Doncaster Rovers v Stoke City: Darren Ferguson is out to bedevil former team-mate Mark Hughes

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes was team-mates with Doncaster Rovers' counterpart Darren Ferguson at Manchester United (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes was team-mates with Doncaster Rovers' counterpart Darren Ferguson at Manchester United (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).
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Darren Ferguson is hoping to inflict FA Cup heartache today on his former Old Trafford team-mate Mark Hughes.

The former Manchester United duo will go head-to-head at a sell-out Keepmoat Stadium in the third round of the FA Cup, as the respective managers of League One Doncaster Rovers and Premier League Stoke City.

Both are steeped in FA Cup history. The competition provided Ferguson’s father, Sir Alex, with his first trophy in charge of Manchester United – he won five in total – while striker Hughes netted for the Red Devils in both their 1990 and 1994 Wembley visits.

Ferguson jnr was a team-mate of Hughes’s during the early Nineties, and both have gone on to enjoy successful careers in management.

While former Peterborough United boss Ferguson has come in and kick-started Rovers’ season, Hughes has built on the success of Tony Pulis at Stoke.

The unfashionable Potters are in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup and sit in the top half of the Premier League – just four points off a European qualifying spot.

Ferguson is full of admiration for the job Hughes, who has previously managed Wales, Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers, has done at Stoke.

“He’s very deep, quite a methodical guy, having played with him,” said Ferguson.

“Everyone knows what he was like as a player, a fantastic player.

“You have to say that where ever he has gone as a manager, he has done well. The stats stand up.

“He has changed Stoke, made them a very good footballing team.

“He’s recruited well from Spain, and has done an excellent job at Stoke, they are a good team.

“They are probably one of the form teams in the league, and we know it’s going to be tough. The FA Cup is a fantastic trophy, and it has good memories for me; it was my dad’s first trophy he won at Manchester United.

“When I was at Wrexham we beat Middlesbrough, which was a cup shock at the time; they had Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) and people like that in their team.

“It’s a big tournament. One certainty is there will be a Cup shock this weekend, we just have to hope it’s us.”

Ferguson was at the Britannia Stadium on Tuesday night to watch Stoke play Liverpool in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final.

Despite Stoke losing on the night, the Doncaster chief is under no illusions his in-form Rovers face a tough tie.

“I thought Liverpool started well, but it was a cup tie and there were chances for both teams,” he reflected.

“Stoke are capable of playing far better, I know they are, I have seen the videos.

“They are a good team, they have good fluency, and their front four are a real handful. They don’t really stay in position, they float around.

“They are a changed team under Mark, no question about that. But they also have the option of being a little bit more physical with (Peter) Crouch, (Jon) Walters and Diouf.”

So how can Rovers stop Stoke? “Just kick them all over the pitch,” joked Ferguson. “Whatever side they choose, we will be up against good players.

“We will be playing against Premier League players and you have to accept at times they will have good possession of the ball.

“We will have to make sure we have good shape and discipline about us. The key to these games is making sure we look after the ball ourselves.

“We pride ourselves on keeping the ball and I think that will be important. We need to make sure we make an impression on them.

“It’s a Premier League team, but we haven’t approached it any different to any others.

“The players know exactly what they have to do, on and off the ball, and this game will be no different.

“It’s slightly easier because hopefully my players will have been watching these guys on television before. We need to take care of ourselves, there will be a lot of fans coming who maybe haven’t been for a while, and I have spoken to the players and I think it’s really important that we need to put a performance on.

“There’s a bit of a buzz around the place, the results have been good, so it’s important we get as many backsides on seats as we can.

“There’s more media, cameras down the training ground, and we have to embrace that, it’s what we want. Everyone in the town is talking about it.”

Rovers have reached the third round after beating Stalybridge and Cambridge United.

On-loan Conor Grant was the match-winner in the latter, netting twice to secure today’s money-spinning tie, and the Match of the Day cameras.

The 20-year-old Everton youngster – born in 1995, the last time the Toffees won the trophy – is adamant Doncaster can cause an upset.

“Why not? It’s the FA Cup,” he said. “Stoke have some great players and you want to test yourself against the best. I will relish that. It’s quality opposition, but a football match and we want to win it.

“We see Stoke week-in, week-out on Match of the Day, so are familiar with the players.

“It does give everyone an extra incentive. It will be a big test for me, against top players.

“When you are growing up, as a kid, you want to play in front of the cameras in the big games, and this is one of them. Hopefully, we can thrive upon it.

“This year is the first time I have experienced the FA Cup as a player, and I got a massive buzz in the last two rounds.

“I am sure it will be even bigger on Saturday.”