FA Cup: Van Gaal wary of team's mindset as United looks to avoid shock at 4th-tier Cambridge


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LONDON — For just the second time in Manchester United's 137-year history, the team plays at Cambridge on Friday.

It's the latest trip into the unknown for Louis van Gaal, whose side overcame Yeovil in the third round of the FA Cup earlier this month but was humiliated by MK Dons in the League Cup in August.

FA Cup fourth-round opponent Cambridge is 76 places in the football pyramid below United, which is fourth in the Premier League.

"It's always tough to play against teams that, in the mind of the players, are weaker," Van Gaal said Thursday. "In our minds you are believing that we are playing against a weaker opponent but that's not like that. It's another opponent with another playing style with other players and we have to beat them."

The Dutch coach has been doing his homework on the fourth-tier side, which United last played over two legs in the League Cup in the 1991-92 season.

"Cambridge play very direct, with long balls," Van Gaal said. "They have five or six players above 1 meter 90 centimeters (6-foot-3) so for us it's difficult to defend and that's why you have to prepare yourself very good. It's not so easy to beat Cambridge United."

One face will be familiar with United fans: academy graduate Luke Chadwick. But the midfielder left Old Trafford in 2004 and never played with any of its current players.

"It's the first time I've been involved in a game against them, really looking forward to it," said Chadwick, who made 39 appearances for United and won the 2001 Premier League.

"It's a great club here at Cambridge and we deserve this draw against a massive club ... we'll have the whole world watching on Friday night and they'll be able to show them how good they are."

The game kicks off a weekend of FA Cup matches. Here's a look at some other games:

HESKEY RETURNS: Liverpool fans will also come up against a familiar face when Bolton travels to Anfield on Saturday. Emile Heskey won the FA Cup once while playing for Liverpool between 2000 and 2004.

The striker made a surprise return to English football in December when he joined Bolton after a spell in Australia with Newcastle.

"I'm 37, I'm not a young lad, to go back and play at Anfield is a great thing," he said. "The fans were wonderful to me while I was there. I'll hopefully get a good reception and play my heart out."

THE HOLDERS: The next step in Arsenal's defense of the cup is a trip to Brighton on Sunday, with confidence high after a 2-0 victory at Manchester City last weekend.

While preparing for the game, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is also trying to complete the signing of center back Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal. But securing a British work permit for a Brazilian who has never played for his country could be a challenge.

"We are talking at the moment, can we find an agreement or not? I don't know," Wenger said. "We are slowly progressing, but there is a chance. (It's) 50-50 at this moment."

Wenger did sign promising 17-year-old midfielder Krystian Bielik from Legia Warsaw on Wednesday, a deal which did not require a work permit because Poland is in the European Union.

ELSEWHERE: The Premier League's top two both play second-tier teams. Leader Chelsea hosts Reading and Manchester City takes on Middlesbrough.

There's a tricky home game for Aston Villa, which hasn't scored in almost nine hours and hosts second-tier leader Bournemouth on Sunday. Villa was fined 60,000 pounds ($90,000) by the English Football Association on Thursday for failing to control their players at Leicester at a Premier League game earlier this month.

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