United's last five first-time cup ties

Wednesday 17 January 2024 10:00

Manchester United's Emirates FA Cup fourth-round opponents were confirmed on Tuesday night, following the third-round replay between Eastleigh and Newport County.

Newport secured a coveted home fixture after beating the Spitfires 3-1 at the Silverlake Stadium in Hampshire.

It will be the first time the Reds have ever come up against the Exiles in a competitive fixture and, while games like this are integral in maintaining the feeling that there's still 'magic' left in the old cup, they are relatively rare occurrences.

We've been through the archives and found that United have only been drawn against 'new' opposition in the FA Cup five times since the beginning of the 1980s, with Colchester United (1979), Peterborough United (1976) and Chester City (1965) examples before that.

The Reds went up against the likes of Walthamstow Avenue, Workington and Wrexham in the 1950s, but maiden meetings have been few and far between in the modern era.

Read about the most recent quintet of outings below, starting with a fifth-round journey to Shropshire from our last victorious season in the tournament...

Watch highlights of the 2016 victory over Shrewsbury Town.


Sheffield United and Derby County had been dispatched in the cup, before the draw set up a first-ever jaunt to Shrewsbury and their New Meadow ground. At the time, the meeting with the League One outfit looked a potential banana skin for Louis van Gaal’s injury-hit Reds: 13 players were missing, including the likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia.

Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson were granted rare starts, with homegrown players Joe Riley, Andreas and Will Keane introduced from the bench, although the latter lasted just minutes before having to come off himself, due to a groin injury. Fortunately, the contest was settled by then, as Juan Mata - with the pick of the goals - Chris Smalling and Jesse Lingard scored to place us in the quarter-finals and a step closer to a couple of memorable days against Everton and Crystal Palace at Wembley.


The non-league Red Devils, under the charge of Steve Evans, were setting records on their march to the Conference National title and arrived at Old Trafford as the first side from outside the top four divisions to reach the fifth round since 1994. The Sussex club brought 9,000 supporters to the Theatre of Dreams and made a good account of themselves against a United side which had just lost its long unbeaten record in the Premier League, to bottom-of-the-table Wolves.

The record books show that Wes Brown’s first-half header settled the tie, but Crawley did go close to snatching a replay, with Richard Brodie striking the crossbar right at the end of the game. The West Sussex club were promoted at the end of the campaign and remain an EFL club, 13 years on.

Wes Brown headed in the winner against Crawley, in 2011.


A year on from a goalless draw with non-league Exeter at Old Trafford, history repeated itself as Sir Alex Ferguson’s youthful side were held by Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, this time at their recently opened Pirelli Stadium. We’d only been to Derbyshire two months earlier to play a friendly to officially open the ground, but a return was scheduled 55 days later against the Brewers, who caused our young XI plenty of problems.

Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ryan Giggs were given the afternoon off, while Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney entered the fray as substitutes. It was Rooney who came closest to scoring for the Reds, but Albion held on for a lucrative replay, much to the delight of their fans, who had marked the occasion with banners reading ‘who needs Van Nistelrooy, we've got Keith Gilroy’ and similar. Ten days later, 11,000 of them turned up at Old Trafford – one of the largest away followings seen at our home. Alas, the Reds ran out 5-0 winners, with Giuseppe Rossi scoring twice, but, like Crawley, Burton would soon establish themselves as a league side, even enjoying a couple of seasons in the Championship between 2016 and 2018.

It was a battle with Burton at the Pirelli Stadium.


Reformed as Hereford FC in 2014, this incarnation of the Bulls has ceased to exist but those in the cathedral city will still have fond memories of when MUFC came to town, in January 1990. Mark Robins’s famous goal at Forest had set up the tie and it was another tight game at Edgar Street, this time against Fourth-Division opposition. The home side had great FA Cup pedigree, famously knocking Newcastle United out of the competition in the 1970s and the Reds were lucky not to fall behind when Jim Leighton kept out Colin Robinson in the 50th minute, both sides having stopped momentarily, after a whistle was blown in the crowd.

Alex Ferguson’s men, without influential leaders Bryan Robson and Steve Bruce, huffed and puffed like the Herefordshire bull that was paraded around the pitch before kick-off, and reports from the time suggested a replay would have been a satisfying outcome for the Reds. But Clayton Blackmore sidefooted home Mike Duxbury’s cross with five minutes to play, continuing a cup run that would famously result in the first of Ferguson’s 38 trophies.

Mark Hughes in action at Edgar Street in 1990.


Dale provided the first hurdle to clear for the holders in 1986, after the previous season’s victory for United over Everton at Wembley. Despite a mere 12-mile drive separating the club’s grounds, it was a first-ever competitive meeting between the Greater Manchester sides, with Rochdale in the midst of a 36-year confinement to the bottom tier.

The Spotland club would go on to finish 18th in the old Fourth Division – a whole 82 places below United – but gave a good showing at Old Trafford, even after Frank Stapleton had capitalised on a poor goal-kick to establish a 15th-minute lead. Chris Turner had to save well from a Joe Cooke header, but that was Dale’s only real effort and Mark Hughes settled affairs in the closing stages. The clubs were reunited five years ago, as a penalty shootout victory saved Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side from a chastening early Carabao Cup exit, before Dale were relegated to the National League in 2023.