Richie Wellens is Manchester United to the core.
The journeyman midfielder started out with his dream club, moving through the youth ranks to make one solitary appearance for United. He played for just one minute as a sub in a 3-0 League Cup defeat by Aston Villa in 1999.
The appearance whetted the appetite of the young Wellens with a career that has since taken in Blackpool, Oldham, Doncaster (twice), Leicester City and now Shrewsbury.
The League One club are at home to United on Monday. Facing the Premier League club where it all began would normally be enough to make any footballer’s blood pump. But the industrious Wellens has a fate worse then injury: he’s cup-tied.
Despite that, Wellens still has an important role to play.
“On a personal note, I left United when I was 20 and for the next 15 years I’ve waited to draw them in the cup and then when I do I’m cup tied!” Wellens sighed. “I’m gutted, sure, but obviously I’m pleased for the club.
“It’s a fantastic tie and it’s a fantastic opportunity for our players to showcase what they can do on a massive stage.”
When Wellens left United, Sir Alex Ferguson was in the middle of his decades of dominance.
Wellens has some calm words of advice for fans of the club looking for latest boss Louis van Gaal to be given the boot.
“When Sir Alex Ferguson joined Manchester United, he struggled at the start of his reign but still went onto be one of the most successful managers ever,” points out Wellens. “In his later years he built the aura around him – and that’s what comes with success.
Meawnwhile, the 35-year-old is focused on a Shrewsbury team that have had a mixed bag of a season to say the least. For all their FA Cup heroics, the club is 19th in League One, staring ominously over their shoulder hoping they don’t go down.
“We haven’t been good for the last few games. Our form has been all over the place”
Relegation is something Welllens knows all too well. Shrewsbury beat basket case club Blackpool last weekend in the league but, so far, February has consisted of a win, a draw and a loss. Not great preparation for one of the biggest teams in the land.
“We haven’t been good for the last few games,” admits Wellens, “Our form has been all over the place so we need to pick it up.
“It could be argued that, in the earlier rounds of the cup, the other sides put out weaker teams so we can’t have any notions about ourselves.”
Wellens’ boss at Shrewsbury is well known in lower league circles. Micky Mellon is credited with unearthing one Jamie Vardy – a team mate of Wellens at Leicester.
It remains to be seen whether Richie Wellens’ teammates at Shrewsbury on Monday could be the death knell for this particular Manchester United boss. But you can guarantee the wholehearted midfielder will be kicking every ball from the stands.
Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran