‘Completely surreal’ – the lifelong Manchester United fan who’ll live out his Old Trafford dream with Charlton

For Holden, when the draw was made it was “surreal”. He said: “Ive only come up against United once before professionally when I was at Bristol City and it was at this stage of the competition in 2017. We managed to win that night at Ashton Gate – my dad was in the crowd and I went to grab him after the game. He was crying his eyes out – I dont know if it was because United got beat or because wed won! I think it was a bit of both!

After the draw, just to speak to Danielle my wife and my kids plus my dad whos been a Red for 60-odd years was surreal, hard to describe but it will be some moment leading out Charlton Athletic at Old Trafford, it will be incredible.

Holdens love for United started after the 1985 FA Cup Final. He recalled: I remember being five years old. Norman Whiteside scored an absolute worldie when he cut in off the right-hand side and whipped it in the far corner.

“I remember when Kevin Moran got sent off in that game – I was bawling my eyes out on the floor. And then Norman scored that goal – my dad had him in the sweepstake at work! He used to work in a factory as an engineer so he was over the wall outside the house running up the street because we then went on a caravan holiday with the money that hed won!

I went home and away watching United as a kid. I wagged school a couple of times to go to away games, me and my pals queued up overnight at Old Trafford with my vouchers glued onto my sheet for the next round of the cup! I went to Wembley four or five times watching United in cups.

“I was a ball boy for a season – it was the year that Lee Sharpe scored the backheel v Barcelona in the Champions League. So United has been in our blood.

My dad is a massive Red – him and his brother were stewards at Old Trafford for years. My dads cousin Russ still to this day walks out the manager so hell be walking Erik ten Hag out from the tunnel to the dugout. So it will just be full of weird, surreal moments.

“My dad will be there plus my wife – in fact therell be 28 friends and family up in the K Stand where I used to sit. I cant imagine what my old man will be thinking – its just a great moment for him. Hes 70 years old, hes followed this club all his life and now his son is walking out at Old Trafford!

“My focus will clearly be on the game, theres no doubt about that but for the wider family itll be very, very special.

Charlton saw off Brighton in the last round to earn the trip to Old Trafford. Holden had only just been appointed as manager of the League One club and the game was overseen by another big United fan, Anthony Hayes, whos first team coach at The Valley.

For Holden, it was a whirlwind start to life at the club, My first day in the job was the day we drew Man Utd after beating Brighton in the last round. It was a surreal moment. The next morning, the training ground was very bubbly and its important to let people have that moment as they deserved it.

“Weve been in a tough place as a club for the last couple of years so it was a really special moment. But quickly we had to refocus on the league games in front of us.

“Weve not been in a good position in the league which is why Ive been brought in so naturally we have to focus on the league games but when the United game comes around it is going to be an incredible night.

“I think we are going to have around 10,000 supporters going up there. There are no trains going back to London that night so its going to be two days off work or two days off school for many people – Ive been there myself as a fan so hopefully we can show ourselves as a club and what this club is all about.

Charlton havent played at Old Trafford since February 2007 they visited United eight times as a Premier League club but the 16 years since their last trip have been a long way from the high water mark of a seventh-place Premier League finish in 2004. Holden hopes that the good days will return to south-east London.

Weve been in the Premier League and we are fighting our way to get back. Its not been a happy place to be at in the last couple of years so the supporters will be going up there with a lot of optimism and will remember the days at Old Trafford when the club was a Premier League team.

“Its a huge challenge but you never know in football – the first thing is youve got to believe it and we believe we can go there and show ourselves in the best possible light.

Itll be huge financially for the club. Itll allow me to do a little bit of business in January which is great so its been a really good draw for us – we just need to make sure we do the business on the pitch and make sure we make the game competitive and we embrace the situation.

As well as hoping to plot a massive shock at Old Trafford on Tuesday, Holden has one further ambition, I just hope I can meet The Boss, Sir Alex. I hope I can just have a minute with him or a photograph with him.

“Coming out of the tunnel, seeing the Stretford End and walking down the touchline will be incredible. Ive been hundreds of times as a fan. Ive been all over the country with them so it will be completely surreal.

“I will be fully focused on the 90 minutes. But therell be people all over the stadium who are pals of mine – itll be mad. But the focus for me will be on Charlton and making sure we show ourselves.