Ralf Rangnick has called on his Manchester United players to use Friday’s FA Cup fourth round tie against Middlesbrough as a chance to build momentum at the start of a big month for the Red Devils (Match Result – United 3/10, Draw 4/1, Middlesbrough 17/2).
United signed off for the winter break with a last gasp 1-0 win over West Ham, a result that lifted them to fourth in the Premier League table and they are 6/4 to secure a Champions League return.
Their pursuit of that goal continues on Tuesday at Burnley, but before that, they face Championship Boro, who are currently pushing for a Championship play-off place.
A 13th FA Cup crown, available at 7/1, would be welcome at Old Trafford and Rangnick knows how vital the game could be in setting his side up for a month that also sees them face Southampton, Brighton, Leeds United, Atletico Madrid and Watford.
United have been boosted by the return of Paul Pogba for the game, the Frenchman having been absent since November and their German coach knows how crucial Friday’s game could prove.
He told the club’s website: “Important. Like the games in the past have been and, yes, with the last two wins, especially with the performance and last-second win against West Ham, I think it has raised the levels of confidence in everybody, the whole group.
“Hopefully, we’ll progress into the next round of the FA Cup and the next important game is then coming up on Tuesday (at Burnley).”
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There is also Championship action on Friday, with 17th-placed Birmingham City hosting 11th Sheffield United (Match Result – Birmingham 14/5, Draw 12/5, Sheff Utd 21/20).
The Blues spurned a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Derby County last Sunday and take on an improving Blades who are unbeaten in three, most recently winning 2-0 at Peterborough United.
Billy Sharp scored the opener at London Road and is 17/10 to score at anytime and with him set to turn 36 on Saturday, will be looking to celebrate his birthday in style.
Blues boss Lee Bowyer has highlighted that threat in the build-up, admitting that how they handle Sharp could determine the outcome.
“Billy Sharp scores goals for fun, he will be a big test for our defenders,” he told the club’s website. “We will have to make sure that doesn’t happen, he is a threat, but they have a lot of threats. We need to do our job and concentrate on the other ten too.”
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