Tag Capital One Cup

Tag Capital One Cup

United v Middlesbrough: Reds in ‘the red zone’

October 27, 2015 Tags: , Matches 1 comment
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Strange competition the Capital One Cup. While leading Premier League sides have, for more than 20 years, used the nation’s second cup tournament as a proving ground for youngsters, and an opportunity for fringe players to gain minutes, the practice has seemingly spread. So much so that Championship high fliers Middlesbrough may well not field a full-strength side when the club takes on United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Aitor Karanka’s side is just 13 matches into a brutal 46-game Championship season, with England’s second tier a notoriously competitive arena. Last season’s Championship winners, Bournemouth, lost 13 times on route to claiming the league title by a single point. There were just five points between first and fourth, and 12 between first and sixth-placed Ipswich Town. By contrast there were 17 points between Premier League title winners Chelsea and United in fourth, and 25 points to Liverpool in sixth.

If the competitive nature of the Championship leads Karanka to a policy of rotation on Wednesday, few will be surprised, although the team is also more than a little battle hardened. As it should be under a coach who once served as José Mourinho’s apprentice.

Karanka, the former Real Madrid and Spain defender, was appointed manager at Boro in November 2013, replacing local favourite Tony Mowbray. He previously served as assistant manager to Mourinho at Madrid for three years prior to Carlo Ancelotti’s appointment, while as a player Karanka won three Champions League titles in five seasons from 1998, together with La Liga in 2001.

The lofty pedigree might normally have taken Karanka to a more prestigious appointment. It was, perhaps, a brave move from a storied player – both to take a first managerial job in unfamiliar territory and to drop down a division – but one that is bearing early fruit. His side is just five points off the Championship summit and has won eight of the last 10 games.

That spell under Mourinho has seemingly served Karanka well; his side boasts one of the best defensive records in the division. And while the apple seldom falls far from the tree, the Boro coach also cites United manager Louis van Gaal as a secondary, if indirect, influence.

“I played against Van Gaal’s team when he was in Barcelona and Jose was his assistant but we have never met for a chat and I don’t really know him,” he told the Northern Echo .

“But Jose told me all about his CV, his trophies and his career and he is a top, top manager. He is an interesting coach and he is particularly interesting for me because I have learned with Jose and Jose learned from van Gaal. I took the lessons from Jose so I feel I have learned from van Gaal too. Jose always speaks very well of van Gaal.

“He said he has mixed things like everybody to make himself better. Everybody has to take the good things from relationship and he considers van Gaal really positively. I am my own manager but as I learn I would like to think I have taken positive things from strong relationships I’ve had.”

Van Gaal, meanwhile, may look to some of his younger players in the Capital One Cup, although the United manager fielded a strong side in victory over Ipswich in the third round. Still, James Wilson, Jesse Lindgard, and Andreas Pereira will all hope to play some part on Wednesday.

Pereira scored a superb free-kick against Ipswich in a well-received full début for the club. That said, the Brazilian has made just two appearances this season – the other as a substitute in the Champions League – after a highly positive showing on the summer tour of the USA.

While the 20-year-old might ordinarily have gone out on loan this season, especially with the club well stocked in the attacking midfield roles Pereira enjoys, he believes that there is an opportunity to break into Van Gaal’s side.

“It’s good to work with the manager here,” he told United Review. “He’ll bring you into the team if you do well and train well. I have a trust with him and it’s a nice feeling to work with someone who will give you the opportunity. If you do something wrong, he will tell you and, if you do something right, he will tell you.”

Pereira’s opportunity could come with Van Gaal describing a number of his players as “in the red zone” coming into the game. The Dutchman has used rotation sparsely this season, even with a small squad.

Then again, fielding patchwork sides in this competition is a policy that does not always serve manager’s well. Last season’s chastening defeat at MK Dons remains fresh in the memory, while Arsenal’s 3-0 battering at Championship side Sheffield Wednesday also serves as a stark reminder.

Still, history remains on United’s side – the Reds have won 13 of the last 14 home ties in the League Cup. The sole defeat: to then Championship side Crystal Palace.

