Who would have thought? I say it one more time: Who would have thought?
Who would have thought that a team forged from the disgruntled masses against a certain Glazer would rise to the challenge and make their own history?
Who would have thought that a team that plays their matches at the home of the Shakers of Bury would not only shake the Football League One's foundations, but turn them upside down?
Who would have thought that a club known to the world as the Football Club United of Manchester would rip the hearts of fans dear to the Rochdale Association Football Club into lifeless shreds on a Friday night?
Such is the nature of the early stages that is the Football Association Challenge Cup. In the first round proper, FC United's Mike Norton became etched in the lore of this young non-league side, which plies its trade in the Northern Premier League.
As things stand, Karl Marginson's F.C. United is nowhere close to being promoted to the Football Conference North. They sit 15th out of 22 and stare at relegation straight in the eye early on in the campaign.
But in the FA Cup, in the case of Rochdale, a team can be four levels above and still be toppled by a middle-of-the-road side three levels down. If you are not on your game, you cannot progress.
"With a few minutes to go I put five in the middle and thought 'let's hold on,'" said Marginson. "Then we scored. I don't know if we deserved it but it's all about results and it was a fantastic result."
“I’m speechless. I had just put five in midfield, thinking 'let’s hold on for a draw,’ but I turned round and we had scored again."
“I don’t know if we deserve it. Rochdale probably didn’t deserve to lose, but we showed spirit and determination and it’s just unbelievable for us.”
In the 42nd minute, a certain Nicky Platt opened the scoring proceedings in the 42nd minute to make it 1-0 to the Red Rebels at the halftime break.
What goes around can indeed come around in a tournament like this. Jake Cotterill, a former Rochdale trainee, would make it 2-0 FC United in the 49th minute with a strike from 18 yards away.
Rochdale, unbowed, would then make their move.
The Dale's Anthony Elding capitalized on a set piece in the 53rd minute to make it 2-1. Twenty-five minutes later, Craig Dawson scored on a corner to even the proceedings at 2-2.
And it seemed that it would go to a replay.
"I thought the referee was going to blow for a free kick but he only had one hand on it," said Norton afterwards. "We were dreading a replay, my legs wouldn't have taken it."
It would not. Lillis made an amateurish mistake in securing the ball by letting it slip past his hands, and Norton—who, believe it or not, is an avid fan of Manchester United—made the Rochdale keeper pay for the gift by coolly slotting it home in the final minute of stoppage time.
As the final whistle blew, the hundreds of fans who descended upon this large market town in Greater Manchester, descended on to the pitch, celebrating the biggest win in the club's young existence.
Of course, no one will expect the Red Rebels to get past the second round proper. If that happens, the possibility of Manchester United and FC United facing each other seems to be a distinct possibility.
But if what happened on Nov. 5 at the Spotland Stadium told anything about the mystique of a tournament like the FA Cup, it told this: Never underestimate the heart of an underdog.
Especially if that underdog happens to be FC United of Manchester.