Breaking new ground in the FA Cup
Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup fourth-round tie against Tranmere Rovers sees us play a senior game at Prenton Park for the first time in our history.
The Birkenhead venue will be the 66th current Premier League and/or Football League ground to have hosted a United match, with the FA Cup often throwing up opportunities for Reds’ supporters to visit pastures new.
Here are five grounds we’ve travelled to for the first time in the cup in the last three decades…
EDGAR STREET (1-0 v HEREFORD UNITED, 1990)
The Reds were 19th in the top-flight when we made the trip to Edgar Street to face Hereford, who were languishing towards the bottom of the Fourth Division. The Bulls had been responsible for one of the great cup shocks of all-time in 1972, when Ronnie Radford’s goal knocked out Newcastle and, for long spells, it looked as if Alex Ferguson’s side may be on the receiving end of a similar surprise. Hereford had the best of the chances on a poor pitch, but Clayton Blackmore sidefooted home Mike Duxbury’s cross five minutes from time to send United through. We would, of course, go on to lift the cup at Wembley, with 1990 still the only instance of a side winning the trophy without playing a single game at home.
SIXFIELDS STADIUM (3-0 v NORTHAMPTON TOWN, 2004)
George Best famously netted six goals against the Cobblers in the FA Cup in 1970, but that was at the County Ground – the same venue we’d faced Northampton at five years earlier, in their only season in the top-flight. Town moved to their current Sixfields home in 1994, and, a decade later we were drawn to play there in the fourth round. With the Reds locked in a title tussle with Arsenal, Sir Alex opted to rotate his side, with Diego Forlan leading the line. The Uruguayan saw his third-minute penalty saved by Cobblers’ keeper Lee Harper, but Mikael Silvestre gave United the lead on the half-hour mark. Chris Hargreaves’ own goal on 47 minutes effectively ended the tie as a contest, but a repeat of the 8-2 Best-inspired drubbing was never on the cards, even if Forlan did eventually get on the scoresheet late on. We’ve been back to Sixfields since, winning 3-1 in a third-round League Cup tie in 2016.
PIRELLI STADIUM (0-0 v BURTON ALBION, 2006)
When Sir Alex brought a young side to Burton for a friendly to mark the official opening of the Pirelli Stadium in November 2005, he probably didn’t expect to have to return so soon. Yet the draw for the third round of that season's FA Cup pitted the Reds against Nigel Clough’s Brewers, who were in what was then the Conference. Again, United went into the game with a number of first-teamers missing, although the likes of Silvestre, Wes Brown and Louis Saha all started, with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo introduced in the second-half. Current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was also named in the starting XI, for the first time since May 2004 after knee surgery. Despite the gulf between the teams, the Brewers threatened Tim Howard’s goal on several occasions, and had a late claim for a Gerard Pique handball turned down. The game finished 0-0, with United emerging 5-0 victors in the replay, in front of almost 11,000 travelling Albion supporters.
HUISH PARK (2-0 v YEOVIL TOWN, 2015)
Yeovil Town have a history of giant-killing in the FA Cup, knocking Sunderland out of the 1949 competition as a non-league side, before losing 8-0 to United at Old Trafford. Our next meeting with the Glovers came some 66 years later, with Gary Johnson’s side rooted to the bottom of League One. Louis van Gaal’s Reds, who had fallen to a heavy defeat at Milton Keynes Dons in the League Cup earlier in the season, were keen to avoid another upset, but the gallant home side kept us at bay for a frustrating opening hour, until Ander Herrera’s spectacular strike. Angel Di Maria cleared Joseph Edwards’ goalbound header off the line, before wrapping things up at the other end, in added time. We paid another visit to Huish Park three years later, this time securing a comfortable 4-0 win in the fourth round.
NEW MEADOW (V SHREWSBURY TOWN, 2016)
After seeing off Sheffield United and Derby County to reach the fifth round, the Reds were paired with Shrewsbury, in what is our first and only meeting against the Salopians so far. The New Meadow, opened in 2007, was the venue as a United side looking to bounce back from a 2-1 Europa League reverse to Midtjylland came calling. With a point to prove, the Reds dominated from start to finish, going into the break two goals to the good, courtesy of Chris Smalling’s scuffed shot and Juan Mata’s inch-perfect free-kick. Jesse Lingard added a third in the second-half to extend our run against lower league opposition in the FA Cup games to just one defeat in 46 (now one in 52). After that, it was Premier League opposition all the way through for the Reds, with Louis van Gaal’s side overcoming West Ham, Everton and Crystal Palace to lift the trophy for the 12th time.
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