Despite a gulf of 60 league places separating League One strugglers Shrewsbury Town from Premier League giants Manchester United, The Shrews will arguably feel there is no better time to play the Red Devils.
The first-ever competitive meeting between the two sides, in what is a real David versus Goliath FA Cup tie, could be the final stand of Louis Van Gaal’s stuttering tenure at Old Trafford.
After arriving in England to much fanfare after managing his native Netherlands to third place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has admitted that failure to beat Mickey Mellon’s side could see him sacked after 19 months in the hotseat.
Despite Manchester United sitting in fifth and only six points off rivals City who occupy the last Champions League spot, that only tells half the story as fans have grown increasingly impatient at the lack of real attacking flair under Van Gaal, and recently saw their side go an incredible eleven games without scoring in the first-half.
Defeats to relegation threatened Sunderland; who have only scored one fewer goal than Man Utd despite being in 19th place, and FC Midtjylland in the Europa League in recent weeks has left Van Gaal’s job hanging by a thread, and speculation about Jose Mourinho as his successor is increasing with every negative result.
Their hosts at the Greenhous Meadow will hardly be brewing with confidence however, despite a shock 3-2 win against Championship side Sheffield Wednesday in the last round being followed by victory against Blackpool in the league by the same scoreline.
After promotion from League Two last season, Shrewsbury are in the League One relegation zone currently on goal difference and haven’t won at home in the league since their 2-0 victory over Bury on October 24.
The last time the Shrews beat Premier League opposition was back in the FA Cup third round in 2003, after overcoming Everton. Van Gaal will hoping that isn’t an omen however; the Toffees were managed that day by his predecessor, David Moyes, and the current Man Utd boss will surely follow in his footsteps with a defeat tonight.
Arguably Man Utd’s star man this season, David De Gea, looks set to be unavailable again after injuring his knee before their 2-1 loss to Danish side FC Midtjylland in the Europa League last week.
De Gea is one of 14 players on Van Gaal’s increasingly lengthy injury list, which with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Marcos Rojo all missing the trip to Shropshire.
Shrewsbury meanwhile are missing just two first-team players in James Wallace and long-term absentee James Wesolowski with knee injuries, but welcome back on-loan defender Jack Grimmer, who scored the winner against Sheffield Wednesday in the last round.
League Position: Shrewsbury- 21st (League One- 33 pts); Man Utd- 5th (Premier League- 41pts)
Previous Meeting: Tonight’s game will be the first-ever competitive meeting between the two clubs
Form: Shrewsbury – WLWLDW; Man Utd – LWWDLL
Key Men: Shrewsbury – Andy Mangan; Man Utd – Anthony Martial
Shoot Says: Shrewsbury 0-2 Man Utd