What We Learned: Manchester United are out of the Carabao Cup, time to take advantage of fewer fixtures


Manchester United were knocked out of the Carabao Cup after a 2-1 defeat to Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Wednesday evening. It was a game United were trying to get the better of them from the very start of the game with Bristol on the attack and not showing any fear to Jose Mourinho’s side. Zlatan Ibrahimovic rattles the crossbar and Marcus Rashford rattled the post but it was Bristol who scored first in the 51st minute of the match. Ibrahimovic equalised eight minutes later but after that, despite United having chances, nothing was coming good. Three minutes were added at the end of the match and it seemed to be heading into extra time but Korey Smith scored the winner with United being the fourth Premier League side the Robins had knocked out this season.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic – he’s not past it yet – stop being a plumb

Many have been suggesting that Swedish striker is done. It was eight months ago that he suffered his knee injury and he was back in action before seven months were up. To suggest he is done is a pretty pathetic statement. Yes, he does not look like he did when he started to play for United but that is to be expected. Radamel Falcao endured a season on loan with United and another with Chelsea, only returning to his former self on his return to Monaco. I am not saying Ibrahimovic will return to himself in two years, or ever, but before you write him off, he should be given a chance.

The Swede was unlucky not to score a few goals against Bristol, rattling the crossbar and scoring that free-kick. It was all part of luck and United just did not have the rub of it at Ashton Gate. Ibrahimovic will need time and I was surprised he started this evening. Give him a month or two to get back into the swing of things and then see how it goes. Writing him off then would be too premature. The player believes he will return and so does the manager. They both see more than us to stop being reactionary and blaming something because United lost.

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Paul Pogba – rustiness or frustration?

Paul Pogba was back for United after sitting out the last three domestic fixtures due to that red card against Arsenal. The Frenchman was bound to be rusty and Jose Mourinho will perhaps hope that rustiness is out-of-the-way with United heading to Leicester on Saturday in the Premier League. It was a frustrating match for Pogba and looking at the performances from his teammates, that frustration is going to be present for a while yet.

Pogba had the chance to score for his club, a goal which would have been crucial but it just did not happen for him. That is bound to upset his mojo, as will being knockout out of the Carabao Cup by Championship opposition. Bristol deserved to win the match. They did not show United respect, which showed a professional team looking to cause another upset – knocking Watford, Stoke City, and Crystal Palace out of the cup already this season. Pogba is a player United need, the only inspiration on the pitch at times and hopefully, he will use this to be that figure again, starting on Saturday.

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Victor Lindelof – his performances are getting more confident – there is still improvement needed to be the first choice in defence

His debut was not the best in pre-season and competitively it did not get better but a few months into the season, the Swedish defender started to show signs that he was settling in and was starting to improve his game. Of course, it was never going to fall into place immediately. It didn’t for Patrice Evra or Nemanja Vidic and both became immense players for the club. The level of the opposition may have helped but Bristol never looked like a Championship team, just a team looking for the win – and they got it!

The match seemed to get to some of his teammates but Lindelof kept calm and composed which stood out for him. It will look good for his character and when he fully develops at the club, those characteristics could see him chosen over other players, which is probably why Mourinho made the move for him. Lindelof, however, was caught out for the winning goal, which he probably should have stopped, but his teammates were caught out too. That sort of thing happens and will be a learning curve.

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Manchester United, the holders, are out of the Carabao Cup this season. That will cut their January fixtures down by two matches which could have seen another two Manchester derby’s seeing as they are Bristol’s opposition in the semi-final. Bristol are worthy winners and against Manchester City, they may be that Championship team to knock five Premier League teams out of the Carabao Cup this season. United should not spend too long dwelling on the result. It is the Carabao Cup, a cup United were mocked for celebrating last season, by the fans of the three Premier League teams still in the competition, looking to celebrate the eventual win themselves, if they get there.

There are some advantages for United now they are out of the Carabao Cup. The fixtures would have been played during the weeks commencing the 8th January and the 22nd January. This now means that after United have played Derby County in the Emirates FA Cup, they will have ten days before they face Stoke City in the Premier League. Later in the month, there will be eleven days break between the visits to Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur. If United get into the fourth round of the FA Cup, there will be a game in between those two matches, maybe a postponement. United will play two fewer matches in January – that has to be a bonus, right?

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