Being the underdog is a rare luxury for Sheffield United but captain Jay McEveley, reflecting upon their previous giant-killing exploits, believes it suits Nigel Adkins’ side.
And, to emphasise the point, the former Everton and Blackburn Rovers defender claimed his colleagues will experience more pressure during next week’s League One fixture at Wigan Athletic than against Manchester United in the FA Cup today.
“It’s going to be a proud moment for me leading Sheffield United out at Old Trafford,” he said. “It’ll be one of the great moments of my career. But the whole attitude of the squad is that we are relaxed. There’s no pressure on us whatsoever.
“We’ve had good runs in the cups, beating some big teams and running others close. This is a whole different ball game because Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“But all the pressure is on them. We can go there and relax. For us, there’s more pressure in League One games, even though we’ll be playing in front of 75,000 people.”
United have reached the semi-finals of both major domestic knockout competitions in the past two seasons, overcoming the likes of Aston Villa, West Ham and Southampton along the way.
“This evening’s third round tie, given the size of the stadium and quality of opposition, represents a huge test of character for Adkins’ players.
But McEveley, despite languishing two divisions below Louis van Gaal’s side, insists it is one they are equipped to pass.
“We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he said. “We’ll go with a game plan but it will be a relaxed atmosphere. It’s an opportunity to write our name in Sheffield United history.
“And I don’t see why we can’t go there and get a result.”
“We’ll need a bit of luck because Premier League teams find Old Trafford a very hard place to go,” McEveley added.
“We’re not daunted and that’s the attitude we’ve had all through our cup runs. We’ll just go out and let our instincts take over.”
Stopping Wayne Rooney from doing the same, depending upon van Gaal’s selections, could hold the key to United’s chances here.
McEveley progressed through Everton’s youth system with the Manchester United centre-forward and, despite being determined to prevent Rooney winning a 13th major honour, remains fiercely protective of his fellow Liverpudlian.
“I think he was eight or nine when he signed for Everton, which was more or less the same time as me,” McEveley said.
“I played against him for a junior team in the Kirkdale League too. You could see back then he was something special. He was always scoring goals.
“If we were struggling in a game he would always pop up with a few. Wayne is an all-round player. He can tackle, he can pass the ball, he can run, he can score goals, he can head it. He can do everything.”
Describing Rooney as “world class”, McEveley added: “I don’t think there should be a question about it. I think it’s silly.
“He’s the record goalscorer for England and he will probably get the Manchester United record.
“How can you question that? You can’t.”