Manchester United will hope to get the job done at the second time of asking when they take on Cambridge United in their FA Cup fourth-round replay on Tuesday. The Premier League giants labored to a scoreless result against the lowest-ranked team left in the competition on Jan. 23 and will be desperate to avoid one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s long history when they face Cambridge back at Old Trafford.
The first match between the clubs saw another uninspiring performance from Louis van Gaal’s side, with much criticism coming in for the decision to stick with a formation featuring three center-backs. On Saturday, Van Gaal reverted to four at the back and the Red Devils emerged with a 3-1 victory over Leicester City that represented the club's most convincing display in several weeks. It was a win that moved Manchester United up to third in the Premier League, strengthening their prospects of earning a return to the Champions League for next season.
Despite the importance of that quest and the fact that the team has regularly struggled to produce complete performances this season, the transfer window looks set to end without Manchester United significantly adding to their squad. The club, though, may well point to the fact that the best has yet to be seen from many of the players who were signed during a busy transfer window last summer.
Among those is Ander Herrera. The Spanish midfielder has started just once since early December, with Wayne Rooney instead being regularly deployed in a central midfield role. Having come on as a substitute against Cambridge first time around, Herrera will be hoping to get a start in the replay. And he is eager, too, for Manchester United to take full advantage of the surrounds of Old Trafford after their struggles last time against the League Two club.
“The first half it was not good, but I think the second half we played much better,” he told MUTV. “We had three chances and gave no chances away. But now we have a big chance to beat them at home in front of our fans. I think we are better than them but we have to show it.”
For Cambridge, the result at the Abbey stadium was one of their most famous ever and secured a massive financial windfall. Things have not gone swimmingly since, however, with a draw at home to Dagenham and Redbridge and a 3-2 defeat at Luton Town on Saturday dropping them down to 14th position in League Two. But manager Richard Money is hopeful that his team can give another strong account of themselves in what will be a massive occasion for a club that was in the non-league just last season.
“To get the tie in the first place was like winning the pools, and to draw the first game to get the second game was like winning the lottery,” he said, according to Cambridge News. “That's the significance of what we've done for our football club. We'll go to Old Trafford and do exactly what we tried to do in the first game, which was to play as well as we possibly can.”
Prediction: The original match between the teams was symptomatic of Manchester United’s struggles to produce fluid performances this season. Doubts remain about the positioning of Rooney and Di Maria and the tandem of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao up front, with the team desperately lacking pace and attacking thrust. Still, there were some positive signs against Leicester and confidence should remain that Van Gaal will get things right. At Old Trafford, where they won’t be encumbered by a difficult pitch as they were at the Abbey Stadium, Manchester United will surely have too much for a Cambridge side that have achieved much in simply earning a trip to the Theatre of Dreams.
Manchester United 2-0 Cambridge United
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EST
TV channel: Fox Sports 1