Tranmere Rovers' reward for their surprise win against Watford is a home tie against Manchester United in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.
Prenton Park, Merseyside, England
Key Stat: Tranmere's extra-time win in the FA Cup third-round replay against Watford on Thursday night was their first victory in eight matches in all competitions.
Expert Verdict: Manchester United may be beleaguered, out of form and batting injuries and widespread criticism, but they still make the short trip to Birkenhead to take on Tranmere Rovers as huge favourites to win. The League One side pulled off a shock result against Watford on Thursday night, and their poor pitch condition could prove a leveller, but this plum home tie should be the extent of their rewards - anything other than a United win would be a massive shock result.
Paul Mullin’s winner against Watford, having stepped off the bench to replace Morgan Ferrier, could earn him a start up front. Going to extra-time just three days before facing United was not ideal preparation for this match in some respects, but Mickey Mellon might stick with largely the same team as reward for their win nonetheless.
Paul Mullin – Kept his cool with a late penalty in the original 3-3 draw to cap a stunning comeback against Watford and then stepped off the bench to score the winner in the replay.
Connor Jennings – The Manchester-born striker scored against United’s youth team in December, as well as netting in the third-round comeback against Watford.
Neil Danns – The veteran midfielder and Guyana international signed for Tranmere after Bury’s demise and is a key cog in the middle of the park.
Tranmere were without a win in seven matches – including their dramatic draw with Watford in the original third-round tie – before beating the Hornets in their replay on Thursday night. Tranmere lost to Ipswich the previous weekend, despite Emmanuel Monthe giving them the lead in a 2-1 defeat at home, but Monthe’s opener and Paul Mullin’s extra-time winner ensured a 2-1 win against Watford and booked their place in this fourth round tie.
Defenders:Peter Clarke, Emmanuel Monthe, Liam Ridehalgh
Midfielders:Jake Caprice, Neil Danns, David Perkins, Kieron Morris
Forwards:Harvey Gilmour, Paul Mullin, Connor Jennings
Scott McTominay, Axel Tuanzebe, Paul Pogba, Marcos Rojo and Marcus Rashford are all out injured, though Victor Lindelof could return after illness and it may be a chance to build Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s match fitness up too. Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could be among the younger players in contention to start, if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opts to rest players ahead of the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg.
Mason Greenwood – The young striker has enjoyed a superb breakthrough season, scoring ten times in all competitions so far.
Tahith Chong – Scored twice against Tranmere for United’s under-21 team in the Leasing.com Trophy, and this could be another chance for first-team action.
Jesse Lingard – The midfielder has plenty to prove after a disappointing campaign so far that has seen him fall down the pecking order at Old Trafford.
Victory against Wolves in the FA Cup third-round replay, which set up their place in this match, is one of only two wins in United’s last seven matches in all competitions. Since Marcus Rashford’s goal in that tie, United have lost two consecutive league games – suffering a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool and a 2-0 home loss to Burnley in mid-week too.
Defenders:Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Brandon Williams
Defensive Midfielders:Nemanja Matic, Andreas Pereira
Attacking Midfielders:Tahith Chong, Jesse Lingard, Angel Gomes
Tranmere Rovers and Manchester United have only met once before, when United won 5-0 in a League Cup match in September 1976. United’s youth team have been at Prenton Park already this season, however – Tranmere beating the United under-21 team 3-2 in the Leasing.com Trophy in December.
Tranmere Rovers have pulled off a big cup upset already this week to set up this FA Cup tie, as Paul Mullin stepped off the bench to score the winner against Watford.
It ended Tranmere’s winless streak and also booked this plush home tie with Manchester United, but the chances of another upset seem slim – even with United in such poor form.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have won just two of their last seven matches in all competitions, including four defeats – two of which have come in the last two games.
Marcus Rashford’s injury adds to their woes, with Paul Pogba already sidelined, and the pressure on Solskjaer is ramping up.
He will have one eye on the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester City, however, and may rotate his squad for this one.
Tahith Chong, who has scored twice against Tranmere Rovers already this season, could be among those to come in.
United are unlikely to take too many risks as they prepare to play on the quagmire of a pitch at Prenton Park.
But, even if that pitch proves a leveller too, United know how to step it up to see off lower-league opposition.
Mickey Mellon, the Tranmere boss, has already described them as mechanical and clinical when they beat his Shrewsbury team in this competition a few years ago.
A similar performance should ensure they avoid any chance of an upset.
Manchester United are odds-on favourites to beat Tranmere and yet can still be backed at a generous price of 2/5 with Bet365, Betfair, Betway, Ladbrokes and 888sport.
United have failed to score in their last two matches, but they will expect a few against Tranmere – particularly as the League One side will be fatigued from their efforts against Watford.
Over 2.5 goals will return 4/7 with Bet365 and Betfair, while Tranmere’s set-piece threat through Emmanuel Monthe could mean both teams to score at 10/13 with 888sport is worth backing.
Mason Greenwood could get another to chance to lead the United line, and the young striker is 13/10 to score at any time.
Manchester United’s league form is poor but it would be a major shock if they did anything other than secure a win at Tranmere to book their place in the next round.