Manchester United will face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg at the Etihad on Wednesday. This will be a big game for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he looks to find a way for his team to beat Pep Guardiola’s City after their 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford at the start of the month. The 6-0 Emirates FA Cup victory over Tranmere Rovers on Sunday could well have boosted the confidence of the squad and given them a chance total on City with a different formation.
United would need to win this match by three clear goals if they were to make it to the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 1 March 2020, however, at least 90 minutes of football stands in the way of achieving that feat, not to mention a City team in resurgent form, scoring 20 goals and conceding just five goals in the past six matches, winning five and drawing once. It is form that United can only dream about.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg at the Etihad on Wednesday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The Spanish goalkeeper was rested for the 6-0 FA Cup victory over Tranmere on Sunday meaning he should be fit to face City for the second time this month. De Gea has not been in the best of form this season but he has made some impressive saves. If the players and the supporters stick by him like they did at the start of his United career, it could well pay off again with him raising his form. Of course, having the best side available would be helpful along with the squad being strengthened significantly, which should be a plan this month with injuries to key players in the squad for long spells of the season.
Defenders: Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire
Three at the back worked against Tranmere. Maybe it was because United were playing against a team struggling in League One – perhaps it was because United were able to play to a higher tempo further up the pitch. That formation could have been a test by Solskjaer to find a way of coming back from behind to beat City. Remember Paris in March? It could work. I expect both Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire to keep their places in defence but Eric Bailly should be tested against City, which might add something to the defence and the rest of the team. There is a period of rest coming up too, giving these players a significant break, of around two weeks before playing again.
Midfield: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Nemanja Matic, Fred, Brandon Williams
Four across the midfield worked on Sunday and it has worked for other clubs in the Premier League and beyond. Diogo Dalot played well against Tranmere but Aaron Wan-Bissaka should be ahead of him after a rest this weekend with Brandon Williams replacing Luke Shaw on the left side. Fred should start ahead of Andreas Pereira with Nemanja Matic keeping his starting place after playing 45 minutes in the FA Cup. This is the best United has in this area at this moment in time, unless something magical happens before kick off on Wednesday, which is unlikely. United will miss the likes of Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay, which could have made this area even stronger for this match.
Forwards: Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Daniel James
The forward three can be played in so may ways. A straight three at the front, two forward with one behind them, one forward with two behind; this can interchange throughout the match, which might help in getting the better of United’s noisy neighbours. With Marcus Rashford out of action and a lack of attacking players to choose from, Anthony Martial should be the main striker – he did well against Tranmere on Sunday. Mason Greenwood should keep his place in the team also as he adds something to the team. Daniel James was rested against Tranmere, meaning he should be ready to face City, although Jesse Lingard could keep his place in the team. James could do something on the left, as he did at the start of the season. Lingard from the bench could be good for United, if his confidence from his performance on Sunday continues into Wednesday.
Substitutes: Sergio Romero; Phil Jones, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw; Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Angel Gomes
United will need players on the bench who can come on and do a job should they be required. Sergio Romero will move to the bench for this game after keeping another clean sheet on Sunday. Defensively, Phil Jones, Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw could also add something, should they be needed. Both Dalot and Shaw got forward a lot of the time against Tranmere and they could offer that against City too. Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and Angel Gomes, if chosen in the squad could all provide in the midfield/attacking areas too, should they too be needed. Of course, Tahith Chong could make the bench ahead of Gomes, just like he did in Sunday’s victory over Tranmere in the FA Cup.