Andy Crosby has warned Sheffield United’s players will suffer the consequences if they allow next month’s FA Cup date at Old Trafford to become a distraction as the club battles to improve its League One form.
Nigel Adkins’ team, who were paired with Manchester United in Monday’s third round draw, enter this weekend’s crucial showdown against Coventry City 12 points off the automatic promotion pace after winning only two of their last nine games.
Although Crosby, United’s assistant manager, acknowledged the prospect of facing Louis van Gaal’s side could “be the catalyst” for an upturn in results, he told The Star: “First things first, the lads have got to show they want to play and play well against Coventry City. If you do that then you will stay in the team.
“It (Manchester United) is a game to look forward to but we’ve got some massive games before then. It’s a game to look forward to but not a game to concentrate on at this moment in time. If we take 12 points from the matches in between, I think everybody would say that’s huge.”
United secured their meeting with the three time European champions after beating Oldham Athletic in the previous round but are also scheduled to face Scunthorpe, Wigan Athletic and Bradford City before crossing the Pennines.
Confirming United will not appeal the red card Che Adams received during the 1-0 victory over Oldham - “the video evidence was inconclusive” - Crosby added: “Winning games of football breeds confidence. We were massively disappointed to concede so late against Barnsley the week before but then, to go out against Oldham, win and get a clean sheet, everybody was celebrating again. It, the feeling, was no different to a league game. People might say the draw acts as an incentive to perform. Should you need that though? Probably not.”
Adams, aged 19, was signed from Ilkeston last term and announced his arrival at Bramall Lane by scoring twice during United’s Capital One Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this year.
Dismissed following a confrontation with Oldham captain Liam Kelly, the forward will begin his three match suspension when second-placed City visit Bramall Lane on Sunday lunchtime.
“It was Che’s first red card and he’s apologised, including to the fans,” Crosby continued. “He’ll have to view it as part of the learning process, about the things that go on out there.”
Crosby, who faced both Chelsea and Manchester City in the competition during his playing career at Scunthorpe, insisted there are also wider lessons to be learned as United prepare for a sequence of fixtures which could make or break their hopes of a top two finish.
“It’s something we’ve spoken about over the last 10 days or so. What it takes to win games of football and establish a foothold, a platform, in games,” Crosby said. “Doing the basics against Oldham, the nitty gritty in difficult conditions and with 10 men, well that has led to Manchester United, arguably the biggest team in the world, in the FA Cup. It shows what can happen if you do the unglamorous aspects well.
“Can we cause a surprise there? Ask the Bradford players, they won at Stamford Bridge not so long ago. It happens, at any level of sport, it happens. Yes, it might be rare but results like that do occur.”