United manager Keith Curle spoke to us about tomorrow’s Emirates FA Cup meeting with Everton, to be shown live on BT Sports.
“Things have been building up nicely, as you can imagine,” he said. “There’s a good focus about the group and training this week has been excellent. The tempo has been high and we used Friday to start to work on shape.
“Every player now knows what’s required and we used our Saturday to work on identifying instances when we think we can get the ball back and where we think we can cause them problems.”
“There’s been a familiarity in the way we’ve prepared, because it’s what we do most weeks, but there’s definitely an air of excitement,” he told us. “You can feel a bounce about the place and the players are feeling the nervous excitement which comes with a fixture like this.
“There are similarities to the way we prepared for Liverpool because nobody knew what was going to happen in that game. The players have watched Everton on the TV this week and they’ve seen some very good footballers on show. They know it will be a massive test for them on Sunday.
“We’re coming up against a fantastic football club. We were up against the same at Anfield but we stood up to it and we were able to compete. We developed a game plan and we stuck to it to the letter.
“We’ll need to do the same again on Sunday. I can guarantee that we’ll be competitive and, who knows, it could turn on a refereeing decision, the conditions, a mistake or a moment of magic. That’s the beauty of the FA Cup.”
“The surroundings at Brunton Park will make things feel very unfamiliar for our visitors,” he told us. “We’re still rebuilding following the floods and the shower area for the away teams is a portacabin at the moment.
“We’ll have to wait and see if that takes them out of their comfort zone. All I can say is that every effort has been made to make it as accommodating as possible. It’s going to be a bumper crowd and we’ll be playing on an indifferent playing surface. This game has got FA Cup written all over it.”
“Having said that, we’ll look after them as much as we can,” he commented. “We’ll show them a massive amount of respect and we know we’re going to have to work harder than they do. If we do that hopefully we’ll earn that little bit of luck you need in the FA Cup.
“We’ve been through their strengths and weaknesses and you can’t hide away from the fact they are all Premier League players for a reason. However, we have good players here as well and we know we can frustrate them. It’s possible they could turn up and decide it’s not their day, and we’ll be at them if we sense that.
“They have a manager who is facing a little bit of disbelief and that can have an affect on the mindset. Personally I think he’s an excellent manager because he wants his teams to play in the right way. He encourages his players to be very expansive and they retain and use the ball well. They have a method they like to use for the full 90 minutes and it’s up to the opposition to put them out of their stride. One thing I know as a fact is that he’ll want to win this game and he’ll want his team to perform.
“Unity will be the key for us. Everything we will do has to be done as a unit. The supporters are included in that as well. They have to be as noisy as they can be for us and, if we get that from them, they can be like an extra man. I want to hear ‘Keith Curle’s Blue and White Army’ ringing round the place from minute one. I don’t want to hear any Evertonian voices at all.”
“It’s going to be nice to be stood in the same dug out as a Premier League manager,” he admitted. “The proudest moment I’ve had as a manager here was at Liverpool because of the performance the players gave us. We gave a good account of ourselves and we made a lot of friends.
“The biggest thing in the back of my mind is that everyone thinks this run ends at Everton. I don’t want it to be the case. They won’t show us any disrespect at all and I think they’ll play a strong team. Players make mistakes and we have to make sure they make more than us.
“Our players will be nervous but we’ll harness that. The adrenalin rush that comes with games like this can sometimes get you through. We’re going to have to be on top form in everything we do but we’re due a little bit of luck as a football club. If we could get the win it would be right up there in terms of highlights in my managerial career.”
Speaking about the work done which has made the return to Brunton Park possible over the last few weeks, he said: “We’re very proud because being able to host the game is no mean feat in itself. The floods brought a huge amount of disruption and the work going on behind the scenes has been phenomenal to turn that round.
“It’s put us into a position where we can stage a spectacle for people to come along and enjoy. The stadium hasn’t been full for a long time and I think we can all feel very pleased with how we have turned things round.
“The size of the crowd shows the potential I knew was here. I know we’ve been stretched to the limits as a football club and the staff have come through with flying colours. It’s been long hours and hard work but I won’t apologise for bringing that along. If anything, I want to bring more of it because it means we’re being successful.”