Last updated : 19 January 2006 By Editor
Manchester United rolled out the red carpet for Burton Albion, the players presenting their opponents with autographed goodies and the fans affording them a standing ovation, but there was always an element of fantasy attached to thinking the hospitality would extend to events on the pitch.

The only thing that was generous about Sir Alex Ferguson's team was Louis Saha's finishing on a night when they made light work of the side who stand 104 places below them in English football's order of merit.

United will go to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the fourth round, leaving the players, management and supporters of Burton to reflect on the most exciting and lucrative period in their club's history. They will gratefully accept their £700,000 share of the pot, but what price the prestige?

It is certainly a first that a helicopter followed Albion's team bus en route to a match, or indeed that they had the backing of 10,500 supporters, the largest away following at Old Trafford since an invasion of Celtic fans for Lou Macari's testimonial in 1984. Was this the same Burton Albion who pulled a crowd of 119 people for a Birmingham Senior Cup tie against Romulus FC a few weeks ago?

Nigel Clough and his players will relish those sporadic moments when their neat triangular football bridged the gulf between the two clubs. And their supporters, old and new, will always remember the time they questioned whether the mighty Manchester United were "Tamworth in disguise". And stories will be passed down a forest of family trees in certain parts of Staffordshire about the "olés" that rang out when Clough's men indulged in some keep-ball near the end.

Giuseppe Rossi, United's chief tormentor, scored twice, set up another two and bewildered his opponents with deft flicks and close control. The 18-year-old American-born Italian scored with a deft header for United's second and added the final flourish with a lovely half-volley in stoppage-time.

In between times he sent Kieran Richardson scampering clear to rattle in United's third as well as supplying the killer pass for Ryan Giggs, a substitute, to notch the fourth.

Saha had set United going in the seventh minute, though he should have been reflecting on a hat-trick having twice gone clear before apparently forgetting that he is a £12.8m footballer.

The pity for Burton was that they could not produce a goal to add to the array of photographs which line the corridors of their Pirelli stadium.