Little Crawley looks for huge upset at Man United

They both are nicknamed the Red Devils and both have fiery

Scotsmen as their managers. That’s where the similarities end

between Manchester United and Crawley Town.

The gulf between the clubs could hardly be bigger ahead of their

meeting Saturday in the FA Cup’s fifth round, a game billed as

among the biggest mismatches in the competition’s history.

United, a world power with three European titles and famous

players such as Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, has a four-point lead

in the Premier League as it tries for a record 19th English

title.

Crawley has never played above the fifth tier of English soccer

and, until this year, struggled to attract crowds of more than 500

to its non-league matches.

The tiny southeast club would become a household name if it wins

Saturday at Old Trafford.

”It’s a dream come true for the club,” Crawley chairman Victor

Marley told The Associated Press. ”The opportunity to perform in

front of 75,000 people is something that every player, every

manager aspires to do. It’s also a fantastic moment for the people

of Crawley, to go and see their team play the future champions of

England. It’s what any non-league club would ever have wished or

hoped for.”

Crawley became only the sixth non-league team since the end of

World War II – and the first in 17 years – to reach this stage in

the FA Cup after beating league clubs Swindon, Derby and

Torquay.

It stands to receive ”in excess of 1 million pounds ($1.6

million),” according to Marley, in gate receipts, television

revenue and other add-ons from the United match.

The club was about to fold in 2006 under the tenure of brothers

Chas and Azwar Majeed, then was rescued by a group of local

businessmen.

Debts of more than 1 million pounds were wiped clear and new

investors pumped more cash into Crawley to help build a squad of

relative quality and depth, costing a reported 500,000 pounds

($800,000).

Crawley is now second in its division of the Football

Conference, on track for promotion to League 2 next season – and

league status for the first time since it was formed in 1896.

Crawley’s manager is Steve Evans, who hails from Glasgow,

Scotland, and is known for having a short temper – just like

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

Gone are the days when non-league giant killers had a

construction worker at left back and a mechanic in central

midfield. Unlike most other clubs at its level, Crawley has a

roster of professional players, many with extensive league

experience.

Players such as Argentine midfielder Sergio Torres, brought in

from third-tier side Peterborough, and prolific lower-level

forwards Richard Brodie and Matt Tubbs were signed for a combined

fee of 270,000 pounds ($434,000) by Evans, helping improve the

average attendance at 5,000-capacity Broadfield Stadium by 75

percent to about 2,000 this season.

”We have new investment in and that’s enabled the manager to

purchase the players that have pushed us to the forefront,” Marley

said. ”But you can spend money and still not win the league, as

has been seen in the past with other clubs.”