Crawley leave Old Trafford with souvenirs but no prized scalp

Manchester United 1 Crawley 0
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The Independent Football

The souvenir hunters were out in force at Old Trafford.

Anything not nailed down was quickly hoovered up. Signed shirts, pictures and programmes were carefully packed away while one tourist from the Blue Square Premier took away a piece of grass to ensure he would remember Saturday 19 February 2011 for the rest of his life.

In fact, so much memorabilia was gathered to commemorate the biggest day in Crawley Town's history that they could have done with another coach to take it all back to Sussex with them.

Heaven knows where manager Steve Evans found space to fit the bottle of red he had been handed by Sir Alex Ferguson as a parting gift.

David Hunt, the midfielder on loan from Brentford, bagged the prized shirt of Wayne Rooney. "He [Rooney] was stood next to me. I'd got the whack in the face so I think the shirt was an apology," said the former Crystal Palace player.

Sergio Torres, one of the names to stand out during this season's FA Cup, was as inventive at the final whistle as he had been throughout Crawley's historic run. "When I was coming off I thought, 'I need to have a memory of this day', so I put a bit of grass in my socks," said the Argentine who has gone from shelf stacker at Boots to FA Cup hero. "I've put it inside my boots and now I'm going to frame my boots with the grass because I'm not going to wear them again."

Then there was the moment a member of Ferguson's back-room staff knocked on the visitors' dressing-room door at Old Trafford after the whistle.

The mood inside was sombre as realisation sank in that an adventure which had started in Wales four months earlier with a fourth qualifying round victory over Newport County had come to an end after a rare Wes Brown goal.

Yet the United official was the bearer of more gifts and the atmosphere lifted. "We've gone in after the game and a member of staff has come in and given us a load of signed shirts by all the big players – the Rios and Giggsys," said Evans. "I said to Sir Alex, they set the standards on the pitch because they're top of the Premier League, but they set the standards off the pitch as well."

But for all the keepsakes, mementos, blood, sweat and tears, it was Ferguson's body language at the end of the tie which Crawley's players should freeze-frame and store away in their memory banks as the United manager failed to camouflage his relief after an uncomfortable experience at the hands of the non-Leaguers.

"Some came in and didn't do themselves justice. No doubt about that," said Ferguson after his fringe players fluffed their latest audition. "We might have some players who don't understand what the FA Cup is all about."

For Bebe, in particular, it was a chance to put right all the wrongs following United's shambolic Carling Cup exit at West Ham. He failed. What now for Gabriel Obertan? The French player has had 18 months to blossom at United yet there were times when he looked out of his depth against opponents from the fifth tier. The presence of 17-year-old countryman and midfield talent Paul Pogba on United's substitutes' bench ought to tell Obertan he faces being left behind if he does not step up.

It says everything about United's performance that the most positive news for Ferguson was that André-Pierre Gignac, the in-form Marseilles striker, will not face United in the Champions League on Wednesday after suffering a groin injury.

To be fair, United did what was needed. They are through to the sixth round and a scrappy, disjointed, lacklustre performance against Crawley will be forgotten if Ferguson brings the FA Cup back to Old Trafford in May. But while United's focus now shifts to the Champions League, Crawley, denied a stoppage time equaliser when Richard Brodie hit the woodwork, must now lift themselves as their quest to win promotion to the Football League continues at home to Southport tomorrow.

Scorer: Man Utd Brown 28.

Subs: Man Utd Rooney 6 (Anderson, h/t), Smalling 6 (Rafael, 54), Fletcher 6 (Fabio, 69). Crawley Brodie 7 (McAllister, 63), Cook 6 (Gibson, 69), Rusk (Smith, 81). Booked: Man Utd Brown, Rooney. Crawley Torres. Man of the match McFadzean. Match rating 6/10.

Possession Man Utd 47% Crawley 53%.

Attempts on target Man Utd 4 Crawley 3.

Referee L Probert (Wiltshire). Att 74,778.