London: Crawley Town are dreaming of scoring the greatest upset in FA Cup history as they prepare to take on mighty Manchester United at Old Trafford in the fifth round on Saturday.
Both clubs are nicknamed The Red Devils and they are both managed by a fiery Glaswegian. But beyond that, Manchester United and Crawley have little in common other than Saturday evening’s appointment at 5:15pm (1715 GMT).
United have won the league 18 times and the FA Cup on 11 occasions; Crawley’s more modest recent successes have come in the Sussex Senior Cup and the Southern League Championship.
United striker Wayne Rooney is believed to be picking up a weekly pay cheque in excess of 200,000 pounds; Crawley’s top-earner is thought to be earning around 1,100 pounds a week.
United regularly attract sell-out crowds of 76,000 at Old Trafford; Crawley are lucky to lure more than a 1,000 punters through their gates each week, even though they have sold 9,000 tickets for Saturday’s clash.
Given the vast gulf in resources, anything other than a comprehensive United victory on Saturday will qualify as a huge surprise.
And should the unthinkable happen -- a Crawley win -- then the tiny club from Sussex can justifiably lay claim to the biggest shock in FA Cup history.
It’s an improbable scenario, but having already accounted for league opposition in the earlier rounds -- Derby, Swindon and Torquay -- Crawley manager Steve Evans is bullishly talking up his team’s chances.
“I think that we are genuinely one of the teams that could possibly get a positive result there,” the Scot said.
“It will just be Manchester United v Crawley Town, and as far fetched as that sounds, that’s what it is.
“We settled on our team last night and we have a reasonable idea of what team they will put out.”
Even so, Evans acknowledges that he and his players will be ravaged by nerves as he prepares to take on a side managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, a man whom he refers to simply as “The Master.”
“Nervous? I’ll be meeting Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford in front of 75,000 Manchester United fans. Of course I’m nervous,” he said.
“I’d be nervous just speaking to the master himself.”
Crawley’s FA Cup run has not met with universal acclaim however. The club has been dubbed “The Manchester City of non-league football” after an infusion of cash from wealthy Hong Kong-based benefactors who have remained anonymous.
Evans insists the club has not bought success however, claiming that rival clubs have more money to spend on players.
“There has been a lot written (about the owners’ money) but we couldn’t afford some of the players that (rivals) Luton or Wrexham could,” he said.
“I would like to think that we have gone about our business in the best way possible.”
While Crawley’s David vs Goliath battle takes centre-stage, Arsenal will come back down to earth following their Champions League win over Barcelona with a trip to League One side Leyton Orient in east London.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger plans to rotate his squad for Sunday’s visit to Orient, who play in the third tier of English football.
In other FA Cup matches this weekend, holders Chelsea will aim to book their place in the fifth round as they face Everton in a fourth round replay. Manchester City also have a replay, at home against Notts County following a 1-1 draw in their first encounter.