Football: Moses seeks a red sea change

Simon Turnbull finds Barnsley's central defender determined to turn tide on United
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The Independent Online
BARNSLEY will be a ghost town today. Some 85 coaches have been booked to cross the M62 to Manchester. In all - by bus, by car and by train - 8,500 Tykes are expected to make the trip to Old Trafford. Moses will not be leading this particular exodus, but he will be in the vanguard. Adi Moses will be at the heart of the Barnsley defence. And stopping a red tide will be his mission.

Barnsley were submerged by a flood of goals when they last stepped into the supposed theatre of dreams. Manchester United 7 Barnsley 0 was the nightmare scoreline that materialised on 25 October. It was a particularly haunting experience for Moses. He spent an hour watching helplessly from the bench while Cole and Co struck at a rate of one goal per 10 minutes. This afternoon, in the fifth round of the FA Cup, it will be the task of Moses and his fellow central defenders, Arjan De Zeeuw and Chris Morgan, to stop the flow of Manchester United goals before it starts.

"The early stages of any game are vitally important," Moses said. "One or two mistakes and you could be in for a hammering. In Manchester United's case, with the players they have, that is even more so." Barnsley discovered that, to their great cost, four months ago. But their hosts this afternoon will not have a full set of would-be tormentors at their disposal. Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes are suspended and David Beckham is likely to be confined to the stands too.

"We will not be going there to make up the numbers," Moses said. "This is a one-off Cup tie. If we win we will be just two games from Wembley. What more incentive could you have? We're going there to upset them. We're going there if not to win then to get a draw and bring them back to our place - like we did with Tottenham in the last round."

Danny Wilson's Barnsley boys got to Old Trafford as the form team in the tie, too. They may still be at the foot of the Premiership, 19 places and 38 points behind Manchester United but they have won two of their last five league games, twice as many as the champions and table-toppers have managed.

"By their standards they have had a bit of a slump," Moses, a 22-year- old homegrown member of Wilson's squad, said. "But we know the qualities of Manchester United. The encouraging thing is we're doing much better now. We've gone five or six matches unbeaten at home. We're disappointed we're still rooted to the foot of the table but, as the gaffer has said, we're playing a lot better now than we were when we went to Manchester United for the Premiership game.

"We're looking to keep that going. The league has to be our priority. The cup is a bonus. But if we can gain confidence from the Cup ties then so much the better. We've got to be optimistic of staying up. It's very tight between the clubs at the bottom. A couple of wins and you're out of the bottom three. There's still everything to play for."

On the Wembley trail, there is still club history to create. In 110 years, Barnsley have yet to win a major trophy outside the boundaries of South Yorkshire. When they lifted the FA Cup in 1912 they did so after drawing against West Bromwich Albion at Crystal Palace, 16 miles from Oakwell at Bramall Lane.

There will be added incentives too for De Zeeuw, the qualified Dutch doctor who supported Manchester United in his youth, and even more so for Ashley Ward, a Mancunian of the sky blue hue. For all 11 Barnsley players who take the field at 4.30, though, there will be the challenge of rising to the underdog tag with a vengeance and easing the painful memory of four months ago.

The odds will still be against them, but the numbers behind them will be significantly greater. "I can remember warming up in the league game and running past our fans," Moses said. "It was disappointing to see there were not very many of them because of the small allocation Manchester United give away teams for league matches. Those who were there then made a lot of noise but it will be different with 8,500 behind us this time. It will give us a huge lift." It remains to be seen, though, whether Moses and his colleagues can be lifted into the last eight, a promised land of sorts.