Opposition Scouting: Burton Albion profiled ahead of Carabao Cup clash with Manchester United

Well, Burton Albion have come a long way as a club since the last time they played Manchester United, eleven years ago. Burton were a part-time club in the Conference back then, when they held Sir Alex Ferguson’s team to a replay on a sludgy sticky Pirelli Stadium pitch. With Fergie even bringing Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo off the bench in a bid to get the tie won. Saul Deeney’s late save kept the score at 0-0, giving the club a money-spinning replay at Old Trafford which sparked scenes of euphoria around the entire town. Everybody was talking about it.

The club averaged crowds of around 1500 at the time but took around 11500 fans to Old Trafford for the match. Of what everyone at the time thought would be a once in a lifetime experience for such a small local club. Burton lost that game 5-0, but the money from that tie really set the club up for the future.

Eleven years later, Burton Albion are now three leagues higher as a Championship club in its second season. And have got another trip to Old Trafford to look forward to in the Carabao Cup. But plenty has happened between then and now. It was three seasons after the one the club faced played Manchester United when they got promoted to the Football League. Nigel Clough left for Derby County halfway through that season when Burton were running away with the league at the time. Roy McFarland took the baton on a caretaker basis. A wretched run of form nearly caused a monumental capitulation.

But in the end, Burton stumbled over the finish line by two points on the final day. They lost 2-1 that day away at Torquay United. But Cambridge United only managed a draw at home to Altrincham. McFarland didn’t carry on with Burton in the clubs first League Two season. So Paul Peschisolido took the reigns, with Gary Rowett as his assistant. Peschisolido helped Burton establish themselves as a Football League club in his first two seasons. But unfortunately suffered a wretched winless run in his third season, which cost him his job. Rowett was in caretaker charge and kept Burton in the league. Which was enough for him to be offered the job full-time.

Rowett then took Burton to the League Two play-offs in two consecutive seasons. With Bradford City beating Burton in 2012/13. The club bounced back from that heartache, and made it to Wembley in the 2013/14 play-off final after beating Southend, but lost the final 1-0 against Fleetwood. Rowett left for Birmingham City early in the 2014/15 season. With Burton giving Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink the job. He tweaked the squad about a little bit, and they went on to become League Two champions that season.

Hasselbaink gave Burton a brilliant start in League One but left in December 2015 for Queens Park Rangers. Nigel Clough then made a romantic return to Burton Albion and helped the team secure back to back promotions to become a Championship club. A huge achievement for a club who were seen as one of the smallest in League One, and with crowds of around 3500.

Against the odds, Burton Albion survived the first season in the Championship. With the smallest crowds, smallest budget, and smallest stadium. The first season was unchartered territory for the Brewers. With Burton welcoming huge clubs to the Pirelli Stadium and playing in big stadiums on a regular basis away. Now they are trying to replicate that success for another season. With the bonus of a trip down memory lane in the cup tie at Old Trafford.

The Manager

Nigel Clough is here for a second spell, having left in January 2009, and returned in December 2015. Managing Derby County and Sheffield United in that time. It was a stable appointment, which happened only days after Jimmy Floyd left for QPR. With Nigel already knowing the club, the chairman, and the expectations for our small club. And it’s proved to be a successful appointment so far. He’s doing a great job, operating with such a tiny budget compared to the rest of the Championship.

Yet having an eye for a good deal under the clubs budget. Clough picks out great characters who have a decent work ethic and fit into our approach. With our loan signings, in particular, is key in our survival last season. Fans were worried the links with Nigel Clough and the Nottingham Forest job would unsettle the team in January 2017, with him having had talks, then turning the job down. But our results if anything picked up after that. With us only losing five games for the remainder of the season. And doing just enough to survive against the odds.

Players To Watch

Luke Murphy, a loanee from Leeds United for the season is key for Burton. With his ability to break up play and pick out a pinpoint pass being important. John Brayford is also an excellent signing for us, he had a successful loan spell last season which got made permanent on deadline day this year. But he’s going to be cup-tied after playing the first round of the Carabao Cup for Sheffield United earlier this season. Jamie Allen and Matty Lund who both signed from Rochdale this season are looking like decent central midfielders too, stepping up from League One.

Whilst Marvin Sordell when he is on his game can contribute a lot to the side. Burton have put mixed teams out in the earlier rounds, giving fringe players and youngsters a chance. With teenager Ben Fox, who scored in the previous round now on a month-long loan at Solihull Moors. But Clough did say he was going to put his strongest team out at Old Trafford as soon as the draw was made. Whether he does with a Saturday game against QPR straight after, we’ll see.

Predicted Starting XI

Written by Adam Drew

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