Cambridge United look forward to ‘jackpot’ replay at Old Trafford

League Two club are set to earn about £1m from FA Cup clash with Manchester United

 Cambridge United  celebrate their 0-0 draw with Manchester United which has changed the financial fortunes of the club. Photograph:  Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Cambridge United celebrate their 0-0 draw with Manchester United which has changed the financial fortunes of the club. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

 

Cambridge United need not have worried about replacing the toilets at the Abbey Stadium, something their chairman promised to do after holding Manchester United to a goalless draw in the FA Cup. Now five companies are offering such facilities for nothing at the creaking ground, one of the many perks the League Two club are savouring before their big night at Old Trafford.

A famous result has got them as far as this and, even if they do not progress further, the benefits should remain for years to come. Cambridge are likely to earn more than £1 million from tonight’s fourth-round replay in Manchester, income that will have lasting, tangible effects at a club who returned to the Football League only last year after a nine-year hiatus.

A gym at the training ground, a facility for the youth academy – commodities taken for granted elsewhere – will be the legacy spawned by a Premier League side’s profligacy. Manchester United were bitterly disappointed after failing to beat a team ranked 82nd in the English pyramid but in the end even Louis van Gaal may not begrudge Cambridge a windfall.

Some 64 coaches and 6,500 supporters will make the trip north. Amid the hubbub of pre-match hype there was one word used by both the manager, Richard Money, and the chief executive, Jez George: respect. Cambridge want to leave with their heads held high, returning with reputation enhanced and galvanised for the remainder of the season.

Renewed interest

For Dave Doggett, the club’s chairman and a fan since 1957, there have been other fruitful times but few in recent memory. After initially claiming funds from the replay would be used to give the stadium a lick of paint and new toilets, he has been inundated with proposals.

“Five toilet manufacturers came to us offering free urinals and what have you,” he said. “We could have toilets in one stand dedicated to one manufacturer and others elsewhere in the ground. So I’m raising the stakes now – we need a new stand if someone would like to offer us one.”

More significant has been the shift in local attitude towards the club. In 2013, the council did not back plans for a stadium elsewhere in the city but Doggett has noted a change in tone since the hard-fought 0-0 draw.

“They [the council] didn’t identify the need for a football club and sporting facilities; they said we hadn’t demonstrated it,” he said. “I think we have demonstrated it now. They all want to be part of it. It’s great for the town. We are not just a university town, we are a football town.”

Since Van Gaal and co rolled into town Cambridge have drawn with Dagenham & Redbridge and lost to Luton but Money hopes he will not have to introduce himself to the Dutchman this time.

“I introduced myself to him before the game because I wasn’t sure he would know who I was,” Money said. “I thought that was the courteous thing to do. I didn’t want an embarrassing situation on the touchline. I made a point of introducing myself to him as we walked out the tunnel.

Complimentary

Cambridge’s players will look to savour every moment. United donated their shirts without asking for one in return after the first game but may not be as generous on the pitch after producing such a tepid display at the Abbey.

For Cambridge and Money, though, they have already won.

“If you go to Las Vegas and you play those fruit machines and you win the jackpot – that’s probably what the draw was, in terms of Cambridge versus Man United,” he said. “To get the replay probably means we bought a lottery ticket and won. Now we’ve bought a EuroMillions ticket.

“The percentage of chance diminishes because of it but because you’ve got a ticket you do have a chance. That’s how I feel. To go there with no belief would be dangerous but we’re well aware of the task.”

Guardian Service

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