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My football started in the Bronx & I had American accent until I was 12, now I want to knock Man United out of FA Cup

SHANE McLOUGHLIN hopes to make it a Fairytale from New York at Rodney Parade.

League Two minnows Newport are going toe-to-toe with Premier League giants Manchester United on Sunday in what is arguably the biggest match in the Welsh club’s history.

Shane McLoughlin is living the Newport dream with Manchester United in town

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Shane McLoughlin is living the Newport dream with Manchester United in town
Shane McLoughlin started his football journey as a kid in the Bronx

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Shane McLoughlin started his football journey as a kid in the Bronx

And for the Newport midfielder it represents a real fairytale having started his football journey in the Bronx to now taking on some of the game’s biggest names.

New York-born McLoughlin, 26, is the son of Irish parents who emigrated to America.

He told SunSport: “They met in the States after both going there to work. My dad Eamon worked in construction while mum Mary was a nurse. They lived 20-plus years there and had a family.

“Although my parents decided to move back to County Kerry in Ireland when I was five, I started playing football in the Bronx and have happy flashbacks.

“My brother, also Eamon, was two years older and I remember being around the sides of the pitch while he was playing matches.

“I then played for a football team there myself – so my journey in the game started in New York.

“Although my memories are sketchy, I’ve seen photos of me in my kit and playing in organised mini leagues.

“I had an American accent until I was 12. The only thing I’ve retained from then is my love for watching American sport.”

McLoughlin, who also has an older sister Danielle, went on to play youth football in Ireland for local clubs Castleisland, Killorglin and St Brendan’s Park, where he was spotted by Ipswich scouts aged 16 and ended up moving to Suffolk.

And he made his first-team debut for the Tractor Boys aged 20 away at Premier League club Crystal Palace in the Carabao Cup.

But it was while the midfielder was at Morecambe two years ago – following a stint at Wimbledon – he had his biggest football moment, almost knocking Tottenham out of the FA Cup on their home turf.

He said: “No-one gave us a chance yet we gave them a huge scare and were winning 1-0 with 16 minutes left.

“But they brought on the big guns Harry Kane and Lucas Moura, who both scored, and we lost 3-1.

Shane McLoughlin came close to knocking Spurs out of the FA Cup with Morecambe before Harry Kane helped dig them out of a hole

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Shane McLoughlin came close to knocking Spurs out of the FA Cup with Morecambe before Harry Kane helped dig them out of a hole

“The big thing I noticed about Premier League footballers from that game is that they’re machines. You don’t realise when you’re watching it on TV.

“But when you’re out on the same pitch, you see they’re big lads, fit and strong. They’re also relentless. They do everything so well. Each and every one of them can beat you on their own at any moment. That’s the difference. It’s the consistency they get.”

Although McLoughlin is a Liverpool fan who grew up idolising Steven Gerrard, he has admired and even idolised some of the Manchester United stars of yesteryear.

And he is thrilled to be taking on his favourite club’s biggest rivals.

He said: “I always liked Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand – but Paul Scholes was my favourite United player.

“As a midfielder myself, I loved watching him. It was the way he passed the ball, how he struck it and the amount of goals he scored. You cannot help but admire someone like that.”

When you’re in League Two, opportunities to play against top stars like this come far and few between so I want Erik ten Hag to go full-strength.”

SHANE McLOUGHLIN

McLoughlin is hoping Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Rasmus Hojlund all feature this weekend.

And, although Newport needed a replay to get past National League club Eastleigh to set up this fourth-round tie, he believes United can be beaten at Rodney Parade.

He added: “I hope Erik ten Hag goes full-strength, even though that means the game will be even harder.

“When you’re at a League Two club, opportunities in your career to play against top stars like this come far and few between.

“I want to see Rashford, Fernandes and Hojlund play because you want to see how you compare to this calibre of players.”

Newport played League Two Welsh rivals Wrexham on Saturday – which in any other regular season would be their biggest game.

But it was only a dress rehearsal for the main event. Rodney Parade had a capacity of 9,537 crammed in – and it will be the same this weekend after tickets sold out within half an hour of going on sale.

Marcus Rashford is one of the Manchester United stars Shane McLoughlin would love to face in the FA Cup on Sunday

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Marcus Rashford is one of the Manchester United stars Shane McLoughlin would love to face in the FA Cup on Sunday
Although Shane McLoughlin is a Liverpool fan and idolised Steven Gerrard, he was a huge admirer of Manchester United legend Paul Scholes

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Although Shane McLoughlin is a Liverpool fan and idolised Steven Gerrard, he was a huge admirer of Manchester United legend Paul Scholes
Shane McLoughlin has noticed a huge buzz around the City this week

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Shane McLoughlin has noticed a huge buzz around the City this week

And although in recent times, Newport have hosted Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester City, nothing has quite captured the imagination in these parts of South Wales than Sunday’s fourth-round game.

McLoughlin said: “I’ve sensed the excitement. You just feel the bounce and energy around the city.

“When we played Wrexham, just coming out for the warm up, there was a different type of feel – and we think it’s going to be more ramped for this one.

“With United coming here, so many of our lads are wearing huge smiles. It’s not something that happens every week. It’s going to be a massive day in all our careers.”

United will be outside their comfort zone playing in a stadium ONE EIGHTH the size of Old Trafford – with their team and backroom staff having to squeeze into a small dressing room.

But McLoughlin insists there can be no excuses or complaints from Ten Hag’s millionaires – saying: “Our pitch isn’t a bog, it’s one of the best in the lower leagues. This club won League Two pitch of the year two years running. 

“Yes, the changing rooms might be smaller than they’re used to and the stadium will be tight but many United players will enjoy it as they’ve come through youth football and smaller clubs. I don’t think anything will shock them.”

Newport came within a couple of minutes of beating Tottenham in 2018 with Kane scoring a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade to force a replay which they won.

Shane McLoughlin in action at Eastleigh in the third-round replay

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Shane McLoughlin in action at Eastleigh in the third-round replay
Newport erected a temporary stand for the sell-out Wrexham game which will be used for the Manchester United clash too

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Newport erected a temporary stand for the sell-out Wrexham game which will be used for the Manchester United clash too

And the Exiles then beat ex-Premier League champions Leicester and Championship side Middlesbrough before giving a good account of themselves in a 4-1 loss to Manchester City in South Wales in 2019.

So can they beat United and cause what will be one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s 153-year history?

Yes, says McLoughlin.

He added: “You must believe you have a chance. There have been big upsets before and there’s no reason why we can’t now. We’ll need luck and maybe some big decisions to go our way – but that’s the magic of the cup. You never know.”

While McLoughlin’s partner Abigail, along with family and close friends, will be crammed into Rodney Parade willing on the underdogs, there will be a contingent of relatives in Ireland watching on TV.

And there will be aunties, uncles and cousins living across the pond also glued to the box – hoping to witness a Fairytale from New York.

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