Team news and line-ups

Manchester United v Middlesbrough, Capital One Cup, Old Trafford, 28 October 2015

Van Gaal is without injured trio Antonio Valencia, Paddy McNair and Luke Shaw, although all eyes will be on captain Wayne Rooney, whose form this season has been the topic of prolonged conversation. Indeed, questions about Rooney’s form noticeably irritated Van Gaal following United’s bore draw with Manchester City on Sunday. The captain will surely play.

Elsewhere first teamers Marouane Fellaini, Memphis Depay and Daley Blind will hope to earn a recall, while Anthony Martial could be in line for a well-earned rest. Ashley Young is fit again, while one of Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling or Phil Jones could drop to the bench. With Valencia injured, Matteo Darmian comes back into the side, with Lingard set to be retained on the right-wing.

“Valencia is injured,” van Gaal confirmed on Tuesday. “But I have a lot of players in the ‘red zone’ because we have had a lot of matches and we have a lot of matches to play. I have to see if I can use them or not. We need all the days to recover at this moment, so it is difficult to say.”

Meanwhile, Boro will be without Adam Forshaw, Albert Adomah and Christian Stuani through injury. Karanka could deploy City loanee Bruno Zuculini in midfield, with the Argentine joining on a month’s loan on Monday.

United subs from: Romero, Rojo, Pereira, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderline, Mata, Wilson, Martial
Middlesbrough subs from: Fry, Stephens, Amorebieta, Maloney, Zuculini, Nsue, Adomah, Nugent

Match officials
Referee: Lee Mason
Assistant referees: S Long and M Wilkes
Fourth Official: A Woolmer

Prediction
United 3-0 Middlesbrough

£1 bet club
Memphis to score twice at 15/2

Match graphic by @cole007

United v Ipswich Town: Pereira’s big chance

September 22, 2015 Tags: , Matches 2 comments
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For more than two decades the League Cup, in all its various sponsorship guises, has become a synonym for youth at Manchester United. After all, many of the ‘Class of 92’ took their first steps in this tournament, with Paul Scholes making his club bow in United’s 2–1 victory over Port Vale almost 21-years-ago to the day. Sir Alex Ferguson effectively invented the practice, using the League Cup as a proving ground for the club’s academy prospects and a run-out for players on the fringes of the first team.

In United’s opening game of the 2015/16 competition Louis van Gaal’s side may contain few of the club’s contemporary youth, although it may be an important night for Brazilian youngster Andreas Pereira who should start for the first time this season.

Van Gaal enjoyed no success employing Ferguson’s method in last season’s defeat at Milton Keynes Dons, where a 4-0 loss shaped the Dutchman’s thinking about his squad early in the campaign. The result solidified the perception that Javier Hernández, Danny Welbeck, Anderson and Shinji Kagawa had no place in the Dutchman’s plans – and in total nine United players who started that match no longer play for the club.  Of the 18-man matchday squad selected at Milton Keynes, only five – David de Gea, Paddy McNair, James Wilson, Nick Powell and Andreas Pereira -remain Old Trafford employees. Loanee Adnan Januzaj could yet return from a loan at Borussia Dortmund, although Powell appears unlikely to make the breakthrough at the club.

United’s calamity at Stadium:mk last September is fresh in Van Gaal’s memory, although the Dutchman will change-up his squad to some extent against Ipswich Town on Tuesday. But injuries and a thin squad means there is limited scope for fresh faces against an Ipswich side that lies fifth in the Championship table – although United should still complete a comfortable victory over Mick McCarthy’s side on Wednesday night. There is, after all, a large gap in quality between teams at the top of English football’s pyramid and those one rung down.

Still, in the context of United’s last outing in the Capital One Cup, there will be few of Van Gaal’s squad who will want to fail against lower-league opposition again. Nor, indeed, will a manager who is yet to find real consistency from his team, despite Sunday’s victory over Southampton, which takes United to second place in the Premier League table.

