Bragging rights will be at stake when the two cross-town rivals Manchester United and Manchester City go head-to-head in a grueling EFL Cup tie.
Jose Mourinho took over the reins at Old Trafford in the summer and brought with him a plethora of expectations from the Manchester United faithful. In his first press-conference as Red Devils boss, the Portuguese spoke extremely highly about how he plans to take the club forward.
For a brief spell of time, things worked as per plan for him as he made a number of big-name signings in the transfer window. He roped in the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Henrik Mkhitaryan, and most importantly, broke the world-record transfer fee to bring the prodigal son Paul Pogba back to where it all began for him.
After winning their first three games in the league, the United of old seemed to be back as they were joint on top with Chelsea and Manchester City. But soon things began to spiral downwards for the Red Devils as they now find themselves languishing in 7th place, six points off the top four.
On the back of a shambolic 4-0 defeat against Chelsea, Mourinho will be itching to turn things around for his side and regain the confidence of his players and the fans alike. But given the Citizens’ squad and the pragmatic nature of their manager, it will take something out of the ordinary to book their berth in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
While City have enjoyed a better start to the campaign, they’re in a bit of a rut themselves as well. Failure to win their last five games has seen Pep Guardiola’s confidence a tad shaken up as he continues to impart his philosophy into the squad he has inherited.
The talking point of the Guardiola reign has been his falling out with longstanding midfield destroyer Yaya Toure, and recent reports suggest that Sergio Aguero’s Manchester City future too may be in the balance.
That being said, the Citizens will definitely go into this game as favourites and will probably hold the psychological edge as they beat their neighbours 2-1 at Old Trafford earlier in the season. While it may be a hectic 90 minutes or more for both teams, it will certainly be a treat for the neutral.
Much has been spoken about Jose Mourinho’s reluctance to start Michael Carrick in the Premier League. Marouane Fellaini has been shambolic playing as a midfield anchor, and his injury could see the English veteran slot straight into the starting eleven.
Paul Pogba too, could do with a breather, and could see Ander Herrera take play alongside Carrick in the midfield pivot. United’s lack of leadership in the weekend defeat over Chelsea could see the Portuguese tactician slot captain Wayne Rooney back into the fray as a number 10.
Marcus Rashford has been playing as a winger for the entire season, but could be experimented in a more central role against City. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been on a barren run of late and could be given the night off.
In defence, Luke Shaw is expected to return to the starting eleven, while Eric Bailly’s injury could see Chris Smalling and Daley Blind reunite at the heart of the United defence.
In the pre-match press conference, City boss Pep Guardiola said that he will be looking to rotate players. Kevin de Bruyne and Pablo Zabaleta are ruled out while captain Vincent Kompany continues to remain a major doubt.
Thus, we could see Nicholas Otamendi slot into the defence alongside John Stones and Aleksander Kolarov. De Bruyne’s absence could see Ilkay Gundogan named in the starting eleven. Fernandinho has been a mainstay in Pep’s team this season and could make way for Fabian Delph.
Jesus Navas and Nolito could be named as wingers with Rahem Sterling catching a much needed breather. Aguero is likely to be rested for this one and Kelechi Iheanacho seems to be the go-to man to replace the Argentine talisman.
- Manchester United have just won once in their last 4 games in all competitions.
- The Red Devils have scored 10 goals in their last 4 matches at Old Trafford.
- Manchester City have avoided defeat in 4 of their last 6 games against their cross-town rivals.
- The last time these sides met in the League Cup was in the 2009-10 semi-final, with United winning 4-3 on aggregate thanks to a 3-1 win at Old Trafford in the second leg.
- Two of Jose Mourinho’s three wins against Pep Guardiola as manager have come in cup competitions (one Champions League, one Copa Del Rey).
Watch out for
With all the buzz going around Aguero’s uncertain future at the Etihad Stadium, reserve striker Kelechi Iheancho could make the most out of the situation. The Nigerian has scored crucial goals against the bigger sides and also has a strike against Wednesday’s opponents to his name. He will be looking to add to his goal tally for the season and make matters worse for Mourinho and Manchester United.
Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City (City to win on penalties)
Given the form of both sides along with added injury worries, 120 minutes might not be enough to separate the two. City will be heading into the game as slight favourites, but will find it hard to run out as a comfortable winners as Mourinho will lay a greater emphasis on his side’s organisation.