Middlesbrough manager Chris Wilder has forbidden his players from swapping shirts with Cristiano Ronaldo and his Manchester United team-mates on Friday night. They can only trade shirts in the dressing room after the match.
The players were handed a warning not to go shirt collecting at Old Trafford, even though some will be tempted at the prospect of lining up against Ronaldo and co, which is something a lot of lower league clubs are known to do in the FA Cup.
Wilder, who we know from his time at Sheffield United in the Premier League, knows a thing or two about trips to Old Trafford. He wants his players to make it “dangerous” for United and says they are not on a “sight-seeing tour” when they come to the Theatre of Dreams.
It was a pretty blunt pre-match assessment from Wilder, but you’ve got to respect him as a man about his business, trying to get something special out of his team on Friday.
The Boro manager stresses it “wouldn’t be the biggest shock, but it would be a shock” if the Championship side were to knock the Reds out of the FA Cup.
Wilder said (via The Mirror): “Their team sheet will come in the dressing room and it’ll be De Gea, Varane, Harry Maguire… let’s not crumble in that process!
“They have some fabulous individuals that can hurt you, and hurt teams around Europe and the Premier League. A huge array of talent to choose from.
“But it is not sight-seeing for our players. It is not a shirt-swapping situation.
“I don’t want people going to Old Trafford to enjoy the visit.
“If they want a shirt, do it in the changing rooms after. We don’t want to be looking at them all fuzzy-eyed. They are up against a competitor.
“I want them to play well. To give a good account of themselves and make it a competitive dangerous night for Manchester United.
“If we play well we can do. If not it will be a comfortable night for Manchester United. No one wants that, me included.”
It’s disrespectful to travelling fans when they see players trade shirts at full-time. I’ve never felt too strongly about it but I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me.
Swapping shirts is fine as long as it happens in the dressing room at full-time (some players have been guilty of doing it at half-time).