The Dutchman’s selection will certainly be shaped by the paucity of options available for the clash – a situation created both through injury and because United sports a smaller squad than has been typical at Old Trafford over the past 20 years. It is a surprise, in that context at least, that neither James Wilson nor Jesse Lingard will play, each having completed 90 minutes for United’s under-21 team on Monday night.

“Last year we were already out in the second round,” said Van Gaal of last season’s humiliation in this competition. “Now we are already in the third round so we are already further but you have to fight for every cup and that is what we shall do. Ipswich are a very good team, I have seen them play, we have analysed them, and they have very good players. They will play directly to their strikers and that’s always difficult to defend. Cambridge and Preston North End did it, [in last year’s FA Cup] but we beat them both.”

Meanwhile, McCarthy’s side has started the season in inconsistent fashion, with a six-point gap to league leaders Brighton & Hove Albion having opened up. The Tractor Boys narrowly missed out on promotion last season after defeat to local rivals Norwich City in the play-offs. It remains a significant wound.

McCarthy also resumes a long-standing rivalry with Van Gaal. The Barnsley-born manager was in charge of the Republic of Ireland side that effectively knocked Netherlands out of the 2002 World Cup in the qualification stages after a 1-0 Irish victory at Lansdowne Road. That win offered McCarthy one of his career highlights against a manager whom he perceived to be arrogant. Not the first time that charge has been levelled against United’s Dutch coach.

“I can tell you I was absolutely fucking delighted to win that one,” said 56-year-old McCarthy.

“It was all starting to annoy me at the time because they were all booking their hotels and getting ready to be in the play-offs. It was as if he had no chance. Unfortunately for Louis, one of you guys will have asked ‘do you think Mick McCarthy’s job will be under pressure if they lose?’ And he will have answered honestly and said ‘it probably will’. He answers a question honestly and I get the hump about it! That’s just the way it is. At the time I was probably an angrier younger man.”

There will be many of a similar ilk among the home support should the Reds fail on Wednesday – youth selected or otherwise. For Ipswich it is, according to McCarthy, an “incentive for the rest of the season” and the manager a “sharp reminder” of what he wants most: to manage once again in the Premier League.

Team news and line-ups

Manchester United v Ipswich Town, Capital One Cup, 22 September 2015

Phil Jones and Pereira could both feature at some point, although the Englishman will start the game as a substitute having only just returned to first team training following injury. The United manager is short of defenders, with Marcos Rojo suffering a hamstring problem against Southampton on his return to the United starting line-up, and Paddy McNair also injured. Guillermo Varela could make his first team début in the back four.

“First we have to see who is available,” said Van Gaal. “Luke Shaw is of course not available but the players who came into the Southampton game, for example Marcos Rojo, he is not ready to play. Neither is Paddy McNair, he is also injured. It’s not so nice we have three defenders injured but I can line up 11 players so that is not the problem. Because of the injury I shall have [Jones] on the bench but he is not fit. Maybe he can play 30 minutes. He is a lucky boy that I don’t have other substitutes.”

Elsewhere, Pereira, will be presented with a rare opportunity in the first team. The Brazilian youngster enjoyed a productive summer, as a winner with his country at the Under-20 World Cup, and then for the club on the pre-season tour of the United States.

Marouane Fellaini, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney are all options in attack, while Ander Herrera could come back into the side.

Meanwhile, McCarthy could also rotate his squad, with the club’s focus squarely on promotion from the Championship this season. Ipswich will be able to call on Ryan Fraser and Kevin Bru, who return from injury, while goalkeeper Dean Gerken faces a late assessment.

United subs from: Johnstone, Darmian, Jones, Carrick, Schweinsteiger, Goss, Mata, Memphis, Rooney
Ipswich subs from: Parr, Murphy, McGoldrick, Alabi, Oar, Fraser, Malarczyk, Bialkowski, Coke, Fraser, Bru

Match officials
Referee: Simon Hooper
Assistant referees: Mark Dwyer and Peter Wright
Fourth Official: Carl Boyeson

Prediction
United 3-1 Ipswich

£1 bet club
Anthony Martial to score a hat-trick @ 18/1

Match graphic by @cole007

MK Dons v United: Reds venture into the unknown

August 26, 2014 Tags: , Matches 35 comments
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Strange times these at Manchester United. Not only is United’s side distinctly average, but the Glazer family has sanctioned more than £120 million in spending during this summer’s window to correct the failure; £200 million over the past 12 months. The world turn on its head. While the Americans’ relatively loose purse-strings has much to do with the family’s under-investment over the past eight years, United’s distinct mediocrity is a sight absent for a quarter-century.

