Manchester United’s bid for a 13th FA Cup win continues Friday as they get the fourth round of the competition underway at Old Trafford. Ralf Rangnick’s side return from their international break on a reasonable enough run of form having beaten Brentford and West Ham in their last two games, but they are yet to really excel under new management.
Their opponents, Middlesbrough, might feel this is a good moment to be playing the Red Devils. Chris Wilder’s side have won eight of their last 10, losing just once, but their rise up the Championship table could also have them considering whether now is the right time to be competing on multiple fronts. Might they send a weakened team to the Theatre of Dreams? Here is how you can watch the match and what you need to know:
Date: Friday, Feb. 4 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
Location: Old Trafford — Manchester, United Kingdom
TV/Live stream: ESPN+
Odds: Manchester United -333; Draw +340; Middlesbrough +850 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Manchester United: Mason Greenwood’s arrest on suspicion of rape, sexual assault and a threat to kill saw the young forward withdrawn from consideration for Rangnick and had a knock-on impact in squad building in the final days of the transfer window. A move for Jesse Lingard was partly blocked to ensure United had sufficient attacking options following the departures of Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek and Amad Diallo. However Lingard will not play on Friday having been granted leave until next week to clear his head.
One player who could come into contention is Paul Pogba, sidelined for the last three months with a thigh issue. “Paul will be part of the group,” said Rangnick. “He might even be in the starting XI.”
Middlesbrough: Whilst Wilder acknowledges it would be a shock for his side to emerge from Old Trafford victorious, the former Sheffield United manager, who beat United last year, is not in the business of letting his players get carried away with the magic of the cup or the occasion that comes with a game against some of the game’s biggest names.
“Their team sheet will come in the dressing room and it’ll be [David] De Gea, [Raphael] Varane, Harry Maguire… let’s not crumble in that process,” said Wilder. “They have some fabulous individuals that can hurt you, and hurt teams around Europe and the Premier League. A huge array of talent to choose from.
“But it is not sight-seeing for our players. It is not a shirt-swapping situation. I don’t want people going to Old Trafford to enjoy the visit. If they want a shirt, do it in the changing rooms after. We don’t want to be looking at them all fuzzy-eyed. They are up against a competitor.”
An in-form Middlesbrough are unlikely to be easily swept aside by United but the quality should tell eventually. PICK: Manchester United 2, Middlesbrough 0