53 min: Luke Shaw, who actually did OK last week at Liverpool after some initial confusion, has looked decent on the left flank, though has been given plenty of space.
51 min: The Tranmere fans trying their best to get back into this, the noise from the early stages has abated. A drummer has taken up the cudgels and got the songs going.
49 min: Early sight of Chong’s mane as he chases down a backpass to Tranmere goalie Davies, only for the City-supporting custodian to wallop clear.
47 min: Greenwood, who ebbed from view as the rest of his team were plundering goals, crosses the ball and Dalot makes a mess of it.
46 min: Off goes Blackett-Taylor on one of the runs he made during those long-forgotten early stages.
Two changes for Manchester United, and understandable, too. Tahith Chong and Fred come on for Anthony Martial and Nemanja Matic. Ole working out when to rest players? Harry Maguire surely worth a few minutes off, too.
Important reporting from Sean Ingle.
A correction on Jesse Lingard: that was his first goal in English football since January 25 2019; he also scored v Astana in the Europa League in November.
Hello, hello, United are back.
Half-time: Tranmere 0-5 Manchester United
That’s the same scoreline as 1976 but in half the time. Five great goals for United and Tranmere’s big day has been as muddied as Phil Jones’ shirt.
Goal! Tranmere 0-5 Manchester United (Martial, 45)
Martial uses Morris as a screen and lays up an unerring finish.
43 min: At this point, would it suit both teams to just give up on this. Sir Alex is in the stands and laughing away with a pal.
42 min: This is a test for Tranmere…no, it’s over. Micky Mellon looks utterly downcast. United have had four attempts on target and each has resulted in a goal.
Goal! Tranmere 0-4 Manchester United (Jones, 41)
Pereira takes the corner and Phil Jones heads in. And what a broad smile he greets that with.
39 min: A long session of possession play from United, with Tranmere trying desperately to hold their shape. Matic wins a corner.
38 min: Harry Maguire seems to be enjoying his chances to bring the ball out of defence in an old-style libero fashion. He is being given space to do so. Lingard also enjoying himself in finding space. He forces a corner.
36 min: Tranmere look a little weary. United look full of running and passing.
34 min: And the United fans are singing the name of their manager and lustily so. Recent service resumed from Jesse Lingard as he makes a mess of a cross from Luke Shaw, who is playing as a line-hugging left winger. Martial makes a claim for a penalty when he and Clarke collide but the referee Lee Mason will not have a bar of that.
32 min: Mary Waltz takes to the floor: “Is United “in chaos?’ Maybe not. They are in denial. Good news for Ole ripping apart Tranmere but this win doesn’t mean they can skip this transfer period and go with what they have now. Even if they overpay for a midfielder and a striker they can make their money back by getting into the Champions League.”
31 min: On with the football, where Tranmere are pushing up a bit, and having a go without really looking too convinced that they can get back into this game.
30 min: Daire Finnie emails in: “That ‘found their level’ remark ..An excellent two-footed tackle, winning the ball cleanly whilst also making United look like the clowns they truly are. I bet Jonathan Wilson is looking on admiringly.”
29 min: The United songbook in the Prenton Park cowshed has turned to the Glazer family. “We want Glazers out” gets a hearty go.
27 min: United passing the ball around on the Prenton Park paddy field with far more comfort than they have done for some time on the Old Trafford bowling green surface. Funny old game.
26 min: Duncan Edwards emails in: “Oh dear, John, seems like you are going to have to rip up your United in chaos gag script and just commentate on the match. Now that’s funny.”
Lads, it’s Tranmere.
24 min: Perkins falls over on a pothole but Jesse Lingard is penalised. That looks a harsh decision. Blackett-Taylot then escapes down the flank and puts a promising ball across goal but there are no takers.
23 min: Caprice (32), blocks a shot from Mason Greenwood, who looks desperate to join in the jamboree of goals.
21 min: Lingard fancies another, as Greenwood lays him up. He tries to whip the ball but misjudges the spin required. It goes wide. United queueing up to fill their satchels with goals.
19 min: Almost another as Dalot carves down the right again and Martial tries to find a way through; his shot fizzes wide.
18 min: Three goals within six minutes from United; the panic can abate for now. Mind you, Tranmere were three goals down to Watford and drew 3-3.
Goal! Tranmere 0-3 Manchester United (Lingard, 16)
A first goal since 2018 for Lingard…nice pass from Maguire and then Lingard bends in his shot beyond Davies.
15 min: At this point, it would feel remiss not to suggest that perhaps United have finally found their level…they are stroking the ball around with class.