The League Cup’s second round is a case in point: it is almost two decades since United last entered the tournament at a stage reserved for England’s lesser lights and clubs not in European competition. The last time United played at this stage was October 1995 versus York City. The Reds lost.

It is some come down for a manager as decorated as Louis van Gaal. Still, the match at stadium:mk proffers opportunity to a clutch of young players not yet given matches under Van Gaal’s leadership. More important, perhaps, a chance for the Reds to claim a first victory during the Dutchman’s tenure. United’s draw with Sunderland and the loss to Swansea City have come at the expense of intense national debate.

Better results will come of course, not least when a handful of players return from injury. Van Gaal is without Chris Smalling for the trip south after the England international suffered a groin injury against Sunderland at the weekend. Meanwhile Ander Herrera will not be risked despite returning to training this week. Rafael da Silva, Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick, Jesse Lingard and Marouane Fellaini remain on the sidelines.

New signing Marcos Rojo is yet to receive a work permit, although United should push through a £59 million deal for Angel Di Maria before the weekend’s Premier League fixture with Burnley at Turf Moor. The Argentinian holds an Italian passport and will be cleared to play as soon as the international paperwork is filed with FIFA.

Michael Keane, Tyler Blackett and Tom Thorpe could all feature in an inexperienced defence, while dynamic striker James Wilson will find a place on the bench at a minimum. Van Gaal may also include Javier Hernández, Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck in the team to face MK Dons – none of the trio appears to feature in the Dutchman’s preferred XI.

MK Dons v United, 26 August 2014

Meanwhile, Milton Keynes manager Karl Robinson is without first choice goalkeeper David Martin and full-back Lee Hodson, although midfielder Samir Carruthers could play after recovering from a thigh problem. Robinson has built a reputation for playing good football over fours years in charge of Milton Keynes. The Scouser is just 33, but took over at MK Dons in his late 20s twenties after spending time as Paul Ince’s assistant.

The Dons formed when Wimbledon relocated to Milton Keynes in September 2003, more than a year after receiving clearance from the Football Association. It was a decision that many supporters find as disgraceful today as it was more than a decade years ago. Initially called “Wimbledon,” MK Dons renamed in 2004 and eventually relinquished records and trophies to the reformed AFC Wimbledon in 2007.

The convoluted history means that United is yet to face MK Dons in the club’s current guise, although the Glazer family might find some level of simpatico with MK Dons’ predatory chairman Pete Winkelman. The businessman forced through the relocation in 2003 and spent years refusing to ‘hand back Wimbledon’s history’. The debate rages on, with Milton Keynes unwilling to drop the “Dons” moniker despite a long-running supporter-led campaign. The reward: on Tuesday Winkelman’s side will face United in front of a sell-out 29,000 capacity crowd.

“Will I feel vindicated? It’s not about feeling vindicated, I’ll feel pleased,” Winkelman told The Independent.

“I would like to have done something that could be respected rather than upsetting. But it was always about a stadium for Milton Keynes. I knew that and being able to fill the stadium for this match shows other people that the idea of top-flight football in Milton Keynes is still alive.”

“Do I still feel the same way as I did 10 years ago? No. I understand the culture of English football much more, so I have many different feelings about how we got here. But what is clear is that there had to be football here. Tonight is a dream come true.”

For Wimbledon it is anything but a dream – and there is no little irony in Milton Keynes having beaten AFC Wimbledon in round one of this year’s League Cup competition.

United’s challenge is different. The global fanbase and blue chip sponsors are already in place, but it means little without success on the pitch. This is a goal Van Gaal is striving towards, albeit one that has hit two significant roadblocks over the past 10 days.

