Mellon plays down Prenton Park pitch concerns ahead of Man Utd clash

By David Charlesworth, PA
PA Media: Sport

Tranmere manager Micky Mellon played down concerns about the state of the Prenton Park pitch ahead of their FA Cup date against Manchester United, claiming: “Good players can adapt and adjust to anything.”

Rovers booked a dream meeting against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side on Sunday afternoon by overcoming United’s Premier League rivals Watford in their rescheduled third-round replay.

A waterlogged pitch last week meant the Hornets clash had to be rearranged for Thursday night, where Tranmere progressed courtesy of a 2-1 win after extra-time on a playing surface where there were a number of bald patches, with both wings heavily sanded.

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Matters are hardly likely to improve because of the short turnaround between the fixtures, but Mellon argued the condition of the pitch will benefit no one.

“People get confused and think they’ve got to play on a different pitch, we’ll play on the same pitch,” Mellon said.

“What if it’s windy? What if it’s hailstones? Good players can adapt and adjust to anything, that’s what you expect of them.

“They know what the outcome has got to be and that’s got to be trying to win a game of football and good players will find a way of doing that on any surface.

“Manchester United players will probably be as well-equipped as anybody of finding ways of winning games of football in all situations.”

Mellon, who oversaw Shrewsbury’s loss to United in the fifth round of the same competition in 2016, recognises the significance of the Premier League giants making the visit to Merseyside.

The clubs have faced each other only once before, when United prevailed 5-0 in the League Cup in 1977, and while Mellon recognises his side will be underdogs once more, he insists they are not there to make up the numbers.

“It’s probably as big as it gets for Tranmere,” Mellon said. “In any season, to be able to welcome a club of that size and history to Prenton Park is fantastic for the whole area.

“There’s always chance in a game of football. There’s certain things you’ve got to do in order to increase chance. You can win any game.

“Anybody who knows anything about football knows the size of Manchester United. But we’re not playing against the size of Manchester United, we’re playing against their team. We’ll concentrate on that.

“We are realistic that we’re going to have to get a hell of a lot right but why not give it the best go that you can?”

United’s recent struggles under Solskjaer have been well-documented but with Tranmere sitting third bottom in Sky Bet League One and three points adrift of safety, Mellon’s sympathy was in short supply.

“Football management is tough, unless you’re a football manager you don’t understand how tough it is and all consuming it is – it’s a 24/7 job,” Mellon added.

“For every football manager, I know how tough it is, regardless of where they are and what their situation is. We have different challenges and it’s tough for everybody.”

Mellon, whose teenage son Michael last year swapped the United academy for Burnley, admitted he has been hit by the demand for tickets.

Fans queued well into the night immediately after the win over Watford as Tranmere made it into the fourth round for the first time since reaching the quarter-finals in 2003-04.

Mellon added: “All of a sudden you gain more friends and family! It’s great that everybody wants to come to the game.”

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