14 min: “We’re on the march with Ole’s army,” sing the United fans. They’re all going to Wem-ber-lee.
Goal! Tranmere 0-2 Manchester United (Dalot, 13)
Dalot on the overlap comes on to a pass from Martial, cuts outside and smashes it. A great goal. Another first goal for United.
13 min: Maguire booed by the home fans. He must have done something right.
11 min: Maguire stepped forward, fancied his chances and took ownership of the situation. Big smile from Ole on the sideline, as well there might be.
Goa! Tranmere 0-1 Manchester United (Maguire, 10)
Wallop, that is a howitzer, and his first goal for United…it took a slight deflection off Peter Clarke.
9 min: Harry Maguire, looking, well, harried, has to clear behind. Tranmere’s latest corner comes to naught but the most dangerous team on show is that who used to be sponsored the Wirral’s council.
8 min: Mark Exton asks: “Please tell me OGS took the squad somewhere to train on a surface similar to today’s! Or did they stay at Carrington, in their bubble?”
No suggestion they did, Mark.
7 min: A spell of United attacking with Greenwood to the fore. It comes to an end when Tranmere break. Blackett-Taylor barges into the United box and goes down. Penalty? No, a foul by the Tranmere attacker and Phil Jones is hurt and limping. His shirts and shorts are now around 35 percent covered in mud.
4 min: Phil Jones is booked for clattering Ferrier, and he is also already smeared in mud. Not a good start for United’s Jonah.
3 min: Tranmere for a corner and it causes panic in the United box, as Romero is unsure of the ball’s flight and the ground below him. Jennings’ shot goes straight at Romero. An early warning sight…
1 min: And away we go….great throwback atmosphere in Birkenhead. Boos for every United touch, and lots of chanting. Mason Greenwood involved early, though does seem to get his feet stuck on one of the gulleys down the flank of the field.
Harry Maguire, who never seems to get rested, steps on to the field gingerly as the teams take to the field.
And here’s that famous pitch.
Micky Mellon, a Scotsman, speaks about his Tranmere team.
You only have to look around to see the huge numbers. It’s terrific for the local community to have Manchester United in town. [On the pitch] We have to play on it as well…we’ll give it a right good go…there’s lot of adrenaline.
Reminder that Tranmere were a non-league club as recently as last May, and came from the National League via the play-offs. They are in League One after being promoted straight away, but this season has been more of struggle; they are third bottom.
These two clubs have actually met this season, in the Football League trophy, where Tranmere beat United’s Under-23 team 3-2 but they have only met once at full senior level, in the League Cup on September 1976. United, managed by Tommy Docherty, won 5-0, thanks to two goals from Gerry Daly, and one each from Stuart Pearson, Gordon Hill and Lou Macari. Steve Coppell, in the United team that day, had been signed from Tranmere.
Paul Mullin scored the winning goal against Watford on Thursday.
Ole’s hopes spring eternal.
For Manchester United, Romero. Dalot, Lindelof, Shaw, Lingard, Martial and Greenwood come in; it looks like Ole has opted for three centre backs, unless Phil Jones is going to resurrect his central midfield role of yore. Luke Shaw played at centre back last week so perhaps Ole has opted for a Pulisian/Allardici/Sgt Wilko approach of playing as many defenders as possible.
There has been one hell of an effort from volunteers and the club to get the pitch ready for this match, really quick turnaround. It looks like the centre of the field is where the best surface is. Prenton Park also hosts the Liverpool women’s team and a waterlogged pitch caused the cancellation of a women’s Merseyside derby not too long ago.
Ian Muir, Dave Challinor, Stuart “Barndoor” Barlow, Kenny Lunt, Wayne Allison, Aldo, Friday nights at Prenton Park, Half Man Half Biscuit blowing out an appearance on The Tube so they could stay on the Wirral to watch their heroes, reaching the semis in that weird Mercantile Credit Festival thing in 1988: how’s about that for all the Tranmere cliches?
After coming through an epic two-parter with Watford in the finest traditions of the FA Cup, now for not so-mighty Manchester United, the club – ‘cloob’ in the case of Ole Gunnar Solskjær – going through more crises than a series of The Colbys.
The pitch is a throwback to the Baseball Ground of the 1970s, and might even redouble as a location for the film 1917, so it could be a great leveller…and here comes the gag about how it could reduce Tranmere to Manchester United’s level. There is a shock in the offing here, though would it really be a shock if Micky Mellon and his men were swigging champagne in celebration at full-time?
Kick-off is at 3pm UK time, join me