“It is a process,” claimed the Dutcman last week. One in which victory in Milton Keynes will contribute much – not least to a squad’s confidence, which appears little more than paperthin.

Teams
MK Dons (4-4-1-1): McLoughlin; Baldock, Lewington, Kay, McFadzean; Alli, Potter, Powell, Reeves, Bowditch; Grigg.
United (3-4-1-2): Amos; Thorpe, Keane, Blackett; Valencia, Cleverley, Januzaj, James; Kagawa; Welbeck, Hernández

Subs from
MK Dons: Flanagan, Spence, Randall, Hitchcock, Carruthers, Afobe, Burns
United: Johnstone, de Gea, Smalling, Jones, Zaha, Powell, Blackett, Fletcher, Young, Mata, Rooney, Van Persie, Wilson.

Head-to-head
n/a

Officials
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistant referees: Ryan T Atkin and Ian Cooper
Fourth Official: Keith Hill

Prediction
MK Dons 1 – 2 United

£1 bet club
Javier Hernandez & 1-2 @ 22/1

Running total: £(-)2

Preview: United v Sunderland

January 21, 2014 Tags: , Matches 5 comments
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It is not as if David Moyes lacks for practice this season, but the Scot does an increasingly impressive line in dead pan comedy. At least that is one interpretation of the Moyes’ reaction to United’s latest – the ninth – defeat of a frankly disastrous season. “We were unlucky,” said Moyes in the aftermath. “I thought we played quite well at times.” It was a line that the Scot took into the dressing room according to at least one post-match report; analysis that is unlikely to have impressed seasoned campaigners who know far better. The Reds were neither unlucky, nor did they play well in the capital.

The latest knock to United’s hopes, and Moyes’ credibility, was comprehensive defeat at Stamford Bridge, no matter how generous the analysis of United’s fleeting toehold in the game. The Reds’ positive start in west London would yield few chances, let alone goals; and with United’s defence erring on the side of embarrassing calamity at the other end there was little surprise at the ease of Chelsea’s eventual victory. That José Mourinho’s side barely broke sweat must be a concern not only in United’s dressing room, but the boardroom. For while Moyes’ players are not performing, they are not performing for him.

Indeed, prior to United’s Capital One Cup first leg encounter with Sunderland a fortnight ago veteran Scot Darren Fletcher had proclaimed there “no point” in turning up if Moyes’ players could not motivate themselves for the game. It turned out to be a prescient comment, with United largely run ragged by one of the Premier League’s worst sides.

So to Wednesday at Old Trafford, with Moyes afforded the opportunity for at least a modicum of satisfaction this month. Should United beat Sunderland, to join Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley in March, Moyes will be within reach of his first trophy as a manager. Few may back United to beat City, but a final, is a final, after all.

Yet, the desire to beat Sunderland must be qualified and with it comes a measure of United’s fall from grace this season. That the Premier League champions should start a cup semi-final encounter against perennial relegation fodder genuinely unsure of the result is a sign of changing times indeed.

Victory by a single goal should be enough for Moyes’ outfit, but four Premier League defeats on home turf this season point to a potentially difficult night ahead all the same. In fact Moyes’ side has lost four of the past seven home matches, while Gus Poyet’s outfit has lost just one in 10.

Still, there is a cup final at stake. Another trip to Wembley, another opportunity to deny City further trophies in that once traditionally barren cupboard. Confidence may be lacking, both on the pitch and the terraces, but there is an opportunity to put one over the old enemy nonetheless. One for the fans, as Moyes might put it.

“We’re going to go out and do everything we can to get through,” the manager told MUTV in the aftermath of defeat at Stamford Bridge. “I want to give the supporters something to cheer about. There’s not been an awful lot and I’m fully aware of that.”

Manchester United v Sunderland, Capital One Cup, Old Trafford, 7.45pm 22 January 2014If victory is to come ‘for the fans’ then it will do so without either Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie. One, or perhaps both of the strike pair, could make United’s Premier League encounter with Cardiff City at Old Trafford next Tuesday, but neither is ready for Sunderland. Indeed, Moyes will be short in multiple areas, with Nemanja Vidić starting the first of a three match suspension following his dismissal at Stamford Bridge. Nani is definitely out, while Marouanne Fellaini is not yet ready for competitive football, and Patrice Evra picked up a knock at Stamford Bridge.

