Cambridge United need to pull off an FA Cup giant killing when they host Manchester United at Abbey Stadium on Friday (19:55 GMT, live on BBC1).
Cambridge come into the match on the back of a comfortable 4-0 win at home to Newport County, which was their third consecutive victory in all competitions. They are 12th in the League Two table, with 35 points from 10 wins, five draws and 10 defeats.
Richard Money’s side defeated Fleetwood Town and Mansfield Town (after a replay) to reach the third round of the cup, where they then recorded a 2-1 victory over fellow League Two side Luton Town. That result was followed by consecutive league victories that have them in a mid-table position in their first year back in the professional league structure.
Money has done an impressive job since taking charge in October 2012. He oversaw the rebuilding of a squad that achieved promotion from the Conference last season and now has his side playing some good, open football in League Two. Matches involving Cambridge have averaged 2.72 goals per match – the fifth highest of any side in the division.
Cambridge have one of the youngest squads in League Two but there are still a few experienced heads, including ex-United midfielder Luke Chadwick. Former Newcastle youth-team prospect Ryan Donaldson is likely to provide the biggest threat to the United defence. The 23-year-old has scored four goals and provided eight assists so far this season.
Tom Champion (knee) is an injury doubt for Friday’s match, but Money otherwise looks to have a full squad to pick from.
Man Utd travel to Cambridge on the back of a 2-0 win away to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. They are fourth in the Premier League table, just a point ahead of Arsenal in fifth, with 40 points from 11 wins, seven draws and four defeats.
Louis van Gaal’s side were jeered by their supporters following a goalless first half against QPR in which they struggled to create chances despite enjoying a greater share of possession. It took two changes and a formation switch to spur them into action, with goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and James Wilson eventually leading them to victory.
It was not the first time this season that Man Utd have looked less threatening than the sum of their parts. Van Gaal clearly has his reasons for persisting with a back three and the careful build up of play from defence into midfield. Yet individual and collective performances suggest that his current personnel are not well-suited to this approach.
Even in victory, United have rarely been convincing, with goalkeeper David de Gea frequently called into serious action. Van Gaal can point to his side’s top four position and (marginally) superior record to last season as indications that progress is being made. But given the club’s huge summer outlay, it would be fair to expect a little more.
Van Gaal will definitely be without the injured Ashley Young (muscle) for this FA Cup match, while Johnny Evans (knock) is doubtful. Robin Van Persie (pictured) is expected to return from an ankle injury, while reports suggest that Van Gaal will hand a debut to former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Cambridge Utd v Man Utd Betting Tips
The only previous meetings between these sides took place in 1991, when they were paired in the second round of the League Cup. United were 3-0 victors in the first leg at Old Trafford, while the return in Cambridge ended in a 1-1 draw. Man Utd’s last FA Cup exit at the hands of a lower-league side came against Leeds United, then of League One, in 2010.
Cambridge lost 7-0 to Sunderland the last time they hosted Premier League opposition back in 2002 and will be hopeful of at least putting up a little bit more of a fight this time around. Money will have his team fired up for the occasion, and they are sure to be well-backed by their supporters at Abbey Stadium.
As on other some occasions this season, Man Utd were not particularly convincing during their 2-0 victory away to Yeovil Town in round three. But they still got the job done and will be confident of doing so again here. The gulf in quality between the two sides should be sufficient to eventually see them emerge as comfortable victors.
- Back Manchester United -2 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 20/19 with BetVictor. The bet pays out if United win by three or more goals, while your stake is returned if they win by two.
- Wilson scored his first goal of the season in the victory over QPR on Saturday and is expected to start against Cambridge. Van Gaal clearly has faith in the 19-year-old and Wilson will be confident of repaying it by finding the back of the net on Friday. Back James Wilson to score at anytime @ 6/5 with Betfred.