Dave Seddon’s PNE view

Louis van Gaal's United would be the ideal fifth-round opponents ' if PNE get there
Louis van Gaal's United would be the ideal fifth-round opponents ' if PNE get there
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The proverbial carrot has been dangled and next week Preston North End will try and bite it.

Up for grabs when they make the now familiar visit to Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane will be a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

A televised Monday night home tie is the prize for the winners, £247,500 in broadcast rights for starters.

And the fact that Manchester United should be the visitors – although Cambridge might have something to say about that – takes the level of prize up many more notches.

So in terms of a cash boost and major exposure, Tuesday night in South Yorkshire could be one feisty occasion as PNE and the Blades battle it out for the last 16.

How the Lilywhites could do with delivering on the one-off occasion. Far too often on the big night they have not done – their play-off record is proof of that.

On a smaller scale, losing out to Walsall over two legs in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy goes down that line.

Forget just for a moment that Manchester United are potential opponents on February 16.

Reaching the fifth round of the famous competition, which appears to be getting its mojo back, should be motivation enough.

Just think about it – last 16, two games from a Wembley semi-final with some of the big boys already knocked out.

Perhaps that is far-fetched but do you get my drift about the motivation already there, even before throwing Louis van Gaal’s lot into the mix?

North End having the chance to host United and try their hand at being a giant-killer would be most welcome.

Some folk will say that is about time they got a decent cup draw.

Having said that, Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool have all paid a visit to Deepdale in fairly recent times in both the FA Cup and League Cup.

PNE have also visited Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton (twice) in that same period.

More recently, it seems to have been a staple diet of Championship opposition – and below – in the cups.

Were North End to bring the bacon back home across the Pennines next week, just think what February 16 could be all about.

Get the down-sides out of the way first – the half-and-half scarf peddlers (who actually buys those things?) and the fact you could be sat next to the bloke whose season ticket is for a bar stool in front of Sky Sports down the local.

On the flip-side of the coin there will be plenty of coin, so to speak – the near-£250,000 from TV and a similar amount by way of a share of the gate.

It is just a shame that this, if things do fall right, comes after the transfer window shuts.

Having the club get plenty of positive media attention won’t go amiss either. But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

Standing in the way of all this are a Sheffield United side who are carving themselves a niche as cup specialists.

Visits to the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and Capital One Cup show that Nigel Clough’s men like – and can handle – the big occasion.

Their pursuit of Tottenham on Wednesday night was thrilling stuff, although it ended in disappointment.

For whatever reason, their Bramall Lane home is not the happiest of hunting grounds for Preston – the last two wins there coming 35 years apart.

One can only dare to dream, so here’s to bucket-loads of grit, endeavour and determination from the men in all yellow next Tuesday.

By the way, has anyone given any thought to what the reaction would be if Cambridge shocked United in their fourth-round replay on the same night?

League One versus League Two on primetime television could turn into a hard night for the BBC.

Might I suggest John Beck as a studio pundit if it turns out to be Preston and Cambridge going head-to-head?

Saying all that, the replay is still a few days off and first North End have serious League One business at Crawley today.

The visit to West Sussex seems to have got side-tracked somewhat, between FA Cup talk and the fallout from the JPT disappointment.

However, looking longer-term in terms of wanting to be a Championship club next season, PNE need to get their league form going again.

No league win since Boxing Day has set alarm bells ringing and while that might only be four games, nine points have gone begging in that spell.

Must-win today? Three points would put smiles back on frowning faces, keep the top three within reach and be a big boost ahead of Tuesday night.