
It’s possible we could see another 5 – 3 – 2 formation but it’s more likely we’ll line up
That team is more than capable of progressing through the tie but there would also be absolutely nothing on the bench to change the game. The last thing we want is more extra time and penalties. We have a very winnable game in the league on Saturday in the shape of Rotherham at home which is followed by two further home league games. Nine points from those three is very much the aim. I hope we get through and we should get through, but I’d rather lose in 90 minutes than exhaust a squad in extra time. Please remember that when you’re proclaiming that the world will end on twitter if we don’t progress.
Our opponents still haven’t won a game under their new manager. Home games against Brentford and Nottingham Forest (who sacked their manager after the game) failed to provide him with the win and the only positive of Zola’s reign so far was the last sixty minutes against us when they were the better side. He needs a win in this one as hopes of a promotion push have evaporated. Their new signing Craig Gardener is cup tied so we’ll face a similarly ‘direct’ line up that we did in the away tie.
I’m hoping we start well, Shelvey and Colback run the show and the quality of Murphy and Ritchie shines through. If we start as we did in the away tie, we’ll be okay.
Prediction: 3-0 United
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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