Exclusive Sean Gregan column

Sean Gregan believes Joe Garner will give United's defence a torrid time tonight
Sean Gregan believes Joe Garner will give United's defence a torrid time tonight
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Preston North End have nothing to lose in their FA Cup fifth-round clash against Manchester United so I hope they go out and have a good go at their illustrious visitors.

I am not saying that should be totally gung-ho and leave big spaces but United’s weak point is their defence and needs to be tested out.

The last thing North End want to happen is to allow the attacking talent of United get on the ball too many times and do their thing.

Don’t get me wrong, the United defenders are decent players but there is not that Bruce/Pallister, Ferdinand/Vidic-type partnership at the moment.

It could be a big night for Joe Garner, Kevin Davies and Paul Gallagher – attacking players who have experience under their belts and can make things happen. Garner plays with so much energy and is not the kind of striker who United will be used to facing.

If Davies plays, he needs to make the ball stick up there to enable North End to build attacks and win set-pieces – that can give them a breather at the back while the ball is at the other end of the pitch.

Gallagher has shown over the last couple of months how clever a player he is and has been chipping in with the goals too.

One aspect of the game I’m looking forward to is seeing for myself just how quickly United move the ball and the tempo they play at.

Watching on television is one thing and you can see to a certain extent the pace of a game.

But it is only watching it happen right in front of you that you get an appreciate of how fast the tempo can be.

When I played for West Bromwich in the Premier League, the games against teams like United could pass you by.

You sometimes could not even get close to their players to put one on them!

They would see you coming, their brains worked that bit quicker and suddenly they would have spun out of your way or moved the ball on.

Sometimes you wanted to get a tackle in, just to dump them on the floor, spoil their flow or take out a bit of your frustration on them.

Easier said than done, you had to get near them first!

It will be lovely to see the ground packed because that has not happened too many times in recent years.

The spotlight is very much on Deepdale with the game being live on television and the draw for the sixth round being made before hand.

It is lovely that Brian Finney, son of Sir Tom, has been asked to do the draw with Roy Hodgson.

The anniversary of Sir Tom’s passing was on Saturday so how nice that North End have such a big game so close to that date.

I would say the nearest game we had to the United tie when I was playing for PNE was the third round clash with Arsenal in January 1999.

That was a Monday night under the lights, Deepdale was packed that night.

We went 2-0 up with two goals in quick succession from Kurt Nogan.

There we were jumping on top of Deepdale Duck as Kurt’s second goal went in!

Naively, we went looking for a third goal when going in at half-time 2-0 up would have been fine.

As it was, Arsenal got one back before the interval which changed the dynamics of the game and respective half-time team-talks.

Then David Eyres brought down Marc Overmars and got a red card. Emmanuel Petit made it 2-2 from the resulting free-kick and we did not have the legs to respond, the Gunners going on to win 4-2.

There were some other good experiences in the cup too at Preston.

We went to Chelsea in 2002 and led 1-0 at Stamford Bridge early in the game before they hit back to win 3-1. Also, we played Arsenal at Highbury in the League Cup.