Manchester United progressed through to the fifth round of the FA Cup with an empathic 6-0 victory over League One side Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park. Rovers had played their third-round replay against Watford less than three days before, just 3884 minutes (or 233,040 seconds), the players and the turf noticeably tired and ravaged and ultimately at the mercy of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils intent on getting a morale-boosting hit.
In the crowd United fans were once again vocal in their protests against reviled owners the Glazer Family and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, the direction of their ire as the club struggles to rediscover identity, form and sparkle, but one thing they can at least certainly be satisfied with is the efficiency of their ticketing office
The fourth round draw had been made all the way back on January 6, Man Utd knowing they would be on the road either way, but Watford’s capitulation after taking a 3-0 lead at Vicarage Road with Tranmere battling back provided a repeat up in Birkenhead.
The replay was then duly delayed due to the unsuitable weather-mauled pitch on Merseyside, postponing the tie for another week, meaning the direction for the fifth round still left potential travelling United fans in purgatory: would it be a trip ‘darn sarrrf’ or a case of going west young men?
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Watford, a Premier League side, were duly beaten in extra-time by a team fighting relegation two tiers below them, meaning Man Utd would be staying in the north-west. With the fixture decided, Tranmere Rovers supporters queued late into Thursday night and throughout Friday morning to buy tickets for the Sunday clash against the 13-time Premier League champions.
Man Utd’s ticketing office also got to work immediately after the fixture was finally decided for those supporters venturing across to the Wirral.
The Mail reported that: “On Thursday, staff worked through the night to conduct a ballot for Sunday's FA Cup trip to Tranmere, print the tickets and send them out to fans via recorded delivery to ensure they arrived on Saturday morning. What a well-oiled machine.”
The tabloid then, of course, couldn’t resist cynically adding: “If only the same could be said about those representing United on the field in the Premier League this season.”
At the beginning of January, this particular division of the club came in for some heavy criticism after tickets for the first leg of their Carabao Cup fixture against Manchester City were voided, forcing some of those attempting to enter the stadium to return to the ticketing office.
This subsequently created an exhausting basilisk-like queue well after kick-off for the highly-anticipated fixture, with some ‘lucky’ United supporters only getting to see their man Marcus Rashford score, after missing the home side going 3-0 down to their cross-city rivals before half-time.
The ticketing office now seems to be in check. For Solskjaer’s often confusing and unpredictable Manchester United side with three wins in their last eight, victories over City, Spurs, and Chelsea forthcoming but defeats to Burnley, Bournemouth, and Watford likewise, the jury is still out.