And so to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, for a good day out and hopefully not too much of a drubbing. If that sounds pessimistic, that’s because the only way we are going to cause a cup shock and win, or even draw, is if we play better than we have at any time this season, if luck goes our way and if Chelsea have an off day.
That’s a lot of “ifs” and the odds are against them all happening in one afternoon, though obviously not impossible.
One huge point in our favour is the fact that for some reason the Premier League have scheduled a full round of fixtures straight after the weekend cup games, with Chelsea at home to West Bromwich on the Wednesday, just three days after the United game.
As Chelsea’s priority right now is to get away from the relegation zone, this means they will be more inclined than ever to rest players for the United game. That’s likely to mean we will be facing a team of fringe players and youngsters who have never played together as a unit.
Even Premiership youngsters may be too good for us, but at least it offers a glimmer of hope. It would have been even better had Jose Mourinho still been in charge given that the players appeared to have stopped playing for him.
It will be interesting to see how Mark Robins approaches this game: will he send out a defensive team aimed at damage limitation or, with nothing to lose, be more adventurous. It seems he wants a bit of both, saying this week: “We want to go there and be really positive,” before adding: “We can’t just treat it as a day out. We have got to go there with a serious plan, with serious preparation and put in a serious performance.”
One thing United can’t afford to do is pack midfield and then find themselves under the cosh for much of the game, with defensive clearances pinging straight back because there are too few players forward to hold up the ball. That way we will get a drubbing.
The biggest winner for United in all this is likely to be the club’s bank balance. First, we get a 45% split of Sunday’s gate receipts. A sold-out Premier League game at Stamford Bridge brings in about £3.7m, but ticket prices for our game are lower so United should pocket around £600.000. The fee for being live on TV is £144,000 for each club, while the prize fund United have earned so far is £18,000 for winning the first round and £27,000 for winning the second. So altogether that is about £800,000.
Compared to some of the chairman’s spending, that’s a drop in the ocean. But it does show the potential if the club were to get really successful. Anyway, enjoy the day!