Manchester United vs. Crawley Town: Machester Edges past a Non-League Team

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Manchester United vs. Crawley Town: Machester Edges past a Non-League Team
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

This is what makes the FA Cup so special. A non league side in the last sixteen, against one of the biggest teams in the world.

Manchester United vs. Crawley Town—it was either going to be a demolition or the biggest shock in football.

This David and Goliath match had the football community talking ever since the two names got drawn together three weeks ago.

Unlike most non league teams, there were no painters or plumbers on the team. It was in fact the most expensive squad in non league history.

Everyone who did not support United were backing Crawley. Even the national newspaper, The Sun, was backing the Blue Square Premier team.

Crawley may be 93 places below United, but so far in the FA Cup they have already swept past Swindon, Derby and Torquay.

The Teams

Crawley Town put out their most experienced team, but none of them have ever experienced something on this level.

They may have players like Torres and Shearer, but they are not the same players who have played in the Premier League.

Their manager joked that they should "put 12 players out on pitch and hope nobody notices."

Sir Alex Ferguson wasn't playing it cool. He didn't send out a B team or his youth team. Players like O'Shea, Anderson and Carrick were put out against the minnows, with Rooney fresh off his wonder goal, on the bench.

The Game

As soon as the referee blew his whistle, Crawley were pressing forward. Within 15 seconds they put in the cross, which Rafael had to clear.

Within a minute, United were attacking and got the first corner of the game.

The first real opportunity of the game was from the Premier League side. Following a cross from Obertan, the ball fizzed straight across the Crawley goal, with any touch it would have gone in, but no one was able to get to it.

In the first ten minutes, the ball barely rolled into the United box. The pressure was all on Crawley. Numerous balls flew into the Town's box, but each one was cleared.

The ball got bounced around outside the Man Utd box, then out of nowhere Smith unleashed a half volley shot that was only slightly over hit. It looped over Lindegaard and a yard wide of the post.

After 20 minutes neither net had bulged, which looked like it was frustrating the United team, and was obviously frustrating the 70,000 United fans who were expecting to see a goal fest.

Just before the half hour mark, the inevitable happened. United went one up.

Gibson swung in a cross, which glanced off the head of Wes Brown and made its way into the corner Crawley net.

It wasn't like Crawley were holding United back, they were almost equal. But you could see slight glimpses of top flight football being played by the home side.

United had the chance to go two ahead in five minutes. Fabio Da Silva managed to get a yard ahead of his marker, but his shot went two yards wide of the post.

Fabio got into the box again, and was shoved (quite easily) to the ground. The referee laughed off any penalty claims.

With a period of United pressure, Obertan managed to get a strong shot off from the edge of the are, which was well saved and dealt with by keeper Michel Kuipers.

Most of the attacks from both sides were coming in the air, but were easily cleared. Any real chances were from range or the odd through ball.

Crawley showed off their defensive capabilities as they put their bodies on the line for their club. They blocked nearly every shot, cleared nearly every cross, and tackled nearly every run.

Their attacking prowess wasn't too bad either. A few crosses were a yard or two in front of their intended target, and many of their through balls were intercepted.

Just before half time, Crawley had a few counter attacks which ended up disappearing into nothing.

At half time United were only a single goal ahead, with the non league team still in with a chance to cause an upset.

Looking back at the first 45 minutes, Crawley Town have been more competitive than some top flight teams have been this season.

It wasn't looking like it would be the demolition some people thought it would be.

With the introduction of Wayne Rooney at half time, you could tell United wanted to score and finish the game as soon as possible.

However, the first few chances in the second half went in favour of the visitors.

One of the chances went to Smith. Just like in the first half he hit a volley heading for a goal, only to be blocked by the lanky body of John O'Shea.

Crawley then copied United with a penalty shout. But like United, no penalty was awarded.

If it weren't for last ditch clearances and interceptions by the United back four, Crawley could have easily have been close to pegging United back.

In a rampage of an attack, Crawley had a handful of chances within 20 seconds. A cross was whipped in, three shots got blocked until it bounced high enough for an attempt of an over head kick that went inches over the crossbar. It was easily the closest chance for the vistors so far.

They then had a well placed free kick 25 yards out. It didn't quite come off, as the free kick taker slipped and spooned the ball over the goal.

Both teams had similar chances, none of which ended in a goal. Crawley were so close to drawing the game in the second minute of injury time, but the ball hit the crossbar and came back out.

There were last ditch attempts by both sides, and tension was getting high. Fouls were flying in and personal battles were heating up.

Despite the amazing determination of Crawley, Manchester United were able to keep hold of the first half advantage, and edge past the Town into the next round of the FA Cup.

There is nothing like the FA Cup.

 

And Finally ...

EON, the FA Cup sponsors had pledged £10,000 before the game, and an extra £200 for every minute that Crawley kept United at bay. All the proceeds went to 'Help for Heroes'.

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