Still, there should be no doubt in the dressing room of the fixture’s importance, with the Premier League title now way beyond United’s reach and few bold enough to predict victory in Europe this season. With Moyes credibility in question, silverware is the Scot’s only legitimate response to critics keen to point the finger at the manager’s failings.

“It was always massively important to us – we want to win every competition. Now we have to go out and produce the goods. We have to get to that final,” said youngster Phil Jones, who partnered Michael Carrick in midfield at Chelsea

“The fans have been terrific and they were great again on Sunday. They’ve not had the easiest of times this season but they’ve stuck by us and that’s important. We all need to stick together – fans, players, staff – and we’ll come out stronger for that.”

It is a positive spin on a tough season, although there are few guarantees that United will improve as the campaign draws on. There has been little sign of it to date.

Meanwhile, the visitors have received a boost from Poyet’s appointment. The trauma of Paolo di Canio’s short reign now forgotten, Sunderland can legitimately hope for Premier League survival this season having briefly moved outside the bottom three at the weekend. There were more than a few occasions through the autumn that relegation looked certain.

And the more positive outlook received a double boost this week, with Sunderland bringing in defender Santiago Vergini and goalkeeper Oscar Ustari on loan. Neither is likely to start at Old Trafford, while striker Steven Fletcher is an injury concern. Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and defender Carlos Cuellar remain on the sidelines.

“You don’t get to a semi-final every year – sometimes not even in 10 years,” said Poyet ahead of Wednesday’s game.

“It’s a great opportunity to put ourselves in a final but we’ve only done part of the job. We must go there and try to make sure we finish the job and put ourselves in the final. We’re going to play the game as normal. It’s a game we need to manage properly. We need a complete game – we must defend well, be strong and be good on the ball. We must attack to create chances and score goals. If we score then it will be more difficult for Manchester United.”

The Mackems have won just two of the past 25 meetings with United in all competitions, with both victories coming in the League Cup. Few will back the visitors to repeat the 2-1 win a fortnight ago. Yet, while that victory may have come with a touch of fortune, it was still hard earned. This is a lesson that United’s under-performing stars will do well to heed, lest their manager take  more heat in a most difficult campaign.

Manchester United v Sunderland, Capital One Cup, 7.45pm, 22 January 2014

Possible Teams
United (4-5-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Buttner; Valencia, Carrick, Fletcher, Young; Januzaj; Welbeck. Subs from: Lindegaard, Smalling, Kagawa, Zaha, Giggs, Hernández, Cleverley, Fabio

Sunderland (4-5-1): Mannone; Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Alonso; Larsson, Colback, Cattermole, Ki, Johnson; Borini. Subs from: Gardner, Fletcher, Celustka, Pickford, Giaccherini, Roberge, Altidore, Vergini, Ustari

Head-to-head
United 56 Draw 28 Sunderland 37

Officials
Referee: Lee Mason
Assistant Referees: Jake Collin and Simon Long
Fourth Official: Michael Dean

Prediction
2-0

Matchday Forum discussion

Preview: Sunderland v United

January 6, 2014 Tags: , Matches 7 comments
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Rarely in recent times can a League Cup fixture have been so important. Seventh in the Premier League and dumped out of the FA Cup, the Capital One Cup now represents Manchester United’s best – perhaps only – realistic shot at silverware in a season that has lurched from one crisis-of-confidence to another. While it is easy for supporters to find themselves wrapped up in media hyperbole, there is little doubt fundamental changes for the negative have taken place at Old Trafford since David Moyes was appointed in July 2013. The question remains whether United reached a nadir in defeat to Swansea City at the weekend, or if the worst is still to come.

Certainly, while Moyes’ squad is low on confidence, the Scot should take heart from United’s form on the road as the Reds head to the north east for Tuesday’s cup match at Sunderland. Moyes’ side is unbeaten in the last seven games away from home, and have won the last three.

