Manchester United will lock horns with local rivals Manchester City in what will be a blockbuster Carabao Cup semi-final clash at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
A ticket to Wembley for the finals of the Carabao Cup will be at stake when Manchester United welcome neighbours Manchester City to Old Trafford this week in the semi-finals.
Manchester United have been impressive in the cup competition, beating Luton Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and Everton in the last three rounds. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have scored eight goals in the process without conceding any and head into Wednesday’s game on the back of five wins in six in all competitions, beating Aston Villa 2-1 in their latest fixture.
Manchester City were made to work hard by Bournemouth in the third round of the Carabao Cup, but have been seamless since then, beating Burnley 3-0 and Arsenal 4-1 in the previous two stages. Having had a slow start to the season, Pep Guardiola’s side seem to be finding their groove, winning each of their last four games, including a 3-1 victory over Chelsea at the weekend.
Manchester United and Manchester City have already faced each other once this season in the Premier League, with the game ending in a dour goalless draw. And, ahead of their latest meeting on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Manchester United will once again be without the services of veteran striker Edinson Cavani, who will be serving the second of his three-match ban. Phil Jones is also ruled out with an injury. Apart from the duo, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a full squad to select from when Manchester City come visiting.
The Red Devils’ boss has usually opted to use a three-man defensive setup for the big games during his tenure at the club. However, given the form that his team has been in of late, Solskjaer is likely to refrain from tinkering much with tactics or personnel ahead of Wednesday’s game.
There should be a change in goal, though, with Dean Henderson coming in for David de Gea for the cup tie. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw are likely to be retained as the full-backs while the same goes for the centre-back duo of Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly, with the latter impressing heavily in the past couple of matches.
Scott McTominay and Fred should feature from the get-go again while Paul Pogba’s form is warrants a start. Bruno Fernandes is an indispensable figure for United in the attacking third, so he too should start on Wednesday, meaning the hosts could deploy a midfield diamond, although we could see Pogba drifting out to the left regularly. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford will be the two forwards.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred, Pogba; Fernandes; Rashford, Martial
Unlike his counterpart in the opposition dugout, Pep Guardiola has a number of roster issues to deal with heading into Wednesday’s contest. As many as six players will miss out due to coronavirus with Gabriel Jesus, Kyle Walker, Ederson Moraes, Tommy Doyle, Eric Garcia and Ferran Torres all testing positive in recent days.
Apart from them, the manager will also have to contend with the absence of Aymeric Laporte who is nursing a thigh injury while Nathan Ake is also a doubt due to a muscle issue. Given Manchester City’s squad depth, Guardiola will still be able to field a formidable unit at Old Trafford.
Zack Steffen, who made his Premier League debut at the weekend, has been the go-to man in goal for the Cityzens in the Carabao Cup and will start on Wednesday. With Laporte and Garcia both unavailable, Guardiola will be forced to continue with Ruben Dias and John Stones as his centre-backs while Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko start as the full-back pairing.
Having found a system that worked perfectly against Chelsea at the weekend, Guardiola is likely to stick with it on Wednesday. Rodri will sit the deepest of the three central midfielders while Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden, who will move to a central role at the expense of Bernardo Silva, should have the license to push forward and join the attacks.
Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez, who is likely to come into the starting XI, should slot in as the wide players while Kevin De Bruyne, who was the star of the show at the weekend, continues operating as the false nine. Sergio Aguero will be an option from the bench for the Cityzens.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Steffen; Cancelo, Dias, Stones, Zinchenko; Gundogan, Rodri, Foden; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Sterling
- Manchester United and Manchester City have squared off nine times in the League Cup in the past, with both teams coming out on top on four occasions each (D1).
- Their latest meeting in the competition came in the semi-finals of last season. Manchester City qualified to the finals 3-2 on aggregate after having won the first leg 3-1 at Old Trafford before losing 1-0 at the Etihad in the second leg.
- Manchester United have won three of their last four contests against Manchester City in the League Cup, keeping two clean sheets in the process.
- In six meetings against Pep Guardiola in all competitions, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won three and drawn one (L2).
- Heading into Wednesday’s game Manchester United are without a defeat in their last seven games in all competitions (W5 D2). Manchester City, on the other hand, are on an eleven-game unbeaten streak in all competitions (W8 D3).
Player to Watch
Kevin De Bruyne
The difference-maker for Manchester City more often than not, Pep Guardiola will look to Kevin De Bruyne to deliver the goods once again on Wednesday after his top-class performance against Chelsea. Playing as a false-nine, the Belgian scored and assisted one goal apiece, leading from the front as the Cityzens put in one of their finest performances of the season.
So far this term, De Bruyne has scored three goals and set up 12 more in 18 games across all competitions. Likely to start once again in the false nine role at Old Trafford, his ability to drive at the defence and his quality on the ball could prove to be telling. How Manchester United deal with the 29-year-old could have a significant say on the outcome of the game.
Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
The two teams have already met once this term, with the match ending in a goalless draw. However, things are likely to be very different this time out as a place in the Carabao Cup final awaits.
Manchester United have built up momentum heading into the game and will be high on confidence after hard-fought wins against Wolves and Aston Villa. Manchester City, on the other hand, showed signs of their domineering best at the weekend as they decimated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, setting things up for an exciting match-up.
Pep Guardiola has led Manchester City to a hat-trick of Carabao Cup triumphs over the last three seasons. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has found a way to get the better of the master tactician more often than not in their meetings, with the Cityzens failing to score in their last three matches against the Red Devils.
While that streak could come to an end on Wednesday, Manchester United have shown a strong mentality to eke out wins in tough circumstances of late and that should be the case at Old Trafford. To that end, The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Solskjaer & co.