Forget the mind games, bold propositions and belligerent statements of intent.
Chris Basham is convinced, absolutely convinced, Sheffield United can cause a huge FA Cup upset at Old Trafford tomorrow. Because, he explained ahead of the third round tie against Louis van Gaal’s side, the League One club’s squad has developed a wonderful knack of rising to the big occasion.
Basham, a member of the team which qualified for last term’s Capital One Cup semi-finals, nine months after reaching the same stage of this competition in 2014, said: “The previous results definitely do help. It’s encouraging that everyone in the dressing room, speaking for everybody, believes we can do this. I think that is the biggest thing you can have at Sheffield United - belief. And I am sure we can do it. We can go there and win.”
Basham, the former Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool midfielder, insisted his comments should not be interpreted as a lack of respect for Manchester United’s “world class” players. Simply, after claiming five top-flight scalps in two-and-a-half seasons, a reflection that United know what is required to bridge the divisional divide.
“They have world-class players who can score all over the pitch,” Basham said. “You show them respect, but they have also got to show us respect as well in what we can do and the danger we can cause. I am not saying there’s not much between the leagues, but there is not much between the players when you are out there, one versus one. They may have that extra quality of threading the ball through the eye of a needle, but we have players who can do that too.”
“I genuinely do believe,” Basham added. “Maybe not if we hadn’t had the cup run we did last year and the lads obviously did it two years ago as well. You want to pit yourselves against the best and not go out to a lesser team as it were.”
Basham progressed through Wanderers’ youth system before making his Premier League debut against Sunderland, the club he supported as a boy, in 2008.
Admitting he “probably took things for granted” earlier in his career, Basham said: “I kind of think that. Obviously, you are playing against the top sides and it is something you wanted through your scholarship. You play teams like Manchester United and Chelsea, but now I am in League One and 27 years old. I think I watch football and analyse it a lot more and that’s why it comes into my mind I am playing against Manchester United who have just been knocked out of the Champions League and its a massive, massive cup. Let’s go there and have a good day.
“You always aim for the highest and this manager and staff are aiming for that. But it might not come next year or the year after; we are going there now and let’s pit ourselves against the best.”
“I have come up the hard way, definitely,” Basham added. “I didn’t start until I was 18 years old and then I got my break at 19. I just can’t wait to get out there at Old Trafford and play in front of a massive number of fans. In front of the Sir Alex Ferguson stand and I saw he will be there watching as he loves Manchester United.”
Nigel Adkins, the United manager, has vowed his team will attack van Gaal’s charges when the opportunity presents itself and Basham said: “The main thing is to go there with the intent of getting a goal. We can’t just go there to sit back. We need to score, even it’s a set-piece, and keep the first 15 to 20 minutes tight as if they get an early goal, it will be tough. We just need to express ourselves. Even if we do go behind though, it’s not over. We are the comeback kings at the moment. We have got goals in our team and the gaffer always expresses that to us in the dressing room. We know we can score, but it’s just keeping a clean sheet. We need to express ourselves and get a goal.”
“The gaffer has told us what to expect and what he wants us to do,” Basham added. “We have got to go and do the business on the pitch. They have not been on great form and a lot of people are saying that they are not the Manchester United that they used to be; let’s go and have a go at them.”