Indeed, United also emerged victorious from the Premier League clash at the Stadium of Light in October, with teenager Adnan Januzaj scoring twice on his full début to rescue three points for the Reds. Still, it was another uncertain performance from United, with Craig Gardner’s early goal handing struggling Sunderland a deserved half-time lead until Januzaj’s double.

That victory had come after defeats to Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion in late September, leaving United to muster similar resolve for Tuesday’s first leg. The team has been here far too many times this season.

Still, facing the worst team in the Premier League, midfielder Darren Fletcher says that the Reds have no excuses for underperformance on Wearside after a “bad result” that “let the manager and the fans down” on Sunday.

“It’s a League Cup semi-final, if you can’t lift yourself for that then it’s no good,” said the 29-year-old midfielder who only recently returned from more than a year on the sidelines with an acute bowel condition.

“We have got a great opportunity, we are away to Sunderland and we’ve got to recover quickly and lift ourselves. That’s a massive game now.”

“The players know that the fans are behind us and put performances in for the them, the manager and the staff. It’s got to happen sooner rather than later and there’s not better occasion than the semi-final on Tuesday.”

Sunderland v Manchester United, Capital One Cup, Stadium of Light, 7.45pm, 7 January 2014Moyes side heads into the game carrying injuries, although the Scot may well field a stronger team that the one which faced Swansea in Manchester. However, Rio Ferdinand is likely to miss the game after limping off against the Welsh side, while Phil Jones, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney are all unlikely to return before the weekend’s Old Trafford rematch with the Swans.

It is a glut of absences that have patently disrupted United this season, although Moyes has failed to help his own cause by rushing both van Persie and Rooney back from injuries. On each occasion the player suffered fresh injury to stoke further controversy surrounding the Scot’s training methods.

Moyes blames a crowded fixture list for a physio room that now extends to eight players amid 63 separate injuries since the 50-year-old replaced Sir Alex Ferguson.

“Injuries are part of football and there’s very little we can do about most of them. I think they’re down to the large number of games we play as well,” said the United manager.

“Robin’s been out with a sore groin; he played really well against Arsenal and scored the winner. We gave him a week’s holiday to recover – he didn’t go away with Holland – he came back and hasn’t really been right since. He played one game against Newcastle and, the next game, he pulled his thigh taking a corner.

“Wayne’s struggling now. He’s had it for three or four weeks and played through. We left him out for a game or two to try to recover it, but he’s now beginning to feel it a bit more and we have to be careful not to turn it into something worse. A week off might be enough or he might need a bit more than that – I think it’s the sort of thing that a couple of weeks might fix.”

Injuries and rotation mean that Moyes will almost certainly freshen his side up for Tuesday’s match, with captain Nemanja Vidić, Michael Carrick, Patrice Evra, David de Gea, and Adnan Januzaj set to start in a match Moyes has prioritised. Indeed, the manager is unlikely to dip into United’s reserve side again this season, having only blooded Januzaj from last season’s Under-21 Premier League champions.

Meanwhile, Sunderland continue to struggle under manager Gus Poyet’s stewardship this season. The Mackems lie bottom of the Premier League table with just 14 points from 20 games and may need a further 26 from 16  to survive.

It leaves the Capital One Cup run as a welcome distraction, both for manager and players. And akin to many of United’s opponents this season Sunderland, Poyet’s side is set to attack the Reds, believing Moyes side to be vulnerable.

“We are going out to win it and depending on how you play on the day, the decisions you take, the accidents players make, the idea remains the same, to go into every game to win it,” said Poyet, who was controversially sacked as manager of Brighton in the summer.

“This is the nicest part of the season because the rest has been a nightmare in the league, so let’s try and enjoy it and achieve something. I am looking forward to seeing my team playing and doing their best.

“The closer we get to the match will mean the players will feel the atmosphere more and it will be great for them, but I will remind them that on the day anyone can beat anyone.”

