All eyes will be on Rodney Parade for Newport County’s FA Cup fourth-round glamour tie on Sunday, as the League Two outfit bid to become the latest masterminds of a giant killing against Manchester United.
Graham Coughlan’s team saw off Eastleigh 3-1 in a third-round replay to earn a dream date with the Red Devils, who ran out 2-0 winners over Wigan Athletic earlier this month.
Eight times Newport County have competed in the fourth round of the FA Cup, but only twice have the Exiles managed to make it through to the fifth phase – doing so in 1948-49 and 70 years later in 2018-19 – but the form book is on their side ahead of Sunday’s tantalising battle.
Four days after setting up their date with the Red Devils, Newport unexpectedly got the better of the Red Dragons of Wrexham in League Two action, triumphing 1-0 in a bad-tempered contest thanks to a Seb Palmer-Houlden header, stretching their winning run to three matches and their unbeaten streak to seven.
Only six points now separates Newport from the playoff positions in the League Two table, even if their 14th-placed standing is still a relatively unsightly one, and the hosts have only been beaten in one of their last 10 games at Rodney Parade, going without defeat in seven on the trot.
Discontent and disappointment has been prevalent at Old Trafford ever since the 2023-24 campaign commenced for Man United and Erik ten Hag, whose job is believed to be secure for the time being, but the scrutiny will ramp up should the Red Devils leave Rodney Parade a beaten team.
A trip to Wigan Athletic for the third round was ostensibly a foregone conclusion from the first whistle, and Man United did what needed to be done thanks to a Diogo Dalot finish and Bruno Fernandes penalty, although the manner of that two-goal success was still not entirely convincing.
Nevertheless, victories by any margin are preferable to battling defeats in the FA Cup, where Man United are unbeaten in 28 FA Cup road games against teams competing outside of the top flight, and 49 of their 51 such ties home or away have seen the Red Devils emerge triumphant.
However, Sunday’s affair will represent Man United’s first FA Cup tie in Wales since the 2005 final at the Millennium Stadium, where the Red Devils dominated Arsenal only to be beaten on penalties, and they experienced another dose of North London-inflicted anguish on January 14, taking the lead twice against Tottenham Hotspur but ceding both advantages in a 2-2 draw.
Just two of Man United’s last eight contests in all tournaments have seen Ten Hag’s unpredicable team come up trumps, and the Red Devils went winless in five successive away matches before sending Wigan packing. However, a two-week pause should have been accepted with open arms by the 12-time FA Cup winners, who take on Newport in a competitive setting for the very first time on Sunday.
Anthony Martial – who ought to have earned a rare start on Sunday if fully fit – is facing 10 weeks on the sidelines after undergoing a groin operation, dashing the Red Devils’ hopes of selling the soon-to-be free agent in the last knockings of the January transfer window.
Sofyan Amrabat and Andre Onana are also away at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Mason Mount (calf), Tyrell Malacia (knee) and Victor Lindelof (groin) are in the infirmary, but Luke Shaw (unspecified) and Harry Maguire (groin) could both make their competitive comebacks at Rodney Parade.
Both defenders took part in a recent friendly loss to Burnley behind closed doors, and with Onana finally vacating his place in goal, Altay Bayindir is in line for a belated Red Devils debut.
FA Cup schedule
It’s a 4:30 PM kickoff in the UK, which means 11:30 AM on the east coast of the U.S.
FA Cup channel
The match will be on BBC One in the UK. Those Stateside can watch on ESPN Plus on the ESPN streaming app. If you’re in Canada, you can stream the game through SportsNet.
Everyone else, head on over to LiveSoccerTV to find your viewing options.
Manchester United possible starting lineup: Bayindir; Wan-Bissaka, Evans, Kambwala, Dalot; Mainoo, McTominay; Antony, Fernandes, Garnacho; Hojlund