Manchester derbies may soon take on a new meaning. The traditional powers, City and United, meet on Wednesday but FC United of Manchester are now only a game away from a possible FA Cup encounter with the club they both salute and decry after winning 3-2 at Rochdale in the first round.Mike Norton’s 94th-minute goal shows that FC United have inherited Manchester United’s tradition of dramatic winners. It carried the Evo-Stik Premier Division side into the second round of the FA Cup as they marked their debut with a performance of assurance and by making themselves heard. A noisy and colourful evening involved fireworks, a brief pitch invasion and a variety of chants, from the new and the novel to those aired regularly at Old Trafford. “Are you watching, David Gill?” they taunted Manchester United’s chief executive, who has allied himself with the Glazers.
But Karl Marginson’s side demonstrated that, for a protest movement, they have some fine footballers. Their first two goals were terrific. Josh Wright guided a pass into the path of the advancing Nicky Platt, who provided a finish of assurance. It was an irony that, given their roots at Old Trafford, it was a former Liverpool Academy player who provided the breakthrough. However, it was fitting that Wright created the goal. Sharp and speedy, the winger excelled. So was Carlos Roca on the opposite flank. Striker Norton almost scored with a cheeky back-heel after his low cross, which was an indication of the confidence of footballers who ply their trade in the seventh tier. It was apparent again when they doubled their lead. Jake Cotterill connected sweetly with a rising shot. Having attended the same school as Paul Scholes, his was a goal worthy of the other United’s midfielder.
Heading for an ignominious exit, Rochdale responded. Anthony Elding halved the deficit with a close-range header before Chris O’Grady had a shot cleared off the line by Richard Battersby. Then Brian Barry-Murphy’s in-swinging corner was headed in by Craig Dawson. But then Dale keeper Josh Lillis erred, Norton pounced and the underdogs progressed.