Manchester United face Cambridge United at The Abbey Stadium on Friday night in the 4th round of the Fa Cup. Manchester United and Cambridge United have ever met twice before, that was in a two-legged League Cup tie in the early rounds of the competition in the 1991/92 season. United won the first leg 3-0 at Old Trafford and drew 1-1 at The Abbey Stadium to go through 4-1 on aggregate. Current United assistant manager appeared in both ties in 1991 and scored in the tie at Old Trafford.
Cambridge are the lowest team left in the competition, they are currently 12th in League Two having returned to the fourth tier of English football last season, gaining promotion from the Conference Premier. They finished 2nd in the league and won promotion via the play-offs beating Gateshead 2-1 in the final at Wembley. Cambridge had been in the top four tiers of English footballsince 1970 when they were elected to the Football League until 2005 when they were relegated to the Conference and faced difficult times both on and off the pitch before gaining promotion back to the fourth tier last season. On first entering the league they had mix results and finished 8th in the Second division in 1980 but suffered successive relegation’s in 1984 and 1985 to leave them in the Fourth division.
The early 1990’s saw Cambridge’s most successful period, they gained promotion from the Fourth Division to the Third division via the play-offs in the first ever play-off final at Wembley stadium in 1990, future United player Dion Dublin scoring the only goal of the final against Chesterfield. Cambridge also reached successive Fa Cup quarter-finals in 1990 and 1991 and won the Third division in 1991. After finishing 5th in their first season back in the Second division, they failed in their bid to become one of founder members of the Premier League when they lost 6-1 on aggregate to Leicester City in the play-off semi-finals. Over the following years Cambridge suffered relegation’s and a few promotion’s before being relegated the Conference (non-league football) in 2005.
After playing Yeovil the previous round this is another trip for Manchester United to a lower league opponent. Although the tie looks an easy one for Manchester United on paper, I’m sure Louis Van Gaal and his Manchester United players won’t be taking their League Two opponents lightly. They will know that this could be the only opportunity that the majority of the Cambridge United players will ever get to play against a club like Manchester United and like every other team and player that comes up against United will be trying to their hardest to beat Manchester United.
Former Manchester United player Dion Dublin was signed by United from Cambridge in August 1992, the first season of the new Premier League, Dublin had played for Cambridge against United in the League Cup tie the previous year and had clear done enough to persuade Alex Ferguson to part with £1million to sign him, sadly only a few games into his United career Dublin broke his leg in a game against Crystal Palace. He was out for 6 months and by the time he returned United had signed Eric Cantona and Dublin’s chances in the United first team were few and far between, he only made 17 appearances and scored 3 goals in his two seasons at United and was sold to Coventry City for £2million shortly after the end of the 1993/94 season.
Cambridge United will have Manchester United youth graduate Luke Chadwick in their squad on Friday night. Chadwick is now playing for his hometown club having emerged from the Manchester United youth ranks in 1999 and stayed at Old Trafford until 2004 and only played 38 games for United’s first team and had several loan spells away from the club before eventually leaving for West Ham on a free transfer for the start of 2004/05 season. In-between leaving Old Trafford and arriving at his hometown club Chadwick has played for several teams and like many graduates through the Manchester United youth system who haven’t quite been good enough to stay at the club he has gone on to a have a good career.
Going into this tie Manchester United will be without central defenders Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans and winger or wing-back Ashley Young. Robin Van Persie and Luke Shaw are both fit and available after missing the 2-0 victory over QPR last weekend. So what formation will Louis Van Gaal opt for in this game, having started the QPR game with a 3-5-2 before reverting to the 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield and shortly after they reverted to the 4-4-2 they took the lead in the game. Will the travelling Manchester United fans get to see Victor Valdes in the starting line-up for the first time since signing for United on a 18 month contract at the start of this month.