For the third consecutive round, Manchester United travel to a lower-league side in the FA Cup with a considerable amount of people doubting their ability to successfully negotiate the tricky tie without at least having to do a job back at Old Trafford.
In the last two rounds, United have unconvincingly seen off Yeovil Town 2-0 and needed a replay to progress at the expense of League Two Cambridge United after a goalless draw at the Abbey Stadium.
Preston North End will provide the toughest opposition in the competitions for the Red Devils so far, with the Lancashire side currently sitting fourth in League One. They possess a mixture of pace, skill and the strength of Kevin Davies up front to provide a nuisance to a United defence which has struggled in many games this season.
They were unconvincing in their 3-1 win over Burnley on Wednesday and manager Louis Van Gaal was quick to stress that the team must perform better against the Lilywhites in order to progress to the quarter-finals.
With Robin van Persie likely to miss the game due to a knock it is finally time to move Wayne Rooney back into a striking role. Rooney has spent his entire career in an advanced role so the decision to push him deeper in recent weeks by the Dutchman has been baffling.
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If Van Gaal continues to be stubborn and continues to play Rooney in midfield, the absence of Van Persie should at least allow James Wilson to stake his claim for a striking berth. Wilson is a very promising youngster and offers far more to the team than Radamel Falcao. Wilson is everything Falcao is not at the moment.
The 19-year-old has speed of thought, a good first touch and the ability to bring others into the game. It is highly likely that he has a longer United career ahead of him than the Columbian so he should be brought into the team in preparation for the future.
Preston will cause problems for United, no doubt about it. Jermaine Beckford has played in the Premier League before and his goal knocked the Red Devils out of the FA Cup when Leeds won 1-0 at Old Trafford in January 2010.
Davies will cause any team a headache and if Van Gaal picks a youthful back-four with players such as Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett featuring this could be a serious issue for them. Joe Garner also has 14 goals this season so scoring goals has not been an issue for Simon Grayson's men.
Ander Herrera has been a bit-part player at best this season but his moment of magic at Huish Park in the third round got United out of what could have been a sticky situation. He only signed in last summer and needs a consecutive run of games under his belt in order to boost his confidence and make him feel more at home.
Pushing Rooney into an attacking midfield role behind Wilson would clear the space for Herrera to step in and allow him to stake a claim for a regular first-team place.
No-one is doubting that United have more than enough talent in their squad to win this game. Yet new issues seem to rise to the surface every time Van Gaal's side step out onto the field, casting doubts into the minds of even the biggest die-hard United supporters.
They should have too much for the team ranked 45 places below them in the league ladder, but don't be surprised if Preston North End earn their dream night-out at Old Trafford before United's name gets placed into the quarter-final draw.
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