LONDON (Reuters) - The FA Cup may have lost some of its shine for the top sides, but fourth tier Cambridge United have a chance to rekindle some of the competition’s fabled magic against fourth round opponents Manchester United on Friday.
The two sides are separated by 76 places in the English league and the tie pitches the country’s most successful team and 11 times winners against the lowest ranked outfit still in the competition.
The chances of an upset are slim, given the huge gulf in wealth, resources and talent, yet the lure of the David v Goliath tie saw Cambridge fans camp out overnight through freezing conditions to snap up the final few tickets.
Their optimism could prove key to the hosts’ chances, according to Cambridge manager Richard Money.
“I hope they come to the game with some belief that Friday can be the one in one-hundred days that we can cause an upset,” he said on the FA website (thefa.com).
“I hope they come to the game full of optimism.”
The lower league side are certainly not treating it as a lost cause. Unbeaten in 2015, they go into the game full of confidence and boast a former Manchester United player among their ranks.
Luke Chadwick may not be among Old Trafford’s greatest servants, but he forced his way to the periphery of one of United’s greatest teams and claimed a Premier League winners’ medal in 2001.
After an itinerant career, he returned to the less salubrious surroundings of his boyhood club last year and had more than a passing interest in the fourth round draw.
“I was at my mum’s getting my hair cut and there were only two numbers on my mind... Cambridge United and Manchester United,” said Chadwick.
”It was utter bedlam in the house when the draw came out.”
The two sides have met twice previously, in a two-legged League Cup tie in 1991 -- Cambridge drew the first leg at home before being undone 3-0 at Old Trafford.
The weekend’s other action features two all Premier League ties pitching Southampton at home to Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur hosting Leicester City.
The Premier League’s top two, Chelsea and Manchester City, have been handed kinder draws ahead of their crunch meeting in the league next weekend.
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea host third tier Bradford City while Manchester City will look to rebound from last week’s stinging defeat to Arsenal at home to second tier Middlesbrough.
Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Justin Palmer