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Graham Coughlan warns Man Utd to expect a hostile atmosphere at Newport

Newport boss Graham Coughlan has warned Manchester United counterpart Erik ten Hag will be in the FA Cup firing line at Rodney Parade (Barrington Coombs/PA)
Newport boss Graham Coughlan has warned Manchester United counterpart Erik ten Hag will be in the FA Cup firing line at Rodney Parade (Barrington Coombs/PA)

Newport manager Graham Coughlan admits Erik ten Hag is in the FA Cup firing line and warned Manchester United to expect a “unique and hostile” atmosphere at Rodney Parade.

United meet League Two County for the first time in their history in Sunday’s fourth-round tie, with 74 places between them in the football pyramid and millions of pounds on their respective balance sheets.

Yet Rodney Parade’s tight confines and a crowd of just under 10,000 will welcome United with Ten Hag, during a dismal season at Old Trafford, under pressure to progress in the only competition the Red Devils have a chance left of winning.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – Old Trafford
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag knows the FA Cup is his last chance of winning silverware this season (Martin Rickett/PA)

“It’s part of the job. He knows what he signed up for. We all do,” CoughIan said of the scrutiny the Dutchman will face in South Wales just weeks after Ineos chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe agreed to buy a 25 per cent stake in United.

“When you put yourself in the firing line, there are going to be bullets flying and coming your way.

“You’ve got to know how to handle that.”

Addressing the pressure and strains of management, Dubliner Coughlan – a self-confessed United fan who has previously been at Bristol Rovers and Mansfield – “I’ve been in his shoes. I’ve been there and got the T-shirt.

“He’ll come through it. He’ll be experienced enough to come through it. He has good people around him and that will be the key.

“You do go through tough times and difficult periods, but hopefully they get to grips with it by getting a bit of leadership into the football club.”

Newport – who on Wednesday saw former Swansea chairman and owner Huw Jenkins complete his £500,000 takeover to become the club’s majority shareholder – have been in fine form on the pitch.

County have embarked on a seven-game unbeaten run and are on a high after beating Welsh rivals Wrexham last weekend.

The Exiles have also been FA Cup giant-killers in recent times, beating both Leicester, Leeds and Middlesbrough at Rodney Parade while holding Tottenham to a fourth-round draw before losing a Wembley replay.

Coughlan said: “Surprisingly everybody fit, there’s been a few miraculous recoveries.

Newport County v Leicester City – Emirates FA Cup – Third Round – Rodney Parade
Newport have taken the FA Cup scalp of Leicester among others in recent years (Nick Potts/PA)

“They probably studied the Wrexham game and what would have come through would have the atmosphere and the noise of our fans.

“Irrespective this season whether we’ve been winning, losing or drawing, our fans have got right behind us and at times dragged us over the line.

“That’s unique and a strength of this football club and community.

“You can hear everything (on the touchline), sometimes you don’t want to, because they’re that close. They’re on top of you and it’s a unique atmosphere.

“It is hostile, it is noisy, and when they start beating that drum it’s an atmosphere to savour.”

United have not played since a 2-2 home draw with Tottenham on January 14, and Coughlan joked Ten Hag’s squad had probably been sunning themselves in the Caribbean while his players had been “slogging it out” in the British winter.

“They’ll be well rested and sun tanned,” laughed Coughlan.

“They would have been in the Caribbean while we’ve been slogging it out in the wind and rain.

“It’s the Premier League, that’s privileges when you get to that level.

“But I don’t think that will make a difference. They’ll be fresh with the little break they’ve had, and we’re going up against an elite football club and a top group of Premier League and international players.

“Athletes, machines – call them what you want – we’ve got a lot on our plate and you’d anticipate Manchester United having more of the ball and creating chances.

“But we’ll have one or two moments in the game and it’s about taking those moments.”