League Two outfit Colchester United, on their best run in the League Cup in almost half a century, have been rewarded with a visit to The Theatre of Dreams to face five-time winners Manchester United in a quarter-final clash.
Four divisions and 69 places separate the two clubs at the time of writing. The fixture at Old Trafford is due to place on December 17.
“I think the roof come off and I think the chairman was at the top of that,” said Colchester manager John McGreal in the aftermath of the tie being announced on Thursday. “It’s a brilliant draw for the club, to get to where we are.
“As a manager I was talking about trying to get a home draw but the chairman and the boys are delighted. It’s going to be a great experience, some of the boys haven’t been to Man Utd before. It’s going to be a total different prep and a different learning curve for the boys.
“We get to go to one of the biggest clubs in the world and that just shows you the rewards you get for all the hard work.”
None of the current first-team squad have ever faced the 13-time Premier League champions before, though striker Frank Nouble was on the bench for West Ham in a 4-0 drubbing in 2009.
Immediate clashes with league rivals Mansfield Town and FA Cup first round opponents Coventry City are priorities, with the U’s having more than a six-week period to prepare for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
“I’ve been [preparing] for Mansfield,” continued McGreal to SkySportsNews, “that’s the most important game for me, that’s going to be a tough nut to crack on Saturday.
But just saying the words ‘Manchester United’. For Colchester United to go up there, I’m sure our fans will be queuing to get the tickets.
“I’m pleased for the chairman and the club, and it’s a great fixture to look forward to.”
That Old Trafford fixture on the horizon will however, not be at the forefront of the majority of players, and indeed supporters’ minds.
Colchester could do well to take hake heart from Bradford City, who, whilst in the same division, reached the final in 2013, having beaten three Premier League opponents - Wigan Athletic, Arsenal, and Aston Villa - consecutively.
This campaign, Colchester have taken the EPL scalps of Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur (both on penalties), and defeated Crawley Town in the fourth round.
The last time Colchester reached this stage of the competition was in 1974, when, as a Third Division Side they were defeated 2-1 by Villa at Layer Road. Manchester United, meanwhile, last won the League Cup in 2017.
Elsewhere in the League Cup draw, the holders Manchester City will visit League One side Oxford United, Everton welcome Leicester City and Aston Villa take on Liverpool.