TEN thousand fans descended on Newport this afternoon to watch County face Premier League giants Manchester United at Rodney Parade.

It was the first time the Exiles and Red Devils, two clubs rich in history, had ever met in a competitive fixture – and the city's streets and venues fizzed with hype as supporters made their way to the ground.

The visiting fans from Manchester (there were a number from South Wales) posed for pictures on the Millennium Bridge and made their voices heard with “united” chants with some futility, it must be said, in the land of song.

United manager Erik ten Hag took no chances with his team selection in the fourth round, deploying European champions like Raphael Varane and Casemiro.

South Wales Argus: Newport fans were out in good spirits ahead of kick-offNewport fans were out in good spirits ahead of kick-off (Image: NQ staff)

Riding high after two supremely taken goals, County seemed to have fate on their side, but it was United – three whole divisions and a world away – who came out on top.

Only, football, the beautiful game, is not so binary.

The visitors’ mega-money XI, bought for around £400 million according to the finest mathematicians at Argus towers, continue to the next round – but it was Newport that united on the day.

“I’m a lifelong Man United supporter from Pontypool,” admitted Martin Pugh, wearing a big smile on High Street on route to the game. “My grandson is a County season ticket holder and his dad supports both!”

South Wales Argus: Martin Pugh (left) from Pontypool said he was a lifelong Manchester United fan Martin Pugh (left) from Pontypool said he was a lifelong Manchester United fan (Image: NQ staff)

So complicated is sport that some County fans wanted a draw and not a win. That would mean a lucrative and unforgettable trip to Old Trafford and a chance to make history in the theatre of dreams.

But there was no shortage of attention on the Port, evidenced by a deluge of national media in the prelude and a telly spot on the BBC narrated by Gary Lineker and friends.

It even attracted the interest of two travelling Americans who made it their mission to visit one game of soccer on each of their nine days in the UK.

South Wales Argus: Football lovers David Ryan (left) and Bill McInerny (right) came from AmericaFootball lovers David Ryan (left) and Bill McInerny (right) came from America (Image: NQ staff)

Bill McInerny, from Atlanta, Georgia, proclaimed: “I hate Manchester United. I’m a Liverpool supporter. We just love football, and this was the most interesting one today.”

It was an interesting occasion to say the least. County manager Graham Coughlan described the visitors as the biggest club in the world, which, by extension, made today County's boldest fight.

In the fast-moving football news cycle, it will be marked as a cup knockout. But those who were there will remember the city on its feet, singing past the final whistle and doing itself proud against the odds.