EVEN allowing for the most recent meeting having come just five days ago, Huddersfield Town booking a home tie with Manchester United is still a big deal.
It is 55 years ago since the two clubs went head-to-head in the FA Cup in a third round tie that was delayed more than two months by the ‘Big Freeze’ that left Britain shivering.
For Town, the wait was most definitely not worth it as United romped to a 5-0 victory at Old Trafford so the tea-time clash on Saturday week offers a chance for long overdue salvation.
It also, according to Tom Ince, can act as “a decider” for bragging rights in this War of the Roses battle after United avenged October’s shock loss at the John Smith’s Stadium with last Saturday’s 2-0 victory.
More importantly for the Terriers man, however, booking the fifth round date with the Red Devils via a resounding 4-1 replay win at Birmingham City can have huge benefits for the club’s survival battle in the Premier League.
“Frustration starts to kick in when you are losing games,” Ince told The Yorkshire Post. “You start to look at yourself as you go down the table.
“That then leads to you getting, I won’t say desperate, but you do start to look where you can pick up points.
“All of a sudden, you find yourself making rash decisions and you are not in the right frame of mind. Things become rushed and you are no longer calm.
“The thought process is, ‘I don’t want to lose the ball here’. You get rushed. It is why winning 4-1 at Birmingham was brilliant for the changing room.
“A win changes the changing room, in terms of morale and belief. It was a good night.”
A win changes the changing room, in terms of morale and belief.Tom Ince
Town return to league action on Sunday with the visit of Bournemouth. Having slid into the bottom three for the first time this season on the back of losing all five outings in 2018, David Wagner’s men need to rediscover the winning habit at the start of an eight-game run that is likely to decide their fate.
Watford, Swansea City and Crystal Palace are all due to the John Smith’s Stadium during that run, while Huddersfield also have trips to Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and Brighton & Hove Albion.
Only the March 3 visit to Wembley to take on Tottenham Hotspur looks truly daunting and Ince wants the Terriers to take the positives from Tuesday’s Cup win into this crucial block of fixtures.
“The Cup game against Birmingham came at the right time,” he added. “It allowed us to take our minds off the league and play with freedom. Our performance was fantastic and just what we needed, especially in the second half. We really showed the difference in class in that second half.
“We could have been out of sight well before the end of normal time. Credit to the lads, as the fitness, the desire and determination shone through. In extra time, we could have got seven, eight, nine. We had so many chances.
“We went to Birmingham to win. Not only to get in the fifth round but also get the losing streak off our back.
“It doesn’t matter what competition you are in, a winning feeling is a great feeling. To have that going into the next block of games is important.”
As well as Huddersfield performed once behind at St Andrews, it did come against a Birmingham side struggling at the wrong end of the Championship.
Nevertheless, the swagger was back on a night when players who will be key during the run-in – the likes of Ince, Aaron Mooy, Rajiv Van la Parra and Steve Mounie – all impressed.
The key now is taking that attacking threat into the Bournemouth game and not revert to the overly-cautious approach that characterised not only last week’s defeats to Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils and Liverpool but also the damaging January losses to West Ham United and Stoke City.
“It is coming into the business end of the season,” added Ince. “There will be a lot of pressure and expectation.
“We have to handle that. Nights like Birmingham can help take us in the right direction for the next block of games.
“Sunday is massive for us and now we focus on that. If we hadn’t won in the Cup, the losing streak would have continued.”
As for juggling the demands of league and Cup – and Town’s attempts to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 1972 – Ince added: “The two competitions can go together.
“It is great to have a Cup run. The experience of having Manchester United at home will be great, I am sure the stadium will be rocking.
“It is 1-1 between us this season so maybe this can be the decider. We know what is important, of course. We know where we are in the league and that we have to start collecting points.
“But, attacking wise, I think we showed against Birmingham that we can play. It doesn’t matter if playing Birmingham, Bournemouth or Swansea, people can’t handle us when we play at that tempo and with that sort of creativity.”