Everything you need to know ahead of Tranmere Rovers vs. Manchester United:
(1) Manchester United really need a win — no matter the competition. After a battling display at Anfield last weekend that nonetheless ended in defeat, the Reds limply surrendered 2-0 to Burnley on Wednesday evening. Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez scored on either side of halftime, while a late Luke Shaw consoler was disallowed for the hosts. And yet another chance to gain ground on Chelsea went wasted...
There have been 8 opportunities in the last 12 games for Manchester United to close the gap to 4th on Chelsea after Chelsea losing or drawing.— UtdArena. (@utdarena) January 22, 2020
In 6 of those opportunities Manchester United have either drawn or lost.
(2) Expect Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to ring the changes on Sunday. Sergio Romero, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Mason Greenwood (more on him in a minute), and maybe even a young gun like Jimmy Garner could earn a starting eleven nod at Tranmere. With three key Reds on the long-term injury list — and Victor Lindelöf possibly out sick — Solskjaer must keep the healthy members of his squad as fresh as possible.
(3) With Marcus Rashford sidelined for months with stress fractures in his back, it might be time to unleash Mason Greenwood. The 18-year-old has already scored nine goals in all senior competitions this season and should get opportunities galore to hit double digits in the coming weeks. In a disheartening season, Greenwood’s nose for goal is a rare bright spot. Start him, Ole.
(4) Rashford’s injury heaps even more pressure on Ed Woodward to deliver reinforcements before the transfer window shuts next week. Potential options include a loan for Luka Jović from Real Madrid, wantaway PSG frontman Edinson Cavani, or even an improbable return for Carlos Tevez. None look particularly likely, though. To complicate matters even further, both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are also on the hunt for forwards.
*Bruno Fernandes deal is on the table for £60m*— Ramzan (@ramzan_a95) January 23, 2020
Manchester United: Meh
*Option to sign 35 year old Carlos Tevez on loan*
Manchester United: pic.twitter.com/qNiXqUJWv4
(5) Oddly, Manchester United did not learn their fourth-round opponent until just days before this FA Cup tie. The Tranmere-Watford replay was originally scheduled for last week like all of the others, but a waterlogged Prenton Park pitch caused a postponement. The less-than-ideal playing surface at Tranmere will loom large over Manchester United’s preparations for this one.
(6) In the original match, Watford looked set to cruise through after jumping out to a 3-0 lead at Vicarage Road. Tranmere, though, mounted a furious comeback to force Thursday’s replay. With Watford mired in an all-important Premier League relegation battle and faced with three matches in six days, Nigel Pearson completely changed his side and fielded a mostly U23 group.
(7) In the replay, it took until the 36th minute for either side to manage a shot on goal — but it was an important one. Tranmere’s Manny Monthe handed the League One club a thoroughly-deserved lead, one they kept until Kaylen Hinds equalized for Watford in the second half. This never-ending tie was finally settled in extra time, as substitute Paul Mullin won it for the hosts with a 104th minute goal.
(8) Come Sunday, that should be a huge benefit to Manchester United. The Reds already have an extra day’s rest before the match, while Tranmere slogged their way through 120 minutes of grueling football on a very dodgy pitch.
(9) Okay, about that pitch: Watford struggled mightily with Prenton Park’s uneven surface — which, by the final whistle, looked more like a beach than a professional soccer ground. Sand and mud everywhere. Here’s a shot from before kickoff. Now, imagine it after 120 minutes of action...
(10) Hosting Manchester United in the FA Cup caps off a remarkable few years for Tranmere Rovers. Banished to the non-league wilderness after a shocking 2015 relegation, Micky Mellon arrived and quickly put the Merseyside club back on track. They won promotion to League Two in 2018 and followed that up by jumping to League One the next year. Mellon will need to work his magic once again, though, as Rovers currently sit 21st and at-risk of dropping back into League Two.
(11) Mellon on Sunday’s matchup:
[Manchester United] are an unbelievable football club and we are a League One club — at the bottom end of League One — but we are going to give it everything we’ve got. We will try to represent the club again and the players will run their socks off again.
I don’t think it’s an opportunity because of the form United are in. I know they have a threat. We have to make sure we are ready. We will give it everything we’ve got. There is no doubt we will be up against a good side.