Manchester United F.C. were embarrassingly held to a 0-0 draw at fourth tier Cambridge United in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday after another harsh lesson against lower league opposition.
Cambridge, promoted from the minor leagues into the professional pyramid last season, had studied hard and gave the visitors a lesson in terms of desire and defensive organisation.
The home side even had the best opportunity in the first half when Josh Coulson headed over from close range as the Old trafford side, dumped out of the League Cup 4-0 by third-tier Milton Keynes Dons in August, were reduced to half chances.
Manchester United F.C. started with a back four, as manager Louis van Gaal continues to tinker with his formation, and Cambridge’s physicality and height caused problems but the illustrious visitors dealt reasonably well with the high balls in the wind.
The 8,000-strong crowd in the tight Abbey Stadium loudly cheered every Cambridge attack, especially as the hosts consistently flooded forward confidently on the break.
United, with captain Wayne Rooney rested, improved in the second half with Radamel Falcao forcing Chris Dunn into a smart save and substitute Robin van Persie firing over when he should have scored.
Dunn was the hero again in stoppage time when he superbly blocked British record signing Angel Di Maria’s shot as the paupers made a mockery of the princes, who did not have the same trouble winning at lower league Yeovil Town in round three.
“I’m obviously extremely proud of each and every one of them,” Cambridge boss Richard Money, who won a European Cup winner’s medal with Liverpool in 1981, told the BBC.
“I thought we carried a threat and moved the ball quite nicely. We tried to make sure it didn’t faze them in the tunnel. We’ll take the replay of course.”
Manchester United F.C., fourth in the Premier League amid another fitful season, have won the FA Cup a joint-record 11 times but thy have not lifted the famous old trophy since 2004.
The Cup is their only realistic chance of silverware this term and although a home replay will not clog their fixture list given their lack of European competition, they will still be shocked at failing to beat a team ranked 76 places beneath them.
Stand-in skipper Michael Carrick reacted like they had just played a difficult Premier League game rather than faced a team from a place much more famous for its university.
“First half was very scrappy, it was tough. Second half we were a lot better,” the England midfielder said. “We are still there, we’ve got the replay.”
The rest of the fourth round games take place over the next three days with holders Arsenal visiting second-tier Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.