Manchester United will go head to head with Manchester City once again in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looking to push his team into their first final. On Wednesday evening, it will be the second Manchester derby of the season at the Theatre of Dreams with United reaching the same stage of the competition that they did last season, seeking to get further this season – it being the fourth semi-final Solskjaer has managed the club, losing the previous three. Last season, this was a two-legged match but because of the coronavirus pandemic, it will be a one off tie this season.
The final this season has been delayed until April, giving supporters a chance to be at Wembley instead of the match being played behind closed doors, as is the case in the country at this time. The match will kick of at 19:45 GMT and will be broadcast live in the United Kingdom on Sky Sports. United have seemingly turned a corner this season with an uptick in form and results, being that Solskjaer’s side are undefeated in their last six matches, winning five and drawing once, which was against Leicester City on Boxing Day. United and City drew 0-0 at Old Trafford some weeks ago too.
How United have faired against Manchester City in the domestic cups (FA Cup and the League Cup).
United and City have met 18 times in domestic cups (FA Cup and League Cup). United have won 10 times, drawing once times and losing seven times. United have scored 29 goals against with City scoring 26 goals. United have kept five clean sheets against their noisy neighbours in cup competitions. United have faced City nine times in the FA Cup and nine times in the League Cup (now the Carabao Cup). In the League Cup, United have won four times, drawing once and losing four times, scoring 11 goals and conceding 14. In the FA Cup, United have won six times, losing three times, scoring 18 goals and conceding 12. United and City last met in a cup competition last season.
In the Carabao Cup during the 2019/20 season, United and City were drawn against each other at this same stage, the semi-final. Back then, before the coronavirus pandemic hit, this was a two-legged fixture. In the first match, which was played at Old Trafford, City won 3-1 with Bernardo Silva (17), Riyad Mahrez (33) and an Andreas Pereira own goal (39) all coming in the first half. Marcus Rashford got a consolation goal in the 70th minute. In the second leg, played at the Etihad, it was a 1-0 victory for United with the only goal of the match scored by Nemanja Matic in the 35th minute with United losing 3-2 on aggregate, which was a shame. United will be seeking to avenge that first semi-final defeat last season, aiming to win this one.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening…
Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Dean Henderson has played in all of United’s Carabao Cup matches this season and this should be no different. David De Gea has an important part to play for United in the Premier League and beyond so in the cup matches, Henderson should be given the chance. Of course, with this match being against City, it is possible that De Gea will start, leaving Henderson for the Watford match in the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday, so there is still an option for him to play a part in the cup competitions. Personally, seeing De Gea play ahead of him, having seen United get this far, keeping three clean sheets, would not be great.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles
United’s defence has stepped up their game this season. Eric Bailly has been a stand out performer in the past couple of matches since Victor Lindelof has been on the sidelines through a lower back injury. Against City, I would expect both Bailly and Harry Maguire to start in the centre of the defence flanked by Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles. Wan-Bissaka has been a defensive rock the majority of the time for United with calls, even from myself, for him to do more in attack. Telles’ experience will be welcome against City, whilst will hopefully see him turn a corner after some bad performances so far this season.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred, Paul Pogba
A three-man midfield against City could go a long way to putting United into their first final under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United have played in three semi-finals, losing them all so far and will be seeking to turn this one around after being beaten at the same stage by City last season, 3-2 on aggregate. This being a one-off match could see a much different result. Fred should play as the defensive minded player with Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba playing a more midfield game, connecting the defence to the attack, which will see Wan-Bissaka and Telles play the width going forward.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes is the man in form this season, scoring 15 goals and 11 assists so far this season – 26 goal contributions. Those that are jealous of the player will mock his penalty scoring to try to suggest United have been cheating but VAR has been at play and it is perfectly fine the United are winning penalties. It is not as if another team, Leicester City, have been rewarded well this season too, is it? Fernandes is a baller and despite the odd poor match where he doesn’t score or assist, he plays a passive part and leads from the front. Some say he should be the captain, but he’s one of the leaders in the team, which is fine the way it is.
Forwards: Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
Anthony Martial has now scored five goals this season with Rashford scoring 14 – 19 goals between them. The duo have assisted four times each, making 27 goal contributions between them. United rarely play with two forwards at the moment but I believe this enhances the squad, given that Mason Greenwood, Odion Ighalo and the suspended Edinson Cavani are amongst the ranks, for the rest of this month at least in respect of Ighalo. United should be able to thrive with Rashford and Martial being fed by Fernandes and even Pogba, which should see United reign in the Carabao Cup this season, at least getting to the final.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Luke Shaw, Axel Tuanzebe; Juan Mata, Daniel James, Donny van de Beek, Nemanja Matic; Mason Greenwood, Odion Ighalo
The Carabao Cup have announced that all teams in the semi-final stage of the competition will be able to name nine substitutes on the bench, as is now the case in the Premier League, using five of them, which is great as United have just come out of a tough December and could face a tough January with as many as nine matches to be played and as few as eight. David De Gea should be on the bench, just in case he is needed against the noisy neighbours. In defence, Luke Shaw and Axel Tuanzebe should be sufficient. In midfield, Juan Mata, Daniel James, Donny van de Beek and Nemanja Matic could all be options with Mason Greenwood and Odion Ighalo in the bench in an attacking sense, if United need them late in the match.
Written by John Walker