McClaren refuses to dwell on Cup cheer

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The Independent Football

The Middlesbrough manager, Steve McClaren, guided his side to a tantalising FA Cup fourth-round meeting with his former club, Manchester United – and then ordered them to forget all about it.

No-one will relish the chance to pit their wits against the resurgent champions than the man who played a vital role in their historic treble success in 1999 and beyond. But, despite Middlesbrough's 2-0 win over Wimbledon in their third-round replay on Tuesday night, the next round is for another day.

Instead, McClaren will urge his players to put the game against Sir Alex Ferguson's side out of their minds and concentrate on Saturday's Premiership meeting with Bolton at the Riverside stadium.

Boro will go into that game lying 17th in the League table and just a point off the relegation places, a situation McClaren considers far more important than any cup tie.

"It's a massive game for us against Bolton on Saturday, and we've said that to the players," he admitted. "The last time we were in this kind of spell, we beat Northampton 3-1 in the Worthington Cup in quite a scrappy game and we went on to produce some good results.

"We're hoping that this result will do the same. The last two home games we've played, we've won, and however we've won them, we've kept clean sheets and we've scored three goals, so we've got to take heart from that."

Nevertheless, McClaren admits that he is relishing the chance to have another crack at his former club, who won 1-0 at the Riverside in a tight league game just a month ago.

"I wanted to win this game to have that opportunity," he said. "It doesn't matter what the connection is between myself and Manchester United, the cup is always special. We hope for a great crowd and we've got nothing to lose. The last time we played them, we gave them a good game.

"But since then, they've gone on a run of winning games and playing very, very good football, so this one's going to be even tougher. I spoke to Sir Alex the other day but, to be fair, the cup wasn't mentioned. I'll be ringing him now and asking what kind of team he's putting out!"

Boro started like a side determined not to be caught out by any giant-killing act in front of a record low 9,687 FA Cup crowd at the Riverside and forced their way in front through Noel Whelan's third-minute strike.

But Wimbledon were no push-over and it took three fine saves from Mark Crossley to deny David Connolly an equaliser before Kenny Cunningham's unfortunate own goal nine minutes from time clinched victory.

It was the first time since 3 November that the Teessiders had scored more than once in a game. But the Wimbledon manager, Terry Burton, was left bemoaning his luck after Connolly missed a late chance to take the tie into extra-time.

"He's a very bright player and, by his own standards, he'll be disappointed," Burton said of Connolly. "The one in the second half, I don't think the keeper knew too much about it. He just got across the goal and, credit to him, made a barrier and stopped the ball going in.

"You want to get results and results are what keep everybody in a job, but you always have to take some satisfaction from the performance."

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