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By ESPN Staff

Brown braced for sand storm at Burton

Wes Brown predicts Manchester United will have to meet fire with fire if they are to come through their FA Cup examination at non-league Burton Albion.

The Red Devils were embarrassingly held to a draw by Conference outfit Exeter at the same stage of last season's competition and manager Sir Alex Ferguson intends to field a stronger side to avoid a similar outcome.

But having seen pictures of the sand-covered pitch at the 6,000-capacity Pirelli Stadium, Brown is not convinced it will be United's superior skills which will ease them into the fourth round, more a commitment to match Burton's physical threat.

'We know exactly what to expect,' said the England international.

'They will be physical, get stuck in, play a lot of long balls and try to make it as difficult for us as they can.

'I am not sure there will be a lot of football played, so we have to be ready for that and give as good as we get.

'We cannot afford to be worrying about the state of the pitch. If we are going to avoid an upset, we have to do the basics properly and not go into the match thinking anything other than it is going to be tough.

'I was in the team that drew with Exeter and after what happened that day, there will definitely be no complacency. No-one wants a repeat of that.'

Ferguson is ready to welcome feisty midfielder Alan Smith back into his starting line-up following a recent chest infection.

However, Paul Scholes will definitely not be involved as he continues to make a slow recovery from a severe bang on the head during the Premiership draw at Birmingham on December 28.

Ferguson has pledged to mix his first-team squad up for tomorrow's tie, with more changes expected for Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final with Blackburn, which itself comes just three days before the second Manchester derby of the season.

Like his manager, Brown denies there is added emphasis on the FA Cup this year because of United's unexpected Champions League demise and faltering Premiership title challenge.

But, after losing out on a penalty shoot-out to Arsenal in last season's final, United are determined to go one better this time around.

'This is a special tournament,' said Brown. 'We always want to win it. People might not think we feel that way, but we do.

'We were disappointed to lose last year and it would be nice to do a little better this time, especially as it could be the first game at the new Wembley.'

Brown has an extra incentive to play well given the recent arrival of £7million defender Nemanja Vidic.

The Serbian international has been earmarked for one of the central defensive berths Brown was hoping to claim for himself.

Vidic will not play against Burton or Blackburn as he continues to reach full match fitness, although United's other new signing Patrice Evra should be available for the latter of those two ties providing he suffers no complications in his medical early next week.

Ferguson has been monitoring Evra's progress ever since Gabriel Heinze ruptured his cruciate ligaments in September.

And although Inter Milan were also interested in the 24-year-old, Red Devils chief executive David Gill has agreed a fee with Monaco which is estimated to be around £5million.

'I have been looking at Patrice for quite a while,' confirmed Ferguson.

'He has improved each year since he has been with Monaco. He is very quick, naturally left-footed and a good footballer.

'We cut the squad numbers quite dramatically at the start of the season and then with Gabriel Heinze being out for a year and Quinton Fortune missing as well, we needed to bring a left-sided player in.

'Patrice has only had a couple of weeks off, so he is ready to play almost immediately and the registration deadline for the Blackburn game is not until Tuesday.'