by Timothy Abraham
YEOVIL, United Kingdom:- Louis van Gaal has warned his Manchester United stars not to underestimate minnows Yeovil as they bid to avoid another humiliation at the hands of lower league opposition in Sunday’s FA Cup third round tie.
United head to the unglamourous surroundings of tiny Huish Park to launch their challenge to win the competition for the first time since 2004 when they eased to a 3-0 final victory over Millwall.
That is the longest time without an FA Cup win for the club since the 14 years between the 1963 win over Leicester City and the 1977 defeat of Liverpool.
United have reached two finals, two semi-finals and two quarter-finals since 2004 but winning the trophy for a 12th time has proved elusive.
But in addition to their desire to end that barren spell, United manager van Gaal is driven by a desire to prove his team have learned the lesson of their embarrassing League Cup exit earlier this season.
The Dutchman picked a team of fringe and youth team players as United were humiliated 4-0 by third tier side Milton Keynes Dons in August and it seems apparent he realised from that chastening day not to underestimate lower league opposition again.
“I had the experience against MK Dons, who are also in League One,” Van Gaal said.
“You never know in a cup match, you have to win because you’re out if you lose.
“We have to beat Yeovil but every team in England wants to beat Manchester United so it will be difficult.
“Everything about playing a lower league team will be different — the pitch, the stadium.
“For the players, it’s more difficult to prepare for a match like this, especially after playing so much over Christmas.”
Even though United have not given up hope of winning the Premier League title, left-back Luke Shaw believes the FA Cup represents arguably their best chance of silverware this season.
“We are not going to say the Premier League is over yet, because that is still our number one priority,” Shaw added.
“We want to win that, but we are going to focus on this game on Sunday.
“The reason I came to Manchester United is because I want to be winning trophies and I think I have got the best chance here.”
– Yeovil eye giant-killing –
Van Gaal will check on the availability of Marcos Rojo (thigh), Daley Blind (knee) and Marouane Fellaini (illness) who are all major doubts.
United are also without Ashley Young (hamstring) and Antonio Valenica (groin), while Angel Di Maria has returned to training after a thigh injury but may not be risked.
The tie offers Yeovil respite from a testing League One campaign that has left Gary Johnson’s side rooted at the foot of table at the mid-point of the season.
And while the mouthwatering prospect of facing United’s superstars provides a welcome distraction, it also provides a reminder of the time the two clubs last met in the competition in 1949.
Yeovil, then of the Southern League, sprang to prominence by beating Sunderland in the fourth round before losing heavily to United, the cup holders, 8-0 in the following round.
The current group of players have been made well aware of the link and skipper Joe Edwards said: “You don’t realise what it could mean historically for the club. It is a massive fixture that stays with the club for a long time.”
Johnson, meanwhile, hopes the match provides a lift for the remainder of the season but acknowledges a heavy defeat could have lasting effects.
“They could kill your confidence or you could gain confidence from knowing you have played well against a top team,” he said.
“Everyone enjoys the FA Cup but we’ll enjoy this one and then get back down to the nitty-gritty of the league in the second half of the season.”