Manchester United will return to Carabao Cup action on Wednesday evening as they welcome West Ham United to the Theatre of Dreams just tree days after the two sides met in the Premier League at the London Stadium, which saw United leave victorious. Cristiano Ronaldo equalised five minutes after Said Benrahma opened the scoring with Jesse Lingard scoring the winner for United before David De Gea saved a last-minute penalty taken by Mark Noble, who was substituted before the spot kick. It was a good match to witness for United supporters and even better that is was another match unbeaten on the road – 29 now.
Over the last two seasons, United have reached the semi-final stage of the Carabao Cup, losing to Manchester City at this stage, who have been the eventual winners of the cup. Granted, the Carabao Cup is not the club that many would want to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lift as his first for United as it would not placate the fans who want to see him win a trophy as their stance will change as soon as it happened. I guess the flip flop fans are here to stay, even if they end up getting embarrassed week in and week out. Solskjaer should strive to make it to the final of this competition and lift the trophy – it could well be the first of many for him as a manager.
Previous meetings with West Ham and their connections with Manchester United.
United and West Ham have played a total of 147 matches in the history of the two clubs. United have won 70 times, drawing 32 times with the Hammers winning the remaining 45 matches. The majority of the matches have come in the Premier League, Football League Division One and Two, with the remaining being played in domestic cup competitions; 13 in the FA Cup with just three in the League Cup, which is now called the Carabao Cup with United winning twice and losing once. United won 1-0 in 1985, in 2010, the Hammers won 4-0 with United winning 4-1 in 2016. Solskjaer will want to win this match too.
There is a lot of history between United and the Hammers. David Moyes, the Hammers’ manager was the former manager of United during the ill-fated 2013/14 season and he was sacked before the season even finished. There have been many players to have played for both clubs, the most receipt being Jesse Lingard, who spent the second half of last season at the club. The likes of Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Teddy Sheringham, Javier Hernandez, Carlos Tevez, Roy Carroll, David Bellion, Jonathan Spector and Ravel Morrison have all played for both clubs and probably more in the not too distant past.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face West Ham United in the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea has been in great form this season and it seems that he is determined to retain his number one shirt at the club, seeing off the challenge of Dean Henderson, who needs to play regularly to continue his development. Tom Heaton will also challenge De Gea for a place in the team being that he is experienced and has a part to play, however small. These things will help De Gea continue to find his place at the club once again, which has seemingly shrunk after a few seasons of mistakes and a lack of direction under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
De Gea will be ready to step into the goal for this match days after saving a last-minute penalty which could have resulted in United moving from a winning position to a draw, which would have felt like a defeat. United are so much better with De Gea at the club and his experience and passion for United will be great for the club with United expected to challenge for the Premier League title this season, which has started well but needs to continue. United are in a much better place than they were five years ago, not that a section of the fan base will recognise that as the negativity seems to be something that they love more than United, which is strange.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw
United’s defence has some strength and experience this season and it will be a luxury for Solskjaer to make some changes to keep the players fresh for what the rest of the season will present them. Against the Hammers, Diogo Dalot could step into the right-back position and show what he has to offer at the club this season and perhaps beyond. I believe that with the injury to Alex Telles, which he has overcome and will be working on returning to the squad, Luke Shaw will keep his place in the squad for this match, which is good because he has done nothing wrong this season so far and looks to be achieving a lot at the club.
Victor Lindelof could return to the starting XI for this match which will result in Harry Maguire being rested but on the bench in case he is needed to fortify the defence late in the game. Raphael Varane will partner Lindelof making his debut in the Carabao Cup this season, which realistically is a competition that United could win, stopping Manchester City from winning it for the fifth successive time with the trophy spending the last six seasons in Manchester with United winning it in the 2016/17 season. It is the first trophy to be won during the course of a season – not the best trophy for Solskjaer but a trophy none the less.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic
United’s midfield is far from perfect but it is something that will have to be endured for the 2021/22 season, or at least until January if the club have plans to make a purchase. Nemanja Matic will be due a start, which could be good for United, as long as he is not playing next to Fred, who offers little in most matches that he plays. Matic is getting older which has seen the club become less reliant on him but there are not many options in the defensive midfield area that have experience. Scott McTominay is a player that can operate well in that area, but he does offer more going forward. Replacing Matic is a problem for United that will have to wait.
Having both Matic and McTominay on the pitch at the same time could work well with the former shielding the back four and the latter linking the midfield with the attack and ensuring balls are played forward for the players in the advanced roles in the squad, aiming to get the better of the Hammers for the second time in three days. There will be options off the bench which will involve Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes which would either mean Matic came off and McTominay had to step in his role, of the Scotland international came off and Pogba played alongside Matic, which has happened before and worked well.
Attacking Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard
In these positions there are bags of talent available for Solskjaer and a few players who have not been given a lot of minutes so far this season. Jesse Lingard had a strange week last week with a mistake that cost United a point in the opening Champions League group stage match with Young Boys, which resulted in a 2-1 defeat with United in a leading position before Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sent off in the 35th minute. Lingard came on late in the match against West Ham on Sunday and scored the winning goal in the 89th minute of the match before David De Gea saved a penalty in added time, which secured the victory.
Donny van de Beek has not had many minutes of late and he is a player that should be doing so much more for United this season after the small part he played last season. I think he should play in Bruno Fernandes’ position in this match which will test him and see what he can bring to the table. To have the luxury of being able to rotate players will stop fatigue from setting in later in the season. Jadon Sancho has not yet settled in at United and playing in this match, which will not have the pressures of the Premier League or the Champions League could be good for him and allow him to show what he can do before the negative fans write him off.
Forwards: Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani has not played since the 1-0 victory away to Wolverhampton Wanderers which was almost a month ago. Solskjaer has suggested that he will be back in action for this match, which to me suggests that he will be starting. There are many positives here as he will rotate with Cristiano Ronaldo, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and even Marcus Rashford when he is fit and there is a possibility with the number of attacking players in the squad that Solskjaer could change the formation at times for matches, which would allow the club to not be seen as predictable going forward.
Last season, Cavani scored 17 goals and six assists in all competitions which was a great fit for United as with other players, they helped the club to achieve their second place in the Premier League and reach the final of the UEFA Europa League. Solskjaer will be hoping that the attacking line he has at the club this season, which has been fortified by the arrival of Jadon Sancho and Ronaldo will result in goals galore, which is something the Norwegian will be memorable of during the management of Sir Alex Ferguson which saw a swashbuckling United side take on their opposition.
Substitutes: Tom Heaton; Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes; Cristiano Ronaldo, Mason Greenwood
Just three substitutes can be used in this competition this season, two fewer than last season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Only seven substitutes can be named on the bench too, which is two fewer than in the Premier League this season. Solskjaer may be able to use some fringe players in this match, also utilising some minutes for the players that are not currently playing regularly. I think Solskjaer will give other players the chance to earn a place in the starting XI ahead of the next match, keeping players fresh as the club starts to play two matches each week for the foreseeable future with the Carabao Cup and the Champions League here.
I think Tom Heaton might be on the bench, but there is also a chance that Solskjaer rests De Gea but after his penalty save, he might be in the zone to continue playing for the club in the League Cup. In defence, Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka should be available, but Eric Bailly could well step in to replace the United captain on the bench. In midfield, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes could add something, should they be required in the match and in attack, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mason Greenwood should be available with Anthony Martial getting a midweek rest based on the fact his form is not up there with his teammates.
Written by John Walker