Fergie: Cup romance lives on
Sir Alex Ferguson does not see how the FA Cup could be dying as long as it throws up ties like the fifth-round clash between Manchester United and Crawley.
Nine thousand supporters will accompany the ambitious non-leaguers on their long trip north to Old Trafford, hoping to become the first side from outside the Football League to reach the quarter-finals.
Little wonder the game has captured the imagination worldwide, creating much-needed publicity for a tournament that seems to have dwindled in popularity markedly from the time United pulled out in 2000 to compete in the World Club Championship in Brazil.
''They talk about the FA Cup dying, but it won't die as long as you've got giantkilling acts that Crawley have already produced,'' said Ferguson. ''And every manager will tell you, you don't want to be a casualty.
''We lost to Leeds last season and it wasn't easy to take. They were up for it and made it a cup tie. We will see the same tomorrow. Crawley will get stuck into us, there's no other way for them. That is the way they are.''
Facing such opposition is nothing new to United. In 2005 they were paired with Exeter. The following season they drew Burton at the third-round stage.
The Red Devils ended up requiring replays to get past both sides after disappointing goalless draws. Comparisons continue given Exeter and Burton are now Football League clubs. And Ferguson expects Crawley to follow suit given the investment they are benefiting from
''We respect the fact that Crawley are the best non-league side for quite a while,'' said Ferguson. ''They seem to have a lot of money invested in their players and are near the top of the league, so their games in hand will probably see them promoted to the league proper.
''There is always room for ambition and they could do well when they get into the Football League given the kind of money they have behind them and the ambition they have got.
''We expect a tough game. They're very committed and aggressive and it'll be a tough game. It will be brilliant for the Crawley fans but their team's performances against Derby, Swindon and Torquay tell you they deserve to be in this round.''
Meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping that Wayne Rooney's wonder goal in last week's Manchester derby will trigger a scoring run.
"Up until last season Wayne used to go on these scoring bursts,'' he reflected. "He used to do it in five or six games in a row and then go missing in terms of goals for a few games and then come back again.
"I would be quite happy for him to go on a burst now because we have some really important games coming up.''
Sir Alex also had praise for Javier Hernandez: "Javier's training performances have improved tremendously in the last couple of months. His work-rate and practice ethic have been very good.
"He comes in early and stays behind. He has done very well in that sense and is improving all the time. He is a great impact player.
"I did the same with Solskjaer When I was picking teams in really important games I always tended to dismiss Ole simply because as an impact player from the bench there was nobody better.
"Sometimes you have to choose your team that way particularly in difficult games. If you know it's going to be tight, being able to bring an impact player on can make a difference.''