Write United off at your peril – PNE boss

Angel Di Maria
Angel Di Maria
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Manchester United might not be the force they were but Simon Grayson takes little notice of those writing-off Preston North End’s FA Cup opponents.

The Red Devils sit third in the Premier League, admittedly well off the title pace but looking likely to claim a Champions League slot for next season.

After an exit from the Capital One Cup at the hands of MK Dons, the FA Cup is their remaining chance of silverware this term.

Hence the side which makes the short trip to Deepdale will be a strong one.

PNE manager Grayson told the Evening Post: “If anyone is writing Manchester United off, look at their recent record.

“They have lost one of their last 18 games which isn’t bad.

“I could reel off 20 names of players who, if you under-estimate them, would hurt you.

“We will have to perform at our maximum on Monday in order to give it a right go.

“I’m sure our lads will do that and Deepdale will be absolutely rocking.

“They are desperate to put on a performance and I think the FA Cup still has its magic.

“I would think it will be the strongest of sides which United put out against us.

“Looking from the outside, it is their best opportunity for silverware.

“They are not going to win the Premier League, well I would be very surprised if they do.

“Louis van Gaal wherever he has been, has won silverware very quickly.

“I would expect them to be very strong in terms of their team. There might be a couple of changes through injuries.

“Whoever plays against us will probably have played for their national team and won things in other countries.

“That is what we are up against but we are very much looking forward to it.”

United’s opposition in this season’s FA Cup has so far come exclusively from the lower divisions.

In the third round they won 2-0 away at Yeovil Town, the League One strugglers holding them until the hour mark.

Their reward for winning that was a trip to League Two side Cambridge United.

Richard Money’s side held the millionaires to a goalless draw at the Abbey Stadium.

The replay at Old Trafford saw United win 3-0 to set up the trip to Deepdale.

Van Gaal sees the Preston game as being similar to that his players have encountered in the previous rounds.

The Dutchman said: “It’s always the same because you know the world is for the underdog and we have to play away under the same circumstances as at Cambridge or Yeovil, so it shall be very difficult.

“You know that they play more or less with two rows of four and a striker who is dropping in, as did Cambridge and Yeovil and also the last [league] games, for example Queens Park Rangers and Burnley.

“It is always difficult to play against a defending team.

“It’s our goal to win a [trophy] and I hope to win one for the fans of Manchester United.

“It could be the FA Cup but it’s very easy to say that. It’s not so easy to reach the final and then win the final – that is difficult.”

Wayne Rooney’s position within the United side has been the topic of hot debate.

The England skipper is being played in midfield by van Gaal even though the United boss admits his best position is up front. With Robin van Persie nursing a knock, there could be a striker’s role for him at Deepdale.

Van Gaal said: “Rooney is maybe our best striker.

“But I am playing him in midfield because I have to look at which players make the biggest contribution and in what position.

“Rooney is probably giving more of a contribution to the England team when he is playing as a striker.

“I would also put him in the striker’s position if I was the coach of the English team.

“But it is the composition of the team that is more important than the individual player.” Rooney has scored eight goals this season, van Persie has 10 and Radamel Falcao four.