The time is 10am on Monday morning and it looks like Unite have sold about 40 tickets for this game. We give ourselves plenty of slaps on the back for our support (100K attended both home games so far) and we probably are the most loyal out there. The jealously the fans of other clubs display, some local and some not local, is testament to something that billions can’t buy you – proper support. So for that proper support to not turn up to see their side play at home, regardless of the opposition, would be disappointing. There’s loads of games on at the moment and it’s still not that cheap. But United have 35k season ticket holders. Most of whom (by the look of things so far) won’t bother with this one as the crowd will get nowhere near that tomorrow night. I don’t want to lecture people on not going to the game, for some it’s just not possible – but 48k turned up last week for a midweek game. We’re on course for nowhere near half at the moment.
Rafa is famous for his cup exploits. Yes he’ll rotate, but I think as the tournament progresses he’ll rotate as naturally as he does with the league side he puts out. He’s won the Italian Cup, reached the League Cup final, won an FA cup, a Champions League, a Europa League and a Club World Cup. I reckon our cup performances this season will be a massive improvement on previous ‘attempts’ in cup competitions even if realistically they’re not the priority this season. Benitez can tactically out manoeuvre any manager in this country – and part of me wants us to draw some of the top sides in the country in later rounds, as I think we’ll beat them if drawn at home and have a chance away.
First things first though as we face Cheltenham Town. Driving back from Bristol I noticed road signs for Cheltenham not too far into my journey – so this is a pretty big journey for them on a midweek game. If they bring 1,000 fans it’ll be impressive. They’re newly promoted from the Conference and have failed to win a league game this season so far, scoring just three goals in their four games, which have included two defeats. Their manager, Gary Johnson, oddly enough is the father of Bristol City’s Lee Johnson so United (surely for the first time in our history) face sides managed by a father and son in the space of 4 days. Cheltenham are well drilled defensively and despite failing to win this season haven’t conceded more than one goal in a game. Last season they conceded just 30 goals in 46 games as they were promoted as champions. Expect them to be difficult to break down.
As for United I expect (and hope) Karl Darlow to be given the gloves. Seltz has been seriously shaky so far but it’s unlikely that dropping him in the league will do him any good long term. Darlow needs to play though in case Seltz doesn’t improve. I’d expect a raft of other changes with the likes of Dummet, Hanley and maybe Janmaat getting games. Mitrovic is free form suspension. Let’s hope he doesn’t get sent off again. Rolando Aarons and Jamie Sterry should also feature. Adam Armstrong should probably play apart but who knows about the rest. Predicting a Benitez team is impossible these day, thank god.
Ideally 30k will turn up, United will get through without any injuries or suspensions and we look forward to round three and the big one against Brighton on Saturday.
Prediction: 3-0 United.
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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