David Buchanan says the potential prize of a meeting with Manchester United is huge motivation for Preston North End in this evening’s FA Cup fourth-round replay against Sheffield United.
At the same time as PNE and the Blades are battling it out at Bramall Lane, Louis van Gaal’s men face Cambridge in a replay.
Buchanan is a lifelong fan of Manchester United and would love to have the opportunity to face them on the pitch later this month.
Such an incentive will be driving him on tonight, so too the other 21 players on the pitch.
“I’m a United supporter – everyone at this club knows that,” said left-back Buchanan.
“I see them as the biggest club in the world, certainly they are the biggest club in this country.
“I think that because of the trophies they have won, the longevity of Sir Alex Ferguson when he was manager, the quality of the players they have brought in and the way youth was introduced.
“Not just ourselves but Sheffield United – if you cannot motivate yourself to try and get a home game with a bumper crowd against a team like that then you should not be playing football.
“It is important we go into the game full of heart and full of energy.
“Hopefully we can win and that would give the fans something to shout about, which they have not been able to do in the past month.
“In a situation like this you have to have it in the back of your mind that there is the potential of playing against Manchester United.
“Of course there is a chance that Cambridge could produce a big shock but the belief you can be playing against United should be something you carry with you.
“We sat down as a group yesterday and the manager told us to be full of energy, creativity and spark.
“I think we have a lot of creative and flair players who can go and win us matches.
“We have pace and power and one of the best defences in our league.”
Buchanan having designs on Manchester United does not mean he has taken his eye off the ball in terms of the threat Blades will offer in South Yorkshire.
Semi-finalists in both the FA Cup and Capital One Cup over the last nine months, Nigel Clough’s side have a big liking for knockout football.
History does suggest tonight’s scoreline could be a tight one.
Of the three meetings to date this season, two have finished 1-1 and the other in a 2-1 victory for United.
Last term, PNE won 1-0 away and drew 0-0 with the Blades at Deepdale.
Said Buchanan: “They are below us in the league but at the moment are the team to watch, aren’t they?
“They are on a good run of form, full of confidence and playing with confidence.
“You saw them against Tottenham the other day and they played without fear – they are attacking teams and believe they can win.
“They make a lot of changes between games but they beat Swindon 2-0 on Saturday and we all know how well Swindon have been playing this season. This will be a difficult game for us but we have to go there with the belief we can win it.
“It is a one-off cup game with a big reward at the end of it for the winners.
“In the three games against them so far there has only been one goal between us.
“All three were tight matches which could have gone either way.”
Aside from the obvious benefits of what could come next in the FA Cup, victory in the first game of February would be a huge tonic after a well below-par January for North End.
The only high point was the victory over Norwich, with that giving way to a run of seven games without a win.
On Saturday they lost 2-1 at Crawley, who were bottom of League One at the time.
Buchanan said: “We have definitely not done ourselves justice in January – it was a month to forget.
“We have had a look over the last few games to see what we can do better collectively as a team and as individuals.
“Our form has dropped and we have to get back to doing what we are best at, working hard for each other and working hard off the ball.
“January is a month we have to put behind us and hopefully February will be far better.
“When we looked back at the DVD from the Crawley game, we saw that we handed them victory really.
“They scored with their first attack and then right at the end with a set-piece.
“In the final third we have to be more ruthless and also have a bit more belief all over the pitch. It is up to us to put things right and we will do.”