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Talking Tactics: How Newport can shock Red Devils at Rodney Parade
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Callum Rice-Coates
Graham Coughlan has guided League Two Newport to the FA Cup fourth round
Graham Coughlan has guided League Two Newport to the FA Cup fourth round

Manchester United are in town and League Two Newport are dreaming of an FA Cup giant-killing.

The Welsh outfit are set for one of the biggest games in their history this afternoon having beaten non-league Eastleigh in a third-round replay.

After hosting Tottenham and Manchester City in recent years, the Exiles now face arguably England's biggest club at their modest but intimidating home of Rodney Parade.

Ahead of what promises to be a memorable clash, we consider how the minnows could pull off one of the competition's greatest ever upsets.

Strong form

Newport will head into this game in good spirits.

They beat Welsh rivals Wrexham 1-0 at home last weekend and are now unbeaten in seven matches across all competitions.

Graham Coughlan's side are particularly tough to beat on their own patch having suffered just two league defeats all season in South Wales.

And with a new temporary stand boosting the attendance against United, there will be a buoyant mood around the club before kick-off today.

Newport will need to tap into that home support if they are to pull off a shock result.

They will also need to reproduce some of their gritty defensive displays of recent weeks, having conceded just four goals in their last six outings.

Coughlan's side are used to going into games as underdogs, too. 

Their win over promotion-chasing Wrexham required a battling, combative performance even though the visitors went down to 10 men early on.

Newport average just 43.3% possession in League Two, so they will be unfazed by United's inevitable dominance of the ball.

Up for the cup

Newport overcame National League Eastleigh to reach the FA Cup fourth round
Newport overcame National League Eastleigh to reach the FA Cup fourth round

Motivation will not be an issue either.

Coughlan has proved himself adept at getting his team up for big matches — and the Newport boss is a boyhood United fan.

He said: "It'll be a hell of an occasion.

"It's a fourth round tie against Manchester United, for me the biggest club in this country, in Europe and in the world."

Coughlan will hope to set his side up to exploit the Red Devils' weaknesses with a focus on quick counter-attacks and direct balls into dangerous areas.

The presence of forward Omar Bogle will be missed — he has eight league and cup goals to his name this season but is out of action with a muscle injury.

However, the form of 19-year-old attacker Seb Palmer-Houlden is encouraging with two strikes in his last three appearances, including the winner against Wrexham.

Top scorer Will Evans, who has 17 goals in all competitions, will also be a key man for the home side.

Outside chance

Manager Graham Coughlan joined Newport in October 2022
Manager Graham Coughlan joined Newport in October 2022

While Newport are capable of making things difficult for United tactically, their chances will depend to some extent on the Premier League side having an off day.

Given the Red Devils' well-documented struggles away from home and against sides that surrender possession under Erik ten Hag, an upset certainly does not seem impossible.

But as is often the case in such fixtures, the intangibles — a big atmosphere, moments of individual brilliance and extra motivation — will likely make the difference.

Coughlan will have a game plan and his team will need to play at their very best to stand a chance.

But United will be wary of a team with nothing to lose and a growing sense of self-belief at Rodney Parade.


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