Tuesday 11 January 2022

Rangnick's Reds to face second tier opponents next up

Scott McTominay's early goal sent United past Villa to set up an FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Middlesbrough.
Ralf Rangnick's Reds were made to work for victory over our divisional rivals but held out to progress into the last 32 for the eighth successive season.

United were handed a relatively kind draw for once - there's no easy games at this level but it makes a change from having to face another Premier League side with a match against Chris Wilder's second tier Boro. 

Like the Reds, the Teesside club will be focused on their league campaign as Middlesbrough sit just outside the Championship play-off positions, a point and a place behind sixth-placed Huddersfield. Wilder's side needed a 95th-minute injury
time winner to seal their place in the fourth round as a John - Joe O'Toole own goal gave them a dramatic victory at League Two Mansfield. The FA Cup is far from priority for either club with both focused on kicking on up the league in the coming weeks and months. 

Middlesbrough used to be regular opponents for the Reds as a Premier League fixture, but the club were relegated in 2008-09 and we've only p
layed them thrice since. We'll want to forget the last time we met them in a cup competition, when Aitor Karanka's men knocked us out of the League Cup on penalties in the 2015-16 campaign after a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford with Louis van Gaal in charge. 

Boro went on to seal a Premier League return that campaign, and returned to M16 as equals the following term. With Jose Mourinho up against his great friend and "brother" Karanka, Middlesbrough looked on course for victory as Grant Leadbitter put the struggling Teesiders ahead in our Old Trafford meeting on New Year's Eve. But United channelled the spirit of the watching Sir Alex on his birthday as two late goals from our French connection Anthony Martial (85) and Paul Pogba (86) earned the hosts a dramatic, vintage, Ferguson-style climb-off-the-canvas victory. 

United went on to complete the league double over a Boro team doomed for an immediate return to the Championship, with a 3-1 win on Teesside in March 2017 with Karanka having now departed 

This will be the 127th meeting between the clubs - United have 64 wins, Boro 34 with 28 draws. 

United last faced Middlesbrough in this competition in the 2006-07 season at the quarter final stage as a penalty - converted by a certain chap by the name of Cristiano - saw the Reds prevail at the quarter final stage in a tight two-game encounter after a 2-2 draw at the Riverside in the original tie. United would make it to that year's final where we controversially lost to Chelsea.

Former Sheffield United boss Wilder took over from Neil Warnock in November and has only lost once since to lift Boro from lower mid-table to the fringes of the play-offs. Former Red Paddy McNair currently plies his trade on Teesside and has clocked up over 100 appearances for the club since signing from local rivals Sunderland in 2018. Former Reds youth product, keeper Luke Daniels, joined Boro in the summer and has played six times for them. 

All fourth round ties will be played between the 4th and the 7th February. Other standout fixtures see National League North side Kidderminster host three-time winners West Ham, Arsenal's conquerors Nottingham Forest take on the holders Leicester in an east Midlands derby, and European champions Chelsea play League One Plymouth.
There are three all Premier League ties as Everton host Brentford, Brighton go to Spurs and Wolves play Norwich. United vs Middlesbrough is one of four ties in which top flight sides take on second tier opponents - the others are Liverpool against Cardiff, City vs Fulham and the aforementioned east Midlands showdown between Forest and local rivals Leicester. 

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