By Richard Bott
Last updated at 11:29 AM on 7th November 2010
What seemed utterly implausible when they were founded five years ago may only be one game away. FC United could face Manchester United.
It could be Evo-Stik Premier Division against three-time European champions, the club set up because of the Glazers against the one owned by them.
A chorus of 'bring on United' rang around Spotland after FCUM's FA Cup first round debut came to its remarkable conclusion, hundreds of their fans pouring on to the pitch in jubilation.
Naughty Norton: Michael Norton scores the winner
There were 94 minutes on the clock when Mike Norton, FC United striker and Manchester United supporter, stabbed home from close range. Not quite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the Nou Camp, but pretty special nonetheless.
Manager Karl Marginson said: 'With a few minutes to go I put five in the middle and thought "let's hold on". Then we scored. I don't know if we deserved it but it's all about results and it was a fantastic result.'
Just when a fine Rochdale comeback seemed to have earned the League One team a replay, a side four divisions and 95 places below them had the final say.
At times Marginson's enterprising team outplayed them, too. They may be in the seventh tier, but they possess two tricky wingers in the speedy, skilful Carlos Roca and Jerome Wright.
But for all their links with Manchester United, it was a former Liverpool academy player, Nicky Platt, who struck first, finishing well from Wright's through pass. Then Jake Cottrell's rasping shot flew past Rochdale goalkeeper Josh Lillis to give them a superb second.
Cottrell went to the same school as Paul Scholes. In an instant, he took the similarities further. 'He did well to score with that left foot of his because he hasn't got one,' added Marginson, a former fruit-and-veg delivery man.
Spot on: Nicky Platt puts FC United ahead
That led to a fine fightback from Dale. First Anthony Elding pulled a goal back. Then Richard Battersby cleared off the line to deny Chris O'Grady before Craig Dawson headed in a Barry Murphy corner.
Comeback complete? Not quite. Lillis spilled the ball, Norton kicked it out of his hands and FC United were through. When the second-round draw is made, he knows what he wants. 'That's an easy one,' said the scorer - anyone to facilitate a meeting with Manchester United.
This lot delight in being the thorn in the side of the Old Trafford authorities. Barely had the game begun when the FC United fans chanted: 'Are you watching, David Gill?' Manchester United's chief executive probably wasn't. He certainly should have been. And he will have to if they meet in the third round.