Jakob happy to play Devils' advocate
Jakob Haugaard is willing to risk a family feud this weekend when Wigan Athletic travel to Old Trafford looking to knock holders Manchester United out of the FA Cup.
The on-loan Stoke goalkeeper’s father and brother will be at the game, having flown over from Denmark last week.
Whisper it quietly, but Haugaard’s sibling just happens to be an avid United supporter, meaning he’ll have a foot in both camps on the big day!
“Manchester United are obviously the big team over in Denmark, their games are always popular,” Haugaard told the Evening Post.
“My family back home will be watching the game, it’s a big game.
“Actually, my brother and my dad are coming over to Old Trafford, and it will be great to have them here.
“They were here for the Brentford game, and I always enjoy the feeling of knowing they’re there.
“They haven’t had the chance to see me play much since I’ve been in England, being so far away.
“My big brother is actually a huge United fan, so I think it’s a win-win for him!
“Joking aside, he will be a Wigan fan for the day, because he only wants the best for me.”
When Haugaard made his Latics debut against Nottingham Forest in round three of the FA Cup earlier this month, just hours after joining from Stoke, he couldn’t have imagined how things were about to unfold.
“Yes, to play at Old Trafford is a big thing for me,” he acknowledged.
“Obviously I’m looking forward to it and who knows, hopefully we can pull off a surprise.
“We know we’re going up against a really good team, but I think we’ve looked really solid defensively in recent weeks.
“If we can maintain that, I don’t see why we can’t score a goal or two at the other end.
“Anything can happen in cup games, and we hope that’s the case on Sunday.
“We’ll have a go and we’ll see what happens. It’s not impossible.
“Keeping a clean sheet at Old Trafford is the aim, and that would certainly be a dream come true for me.
“I’ve been on the other side, as part of a ‘bigger’ team against a ‘smaller’ team. And it is a difficult task, to prepare yourself mentally for a game like that, as opposed to another Premier League team.
“But of course the United players will be ready for that, because it’s something they have dealt with before.”
If Haugaard needs any inspiration, he need look no further than the greatest Dane of all, Peter Schmeichel himelf, United legend and multiple FA Cup winner.
“Of course he was someone to look up to, not just for me but for every Danish goalkeeper,” Haugaard enthused.
“I wouldn’t say he was my role model or my idol, but of course you look at someone like that and see the great things they have achieved in their career, and you want to emulate it.
“He won so much and it’s a lot to live up to, and that probably goes for his son (Kasper) more than anyone – the pressure’s more on him than anyone else!
“One or two Danish players have managed to win the FA Cup, and it would be nice to continue that tradition.”
Of course, the current United incumbent, David de Gea, needs no introduction either.
“He’s probably the best there is at the moment, I can’t see anyone who’s been better,” Haugaard gushed.
“You look at him and me, and you see two different body shapes and sizes, but you can always pick up little things that you can use in your own game.
“I do that with all goalkeepers, I love seeing how different goalkeepers work – everyone has their own way but they all make it work.
“But De Gea is definitely an inspiration with the way he’s been playing.
“I hope he plays on Sunday, because I want to test myself against the best players.
“And if they were to rotate and bring in five players, I’m not sure it would be making our chances of winning any bigger.
“They would want to show the manager what they can do and prove they deserve to stay in the team, and that motivation might be two or three per cent higher than someone who’d played the last 20 Premier League games.
“Their squad is full of good players who will all have a point to prove to the manager.
“It will be equally difficult regardless of the team they put out.”
Haugaard is looking to go one better than his Stoke team-mates did last weekend, when they were seconds away from securing a famous Premier League win over United only for Wayne Rooney to step up with a wonder-strike in added time – and become the club’s all-time record goalscorer.
“I think you could have put De Gea, and (Manuel) Neuer in goal, and one or two others, and they still wouldn’t have had a chance of saving that,” Haugaard smiled.
“Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to a good striker, and that was an unbelievable strike.
“Sometimes it not about asking why a goalkeeper doesn’t make the save.
“Sometimes you just have to give credit to the goalscorer.”
If Rooney and Co are firing this weekend, it will make Wigan’s task all the more difficult.
But not, as Haugaard insists, the impossible dream.
“Of course no-one really expects us to go there and get a result,” he added.
“But it could still turn out to be a really bad experience for us.
“They are capable of scoring goals for fun and, if we were to lose big, you come away with a feeling that you haven’t really enjoyed the occasion or got anything out of it.
“We still have to go there with a mindset of springing a shock, and doing the impossible.
“Of course it will be difficult, the chances are small, but the chances of Leicester winning the league last year were small – and look what happened.”