How have Shrewsbury been performing of late, away from the FA Cup?
This season has been a struggle. In the cups we have performed well above expectation, but in the league it's generally been poor. That said since We had a real bad run around Christmas (including a 7-1 loss to Chesterfield and bad losses at home to the bottom two!) the last two games have seen signs of life. First was a creditable draw at Fleetwood and then a 3-2 win at Blackpool (after almost throwing a 3-0 lead away). It's given us breathing space in the league and a chance to pull clear as others wasted their games in hand. A lot of this is down to a major rebuild during the January transfer window, which saw out top scorer, club captain leave the club! As much as this United game is big, our away game at Colchester is fundamentally more important in the long term!
What are the biggest concerns for Shrewsbury this season - are the team and owners behaving as they should?
A fact that's often missed about STFC is that we run without debt and have done so for a long time, under the leadership of an ageing but utterly frugal chairman. This season has seen the cash roll in further with the cup run, TV money, and selling Ryan Woods, Connor Goldson and two youth prospects pushing us up to £1.5- 2 million of incoming (assuming the transfers were paid up front which is unlikely in this modern football world). So unlike say Cambridge when you played them the money from this game or a reply is just extra for us to top up the bank account.
However it's not all sunshine with the chairman, granted he saved the club from going to the wall in the 90's and oversaw the move to a new stadium, but the club and fan relationship has been tested over the years. We had a massive battle to get our badge reinstated after an awful change to a lion for corporate reasons, and there is no blueprint for the future. The club also make mistakes all the time, and staff go in and out of the chairman's revolving door almost too fast to keep a track of. It's not 100% positive or negative. People do worry about what comes next though.
Who are the players most capable of hurting United on Monday?
Well on you current form... Anyone! Seriously though, Andy Mangan is the man for the big occasion. His story is a strange one. Start of last season he came in as a big lower league name but injury prone. He had a great season as we got promoted, a real fan favourite and scored vs Chealsa well as scoring a free kick kick against Leicester (before they got good) which knocked them out in our good league cup run. Then end of season we offered him a one year deal which he turned down to go play conference football with Tranmere! He fell out with the manager and by January 2016 we paid money to get him back on a 18 month deal! Madness. First game back scored the winner in the Cardiff cup game to knock them out. So short story, he's good at scoring vital cup goals! He won't let your defenders rest and is pretty clinical.
Are you optimistic of being able to get through to the next round?
Look, it's Manchester United but for a club like us there cannot be a better time to play them. I watched the game on Thursday and we are no worse than the opposition you faced then. Also teams have consistently underestimated us in the cusp for a few years. We have knocked out Leicester, Swansea, Blackburn, Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff. Not Manchester United but two premiership teams in that and shows how we get up for these matches. Our manager is tactically spot on in these big one off games. If we go down it will be to go down fighting. I would never have said this years ago but genuinely think we have a chance of at least a replay and if you stink the house out again who knows? Would be best result in clubs history of it happens too!
Are you worried that Shrewsbury might be susceptible to complacency when they play a side as bad as United?
Lol! No, we consistently play teams as bad as United at the moment such as Oldham, Blackpool and Fleetwood so we are used to it!
Do you think that, if he knuckled down and really put his mind to it, Wayne Rooney might be able to make the step up from his usual performances to be good enough for Shrewsbury?
I'm sure you know the story of the last time Wayne visited Shrewsbury. Is was back as an 18 year old playing for Everton! They came to the Meadow for an FA cup game and he was dominated by one of our oldest centre backs and a journeyman pro! We won 2-1 in what was our best result in the last 25 years. He's injured anyway now, so no worries there. Like most I'm hoping its long enough for Vardy and Kane to be England's front two in the Euros!
If there are any United fans who want to follow live match tweeting from the Shrewsbury side of things pop along to @B_and_A_fanzine on Monday night. I will be there in my usual seat for a most unusual game. And if we do win and kill off Van Gal, it was no problem, your thanks are not needed ;)