Manchester United finally discovered their opponents in the FA Cup fourth round last night – Tranmere Rovers.
The League 1 outfit saw off a Watford side who had played Aston Villa in the Premier League just 48 hours beforehand.
That means United will run out on the Prenton Park pitch which was in no fit state to host the replay initially.
United’s own women’s side had a game against Liverpool called off there and footage from Thursday night’s game shows the pitch is still very poor indeed.
No snobbery intended
This isn’t meant to be snobbery; a mega-rich Premier League club turning its nose up at the prospect of playing at a ground lower down the ladder.
The days of playing cup ties on boggy pitches are largely a thing of the past; the stereotypes are no longer accurate.
But footage from the midweek game shows Tranmere’s pitch is clearly still feeling the impact of the winter and United will play on it under 72 hours after 120 minutes of football were played on it.
The surface will be a classic leveller, a real test of whether United are up for the challenge and whether their technique is up to scratch.
An injury risk?
United lost Marcus Rashford in their third round replay against Wolves and the midweek loss to Burnley belied a squad who cannot afford to suffer any more absences.
United look so short on energy and ideas without Marcus Rashford and the Telegraph report Harry Maguire is currently playing on through a torn hip muscle.
But playing on a boggy, heavy pitch could increase the risk of injury, especially among a United squad which is thin on depth and playing games every three days.
Had Solskjaer made more effort to blood the likes of James Garner, Tatith Chong and Angel Gomes this season, they would have been more ready to step into the breach. Daniel James is one in clear need of a rest.
But they remain raw and on the fringes of the squad. That leaves Solskjaer facing a real banana skin on a pitch which is going to test the heavy legs of the squad he has left so thin on the ground.
If United are as limp as they were against Burnley, there is real capacity for insult as well as injury at Tranmere.
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