Conference side Burton deservedly earned a lucrative FA Cup replay after holding Manchester United to a draw. The Brewers were the better team in the first half, with Phil Bardsley clearing headers off the line from Jon Shaw and skipper Darren Stride.
United struggled on a heavy pitch, although Wayne Rooney twice forced saves from Burton goalkeeper Saul Deeney after coming on as a substitute. And in injury time, Deeney dramatically saved Ritchie Jones’ low strike. A late winner for United would have been cruel on Burton, who held firm in the second half as the Premiership side pressed forward. Burton central defenders Darren Tinson and Ryan Austin made brave and timely blocks time and again.
United named a team that included several youngsters, as well as the likes of Wes Brown, Mikael Silvestre, Tim Howard and Saha. There was a last-minute change, when Ji Sung-Park pulled out owing to an injury suffered during the warm-up and he was replaced by John O’Shea. But anyone who thought that United would cruise to a comfortable victory had to quickly reassess their opinion as the Conference side made an assertive start. Shaun Harrad and Keith Gilroy both caught the eye, with their elusive dribbling and direct running. Harrad shot well over from an almost impossible position in the fifth minute but at least it showed the home team’s intent. Burton won the first corner of the match after 14 minutes and almost scored but for Bardsley’s goalline clearance from Shaw. Harrad tested Howard with a strike on the volley from 20 yards after the half-hour but the ball flew straight at the American keeper. The match might have been very different had Jones not scuffed his shot seven minutes in after United had opened up the Brewers down the right. Saha had a shot blocked five minutes later after a delightful touch had created an opening. But it wasn’t until the 10 minutes leading up until half-time that United finally enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure. Jones volleyed just over after a great move involving Saha, who himself headed wide from a corner. But Burton ended the half on a high when Bardsley had to clear off the line again, this time to deny skipper Stride.
United started briskly after the break and Saha thought he was through on goal only to be thwarted by the offside flag. Richardson shot wide form a tight angle but United could still find no way through and after 59 minutes Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo came on. Rooney was made skipper, while one of the players replaced was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, making his first start since the FA Cup final in May 2004. Saha had the ball in the net with a header but again the offside flag came to Burton’s rescue. United continued to press and Deeney denied Rooney twice in quick succession.
The home team still tried to push forward and might have been awarded a penalty for handball by Pique but referee Howard Webb gave United a foul for a push. Deeney was the hero in injury-time, saving Jones’ strike from 12 yards with his feet.
One would on reflection have to say that United missed the dribbling skills of Ji Sung-Park, given the difficulty of passing the ball on an unpredicatable pitch. Having said this, even as a Man United supporter, one couldn’t help but be pleased for Burton Albion. There was a real sense of the romance of the FA Cup and a replay at Old Trafford means so much for them- in so many ways, not least financially. It is also a fantastic reward fo Nigel Clough and the loyalty that he is has demonstrated in what is a fickle business. Plus SAF hardly looked that upset at the end of the game- and his warm handshake to Nigel Clough spoke volumes!!
Saved our blushes twice in the first half with goal line clearances and nearly scored a fabulous goal. Had the right, aggressive attitude throughout.