Old Trafford, Manchester
January 22, 2014; 19:45 BST
Manchester United host Sunderland in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final, as the tie hangs in balance. The first leg of this tie ended in a 2-1 win for Sunderland as Fabio Borini scored the winner from the spot in the second half. In normal circumstances it would have been unintelligent to bet against United turning around a one goal deficit in the second leg at Old Trafford, but considering their recent form, Sunderland will go into this game with lot of confidence of getting a positive result.
Manchester United are currently seventh in the league table and are coming into this game on the back of a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. That loss now means that the reigning Champions are 14 points behind the league leaders Arsenal and will now even struggle to get into the top four of the table this season. David Moyes’ men have lost four of their last five matches in all competitions, a run of form which put the new manager under tremendous pressure and to add up to this, their record at Old Trafford has been poor this season as well. United have lost four of their last seven matches at home and will have to produce something special in order to turn around this tie against Sunderland.
Sunderland are still in the relegation zone, but have significantly reduced the gap with the teams above them in the table. In fact it is a testimonial to the competitiveness of the league this season that Sunderland at 17th is separated by only six points from Aston Villa at 10th. Gus Poyet has stabilized the side since his arrival and they have now lost only one of their last 10 matches in all competitions – their best run of form for a long time. In fact after an awful run of five consecutive defeats on their travels earlier this season, Sunderland are now undefeated in their last five matches away from home. A draw will be enough to see them through to the next round and they will be quietly confident ahead of this fixture. Mind you though, the Black Cats haven’t won at Old Trafford in a competitive fixture since 1968, but we have already seen a lot of these records been broken at this ground this season.
Manchester United team news
One of the reasons why United have struggled this season is due to the long list of injuries that David Moyes has had to deal with since his arrival. Marouane Fellaini, Robin van Persie, Nani and Wayne Rooney are all out of contention for this game. The England international is expected to return next week during United’s match against Cardiff City in the Premier League. There are also concerns about the fitness of Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand and the duo are unlikely to feature in this game as well. Nemanja Vidic will serve his suspension after receiving his marching orders in the match against Chelsea.
David Moyes is expected to field a very attacking line-up in this game as he looks for early goals. He is expected to make four changes to the side that lost against Chelsea in their last game. Anders Lindegaard will replace David De Gea in the goal, while Alexander Buttner will start at the left back. Jones, who started in the midfield alongside Michael Carrick in the last game, will drop back to the center of the defence alongside Evans in order to replace the suspended Vidic.
In the midfield, Carrick will be partnered by Tom Cleverley in the pivot ahead of the defence. There will be only once change in attack as Ashley Young drops back to the bench and is replaced by Javier Hernandez, who scored United’s goal against Chelsea in the last game after coming on as a substitute. He will partner Welbeck up top as United will almost switch to a 4-4-2 formation with Adnan Januzaj and Antonio Valencia starting on the wings.
Expected starting line-up (4-4-2): De Gea (GK); Rafael, Jones, Evans, Buttner; Valencia, Cleverley, Carrick, Januzaj; Welbeck, Hernandez
Sunderland team news
Unlike David Moyes, Gus Poyet doesn’t have a long injury list to contain with at the moment. Keiren Westwood and Carlos Cuellar are still out of contention and Poyet has a fully fit squad, other than these two, to choose from in this game.
With Sunderland in a relatively good run of form, Gus Poyet is unlikely to make too many changes to the side they drew against Southampton in their last game. Steven Fletcher is likely to be the only change in attack and he is likely to replace Jozy Altidore upfront.
Fomer Manchester City winger Adam Johnson will once again be the key man in Sunderland’s attack and the 26-year-old has been in superb form recently. He bagged a wonderful hat-trick against Fulham and then followed it up with another superb performance against a strong Southampton side. The English man has scored four goals and provided two assists in his last two matches.
With Sunderland needing only a draw to win this tie, it will be interesting to see Gus Poyet’s tactics in this game. He is likely to stick to his 4-1-4-1 formation with Lee Cattermole providing the shield in front of his defence. Their back-four of course contains three former Manchester United players and they will need to be at their best as United are sure to pile on the pressure. Marcos Alonso has been very assured at the left back, while Bradsley has looked dangerous while joining in attack. But Bardsley might need to cut down on his adventurous runs in this match as he will have to contain with Januzaj.
Expected starting line-up (4-1-4-1): Mannone (GK); Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Alonso; Cattermole; Johnson, Larsson, Ki, Borini; Fletcher
Players to watch-out for: Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United); Adam Johnson (Sunderland)
Prediction: Manchester 2-2 Sunderland
Blast from the past