Cobblers supporters have to relish Manchester United showdown

I don't know, you wait your whole life for a cup tie against Manchester United, and then two come along in the space of, er, 12 years...

Wednesday, 21st September 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 2:46 pm
STAR IN THE MAKING - Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo shakes hands with Cobblers striker Derek Asamoah at the end of the 2004 FA Cup meeting between the teams (Pictures: Pete Norton)

Games don’t get much more special in English football than those against the biggest club in the country, and it is a treat for everybody connected with the Cobblers that the Red Devils are coming to town on Wednesday night.

The EFL Cup tie comes not exactly hot on the heels of the 2004 FA Cup meeting between the sides, a match United won 3-0 without getting out of first gear, but compared to the meeting previous to that - in 1970 - it’s no time at all!

And for a club like the Cobblers, it is a huge boost to host such a footballing giant again, especially as Rob Page and his players have earned that right with excellent wins to date over Barnsley and West Bromwich Albion.

And for a journalist such as myself, I feel privileged to get the chance to be involved in covering, and doing my tiny, little bit of documenting the history of two matches of such magnitude.

Of course, there will be Cobblers supporters old enough and lucky enough to have watched the George Best six-goal show in the FA Cup at the County Ground back on that cold February day in 1970 - but as I was just 11 months old, I missed out there!

Some will also recall the home league meeting between the sides at Abington Avenue on August 28, 1965, a match that ended in a 1-1 draw in front of a crowd of 21,245, with the Cobblers grabbing a point against a United team that included Bobby Charlton, Best, Nobby Stiles, Denis Law and Paddy Crerand - who would of course go on to be a Town manager.

But that is it as far as Manchester United coming to Northampton goes.

They’ve only been in town on three occasions - and only once in the past 46 years - with four meetings between the clubs in total.

The Cobblers’ one trip to Old Trafford, in 1966, ended in a 6-2 defeat - and the fact meetings between the clubs are so rare underlines just how special it is to be welcoming the three-times European champions to Sixfields in 2016.

Of course, we still have no idea what sort of team the Premier League giants will field at Northampton, but it is pretty evident that, whoever they select, United will ooze class and be a team full of internationals, just as the team was in 2004 - although it was a long way from being full strength.

United still picked international stars such as Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Diego Forlan, Darren Fletcher and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, who made his FA Cup debut as a teenager.

A quick glance at the current United squad list tells you that a whole host of star names that haven’t been getting regular game time so far this season could be in line for a run-out against the Cobblers.

We are talking about the likes of Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind.

Then there are the players who have barely featured this season, with the of Michael Carrick, Memphis Depay, Jesse Lingard, Marcos Rojo and World Cup winner Bastian Schweinseiger.

So even a complete second string team is likely to be pretty handy!

One star of the world game that we do know will definitely be at Sixfields is, of course, United manager Jose Mourinho, who will be pitting his wits against Cobblers boss Page, who has enjoyed an excellent start to his Northampton career.

Former Chelsea, Internazionale and Real Madrid manager Mourinho will get to experience the delights of the away dugout in front of the west stand faithful for the first time, and it will be a privilege to see him there, just as it was when Sir Alex Ferguson did the same in 2004.

To be honest, the Sixfields crowd didn’t get to see much of Fergie, as he sat down for virtually the whole game as his team dominated and saw off the Cobblers with the minimum of fuss.

Cobblers supporters will be hoping that this time things are a little more uncomfortable for Mourinho and his United players, because, let’s face it, it’s about time Town laid a glove on them.

Aside from that league draw 51 years ago, the Cobblers results against United have been 2-6, 2-8 and 0-3 - so here’s hoping it’s a little bit closer this time around.