To the next step

After starting the season with 11 wins in a row, FC United will play the most prestigious match in their short history this weekend, writes Tony Howard

Before Sir Alex Ferguson began to deliver a Premiership title to Old Trafford almost every year, Manchester United fans lived for cup competitions, and the memories of Gordon Hill, Stuart Pearson, Norman Whiteside and others will come thick and fast when FC United make their debut in the FA Vase on Saturday.

The club that was formed just over a year ago by Manchester United fans travel to Yorkshire to take on Brodsworth Miners Welfare, and will hope to continue the fantastic start to their second season. With FC not registered in time to take part in the Vase or the FA Cup last season, this is the most prestigious game in the club's short history.

But if FC are to progress, they will have to improve upon a poor cup record to date. Putting aside their victory over AFC Wimbledon to claim the friendly Supporters Direct Cup in the summer, United failed to progress beyond the second game of either of the North West Counties League competitions last season.

This time out, though, they go into the tie on the back of a stunning 11-game winning streak that has put them top of the Counties' top division. Any fears of a difficult second season following the North West division two title victory have been dispelled with aplomb, and FC's swashbuckling brand of attacking football has again been too hot to handle.

Many doubted whether the momentum could be continued, but FC fans have witnessed a start to the season that outstrips even Manchester United's famous 10-match winning streak at the beginning of the 1985-86 campaign. Ironically, there will be more footage available of FC United's fantastic run than exists of Ron Atkinson's side. A television disagreement meant none of those 10 games were televised, leading some to question whether the run actually happened, especially as United ended up finishing fourth.

No such problems exist for FC, however, as the technological age means every move is captured in some form or another. This week, for example, the internet has shown videos of United striker Rory Patterson scoring from the kick-off against Silsden in the 4-2 victory last Saturday. It was the best goal of the 43 scored so far (an average of nearly four a game) and the travelling hordes will be hoping their side add to that this weekend.

"The FA Vase is the one the fans have been talking about since the draw was made and the players are no different," says FC's manager Karl Marginson. "United fans like a good cup run and we've not produced so far, so we hope to put that right - starting with Saturday. We're obviously confident after the start we've made. It's been expected to be honest because we've got together a squad that is full of quality at this level.

"Many doubted we'd still be pulling the crowds in this season but the fans have been absolutely superb again and have kept turning up. We had over 3,000 again at the weekend and it gives the players a great lift."

After competing in the Vase this season, FC will be eligible for the FA Cup next year- and if they continue their early season form and win another title they will only be eight leagues below the Premiership. Either way, it may not be too long until another chapter of cup history is written in the red half of Manchester as they lock horns with a certain other United.

For further details visit the club's website: