'Burton gave us a good game,' admits shaken Ferguson

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The FA Cup was the one competition that his late father, Brian, never won, but in the half-time speech that Nigel Clough delivered to his Burton Albion team yesterday were shades of Old Big 'Ead's ability to motivate his players. "Nobody will remember how well you played in the first half," Nigel said to his side, "if you don't go out there in the second half and do it all again."

They did just that and now Burton Albion, 13th in the Conference, have a replay at Old Trafford on 18 January that will earn them anywhere between £500,000 and £750,000 _ which for a club whose top earning player is paid £500-a-week is some new year bonus. As the achievement of drawing with United sunk in yesterday, their famous young manager described his team's performance as "staggering".

Clough, 39, who resisted the temptation to put himself on as a substitute, missed much of the post-match euphoria as he shared a drink with Sir Alex Ferguson in his office at the Pirelli Stadium. At 64, Ferguson is the one of only Premiership managers who has been in the top flight long enough to have done the same with Brian and he was generous in his praise for Burton's remarkable feat.

"It's what we expected in a cup competition, a difficult pitch and opponents who worked their socks off," Ferguson said. "Apart from a couple of corners they weren't a real danger. The problem here is with the crowd who are on a high. They almost think their side will score every time. You have to keep your composure, and not give them opportunities.

"The game at Old Trafford will give them a lifeline that will last them for years. It was Exeter [who drew with United in the third round last year] and now it is Burton. There have been some surprise results in the last day or so. The Conference clubs have been brilliant and there is nothing wrong with it for football. Up until the last couple of years the FA Cup was getting a bit flat in terms of results.

"The Conference clubs have made the FA Cup this year with Tamworth and Nuneaton. They have done the FA Cup proud. Burton showed a lot of commitment and they gave us a good game. If we had taken our chances it wouldn't have been like that."

The United manager said that his side would not have a problem with fixture congestion though he is likely to call upon a much stronger team - as he did for the replay against Exeter last year - for the replay.

Clough said: "If you see my players in the dressing-room you will know what it means. I thought we deserved it. We had a half-decent shout for a penalty and a couple off the line. I am pleased and proud of the lads because for part-time players to get a draw with Manchester United is a staggering achievement. We haven't got a prayer at Old Trafford but we will enjoy it while we can."

The Burton chairman, Ben Robinson, said that he would not even watch today's fourth-round draw on television so certain was he that the match at Old Trafford would be the end of the run for his club who are 104 league places behind United in football's hierarchy. Robinson said: "I don't know exactly how much money it is worth but however much we get it will help us strengthen our squad and take the club forward."

Comments