Exclusive Scott Laird column

Scott Laird has urged Preston to stay focused

Scott Laird has urged Preston to stay focused

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I will not deny it – I have had a little think about the mouth-watering prospect of lining up against Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Angel di Maria.

Since our brilliant 3-1 fourth-round replay win over Sheffield United in the FA Cup on Tuesday night, everything – as you would imagine – has gone a little bit crazy at the club.

As we all knew heading into the game at Bramall Lane, a win over the Blades would be rewarded by the visit of the mighty Manchester United to Deepdale.

Obviously, Louis van Gaal’s men still had to do the business against Cambridge United in their respective replay at Old Trafford.

But it would have been one of the upsets of the century if we had been facing the U’s a week on Monday instead of the Red Devils.

It goes without saying that being able to pit our wits against some of the best players in the world was a huge driving force behind our fightback in the second half against Sheffield after going a goal down before the interval.

This might sound a bit cliched but, as players, we have already put the Manchester United game to the back of our minds.

We enjoyed the victory on Tuesday – and it’s only natural to be excited about what lies in store in just over a week’s times.

We know we are going to get asked questions about it from the media , the fans – there’s no getting away from it.

But as players, you have to try to put it to the side a little bit because we have two really important league games coming up against Coventry tomorrow at home and then away to Chesterfield on Tuesday.

While being paired with United is nice, it’s those games which are our bread and butter.

Ultimately, at the end of the season that is our goal – to win promotion. The only way we are going to achieve that is by winning games like our next two.

We know the last month since Christmas has not been good enough, with the defeats and draws that we have suffered.

In many ways, the win over Sheffield might benefit us two-fold. While it secured a glamour tie against Manchester United, it also gave us that winning feeling again and we are hoping that will transfer to our results in the league.

We are still in a great position in the league and automatic promotion is still very much our aim this season.

Our manager Simon Grayson has come in for some stick over the last month, which is a bit unfair when you look at his record since he came in as manager.

He is big enough and ugly enough – if I’m allowed to say that – to take all that stuff.

I think if somebody had said before the season started that at this point we would be in fourth position and have Manchester United at home in the cup, not many people would have grumbled.

From a personal point of view, I was really pleased with the way I played on Tuesday.

The gaffer handed me an attacking role on the left wing, but I did not limit myself.

I went for little wanders and got myself into pockets, which helped our striker Kevin Davies out.

At times this season, I have been watching the games from the sideline and it’s been frustrating, but educational. I have tried to analyse what I can do to make the team better when the gaffer does pick me.

I am hoping to really cement a place in the team and help us achieve success in the cup and, more importantly, in the league as well.