Tranmere Rovers: Opposition preview
Manchester United play a senior game at Prenton Park for the first time in our history on Sunday as we face Tranmere Rovers in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be aiming to secure progress through to the last 16 of the world’s oldest cup competition for the sixth season in succession, after Juan Mata’s goal at Old Trafford helped defeat Wolves in the third-round replay last week.
Sunday’s opponents saw off Premier League side Watford on Thursday, and will hope for another scalp when they welcome the Reds to Birkenhead.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Whites…
Tranmere boss Micky Mellon may want to make a few changes to his side for Sunday’s game, which comes less than 72 hours after the Watford replay victory. Calum Woods came on as an extra-time substitute in that game, after being announced as a doubt pre-match. Ollie Banks, who has been out since October, was absent for Thursday’s tie, as were Mark Ellis and Evan Gumbs. The pair are yet to feature in 2019/20 after picking up serious knee injuries towards the end of last season.
In their first season back in the third tier for five years, Tranmere currently sit in 21st in League One, which is the last of the three relegation spots. Rovers are three points from safety, having recorded just one win in their last 10 league games. That came at home to AFC Wimbledon four days prior to Christmas, when on-loan Aston Villa forward Rushian Hepburn-Murphy scored the only goal of the game.
The Whites have had better luck in cup competitions this season, with Wycombe Wanderers, Chichester City and Watford knocked out in the FA Cup so far. Victory over the Hornets seemed unlikely when they were 3-0 down at Vicarage Road in early January, but a second-half fightback forced a replay at Prenton Park, which Tranmere went on to win after extra-time. Rovers saw off United’s Under-21s in the second-round of the Leasing.com Trophy in December, winning 3-2 at Prenton Park, but were defeated by Leicester City’s youngsters at the following stage of the competition, one of three home defeats Tranmere have suffered already in all competitions in 2020.
HAVE WE MET BEFORE?
United and Tranmere have only met on one previous occasion, a League Cup second-round tie at Old Trafford in September 1976. Despite the two divisions separating the sides, Rovers went into the break level, before a spurt of goals in the second-half ensured Tommy Docherty’s men progressed to the next stage. Gerry Daly and Lou Macari converted crosses from the left wing to score within a minute of each other just after the break, before Stuart Pearson added a third on the hour. Gordon Hill then registered his name on the scoresheet with 10 minutes to go, before Daly made it five.
A former Rovers player, who also turned out for West Bromwich Albion, Blackpool and Burnley, among others, during his professional career, Mellon has been in the hot-seat at Prenton Park since October 2016. The erstwhile Fleetwood Town boss guided the Whites to promotion from the National League in his first full season in charge, backing that up with further success in the League Two play-offs 12 months later. After Tranmere’s victory over Watford, Mellon, who managed Shrewsbury Town against United in the fifth round in 2016, said Sunday’s match will be a huge event for his side. “They are an unbelievable football club and we are a League One club, at the bottom end of League One, but we are going to give it everything we've got,” the 47-year-old said. “We will try to represent the club again and the players will run their socks off again and who knows?”
ONES TO WATCH
While Connor Jennings is Rovers’ top-scorer this season, with seven goals in all competitions, Tranmere are indebted to Paul Mullin for their place in the fourth round. The 25-year-old came off the bench to net a late equaliser from the penalty spot at Vicarage Road in a thrilling 3-3 draw and repeated the trick in the replay, heading home in extra-time to send Prenton Park into raptures. The man who he replaced, Morgan Ferrier, is also one to watch, having netted four goals in the FA Cup so far this season, while Rovers can also count on players with Premier League experience, in the form of Peter Clarke (ex-Everton) and Neil Danns (Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City).
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