Manchester United 1-0 Crawley: Sunday Mirror match report
Published 22:30 19/02/11 By Simon Mullock
In the end there was no disgrace in being knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United.
Or even Manchester United Reserves.
The record books will show that only Wes Brown’s first-half header separated the most glamorous club in England from a team standing 93 places below them on the football ladder.
And no doubt Crawley Town will enjoy counting the million quid they earned from their first-ever trip to Old Trafford as much as Steve Evans savoured the £250 bottle of vintage red he shared with Sir Alex Ferguson afterwards.
But when Crawley’s number came up after United’s when the fifth-round draw was made, did the Blue Square Conference minnows dream of facing Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs or Bebe, Gabriel Obertan and Anders Lindegaard? Did the 9,000 fans travel north from Sussex in
the belief that they were paying to see United’s artists or artisans?
Even ITV must have been tempted to ask for their money back when they saw the teamsheet Ferguson handed to referee Lee Probert as they went live on air.
Thankfully, even in defeat, Crawley did the FA Cup proud.
United made 10 changes to the side that won the Manchester derby last week – including Bebe and Obertan, who on this form would both be lucky to get a game with FC United in the Evo-Stik League. At the end, even Ferguson admitted that his team had been given a culture shock. “I was getting concerned,” said the United boss. “Crawley deserved a draw for the effort and commitment they showed.
“Maybe some of the players I picked didn’t know what FA Cup football is about. But they got a lesson tonight all right.
“I thought we did okay in the first half. But in the second half we weren’t at the races. We didn’t have a single shot.”
The Football Association fears that their famous old competition is dying on its feet. What a shame that Crawley couldn’t quite give it the kiss of life. With Ferguson’s thoughts already focused on Wednesday night’s Champions League trip to Marseille, the Blue Square League promotion-chasers must have been lifted by his selection.
Once Crawley’s players and supporters got acclimatised to their surroundings, they were a match for the club sat at the top of the Premier League.
Even after Brown had punished some slack marking by the visitors to glance a header past Michael Kuipers in the 28th minute, their belief never wavered. Darron Gibson – the home side’s best performer – worked a short corner with Obertan wide on the left. With visiting defenders ball watching, Gibson flashed over an inviting cross that enabled Brown to score his first goal since October 2008.
Kuipers, who used to be a paratrooper in the Dutch army, must have braced himself for siege, especially when Wayne Rooney was introduced immediately after the break.
Yet, amazingly it was Crawley who became the dominant force.
So much so that Ferguson was forced to introduce Chris Smalling and Darren Fletcher in a bid to take some of the bite from the underdogs.
Even that wasn’t enough.
Three times Crawley went desperately close to grabbing the golden goal that would have taken United back to Broadfield Stadium.
First, David Hunt found himself unmarked at the far-post as substitute Richard Brodie crossed from the right, but the full-back could only volley wide. Two minutes later, at the same East Stand end that witnessed Rooney’s remarkable match-winning strike last week, Crawley’s Matt Tubbs went desperately close when his overhead kick looped over.
Then, two minutes into injury-time, came one of those moments in which FA Cup legends are forged.
Hunt’s corner flicked off Obertan’s head and looped up perfectly for Brodie.
Perhaps he had too much time to think. Maybe the magnitude of the moment got to him.
Brodie went for precision rather than power and was able to guide his header over Lindegaard only to see it smack against the crossbar.
Next up for Crawley is Southport at home.
As Evans enjoyed his drink in Ferguson’s office last night, it must have been a hard one to swallow.