John Brayford: No better time to to play at Old Trafford

Thursday 07 Jan 2016
John Brayford during Sheffield United's FA Cup semi-final with Hull in 2014

A trip to Old Trafford is always a daunting prospect but John Brayford believes Sheffield United are heading to the home of Manchester United at just the right time.

Not all is well in the red half of Manchester. Victory over Swansea last weekend put an end to an eight-match winless run in all competitions, while manager Louis van Gaal has come under increasing pressure from the media.

The Blades, on the other hand, are in rude health, with just one defeat in their last six – a run that has coincided with full-back Brayford’s return from a long injury lay-off.

Manchester United v Sheffield United

The Emirates FA Cup
Third round
Old Trafford
5.30pm Saturday 8 January 2016
Live on BT Sport 2 

The 28-year-old is not expecting Sheffield United to travel to Old Trafford on Saturday and power their way into the Emirates FA Cup fourth round, but he does not foresee the hosts having it all their own way either.

“I’m not sure there is ever a good time to play teams like that away from home but I suppose it’s as good a time as any,” said Brayford.

“I think the lads will relish it, especially with our recent record in the cup. We have knocked out some big teams in the past and we have played good enough football in the last few weeks.

“They are a world-class team but we’re not just going there for the ride. We know how we have done in cups in recent years and we aren’t just going there to take part.”

Watch Eric Cantona's sublime FA Cup lob for Manchester United against Sheffield United

For the former Derby defender, meanwhile, it will be a maiden appearance at the Theatre of Dreams – fulfilling an ambition of his since making the trip there as a Burton Albion apprentice many years ago.

“I have never played there and I’m not sure any of the lads have either,” he added. “I have been there before, when I was with Burton and we drew Man United.

“I was only 16 or 17 and I was just a spare man – this time hopefully I will be more involved.”

The Blades have reason to believe they can upset the odds this weekend, having reached the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup two years ago, losing to Hull City at Wembley.

Watch highlights of Sheffield United's 2014 FA Cup semi-final with Hull City

On top of that, Manchester United were far from convincing in the early stages of last season’s competition, edging past Yeovil in the third round and held to a replay by Cambridge in the fourth.

They passed both those tests and were beaten by eventual champions Arsenal in the sixth round and while Van Gaal is hoping to better that, he knows the Blades are something of a banana skin.

“We saw that last year when we played Yeovil and Cambridge,” said the Dutchman. “Every match is difficult to win, no matter what level you have to compete with.

“That’s why Manchester United haven’t won it for a long time, I think. I cannot judge the way they have lost in the last few years, but last year we lost against Arsenal, and they were the winners.”

By FA Staff