However, with Sunderland short of cover in defence United might also be best served by a policy of attack. Valentin Roberge, John O’Shea, Carlos Cuellar and Modibo Diakite are out injured, with South Korea midfielder Ki Sung-yeung playing at centre-half in Sunday’s FA Cup victory against Carlisle.

Still, history is against the home side, with Sunderland having gone 20 games without a win against United stretching back to a League Cup victory in 2000. Mind you, Swansea had never previously won at Old Trafford, while Everton and Newcastle United have each broken decades-long losing streaks at United’s home this season. It is a series of shattered records in which Moyes can hold no pride.

Yet, United is yet to concede a goal in this season’s Capital One Cup, beating Liverpool, Norwich City and Stoke City along the way. It is a positive omen in a season of fewer ups than downs.

Sunderland v Manchester United, Capital One Cup, Stadium of Light, 7.45pm, 7 January 2014

Possible Teams
Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Celustka, O’Shea, Brown, Dossena; Cattermole; Giaccherini, Gardner, Larsson, Johnson; Altidore. Subs from: Ki, Colback, Fletcher, Pickford, Bardsley, Alonso, Roberge, Borini, Ba, Karlsson, Mavrias

United (4-4-2): De Gea; Smalling, Evans, Vidić, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Januzaj; Hernández, Welbeck. Subs from: Lindegaard, Buttner, Zaha, Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs, Kagawa

Head-to-head
Sunderland 39 Draw 36 United 61

Officials
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant Referees: Sian Massey and Peter Bankes
Fourth Official: Craig Pawson

Prediction
0-1

Matchday Forum discussion

Preview: Stoke City v United

December 18, 2013 Tags: , Matches 1 comment
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There may be a small part of David Moyes, buried a little beneath the surface, that wouldn’t be too hurt if his side loses in Stoke on Wednesday. After all, victory would take Manchester United into the Capital One Cup semi-finals, adding two fixtures to an already difficult January schedule. With Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and two ties with Swansea City to come in the New Year, every part of Moyes’ squad is set to be be tested.

January is to come though. For the moment any sense of momentum gained from Sunday’s victory over Aston Villa is vital in a season of frustrating inconsistency. Tough schedule in the New Year or not United must simply build a winning run through a series of games in December before a more challenging schedule emerges in 2014.

With United still 10 points behind leaders Arsenal momentum is now everything if the Reds are to ensure Champions League qualification next season, let alone retain the Premier League title.

Still, this is the Capital One Cup and United travels to the Potteries with Moyes ready to make a raft of changes. Indeed, some of the Scot’s squad are short of minutes this season, although Moyes has extensively rotated throughout the campaign. That the former Everton manager is yet to settle on his preferred matchday squad, let alone his best 11, is a mark of constant flux at Old Trafford this season.

The pattern is certain to be repeated on Wednesday, both through injury and rotation. Certainly out is Dutchman Robin van Persie, who would not have featured even if the striker had not picked up a thigh injury last week. Meanwhile, midfielder Michael Carrick is not expected to return from an achilles problem for another fortnight.

Stoke City v  Manchester United, Capital One Cup, Britannia Stadium, 7.45 17 December 2013On a more positive note Shinji Kagawa could feature in the cup squad despite missing Sunday’s victory in Birmingham, while Marouane Fellaini returns after suffering from a back strain. Chris Smalling could start after returning to training this week, while Wilfried Zaha should feature at some point against Stoke.

“We have a squad of players who I believe can all play in any game, so I’ll see who I think is ready,” said Moyes on Tuesday.

“We have a lot of games coming up and we need to use that squad. I’ll look at this game and see who is best suited. But I think we have fielded a strong side in every game we have played.

“Managers might have some priorities that are more important than others but I’ve tried to win every competition I’ve been involved in and I will definitely do everything I can to win this one.”

Aside from three points perhaps the most positive outcome from United’s weekend victory was the reemergence of Darren Fletcher at Villa Park. The 29-year-old Scot has missed much of the past two years with a persistent bowel condition that required three operations over the summer.

Now fit and illness-free, Fletcher featured as a second-half substitute against Villa and may repeat the cameo against Stoke on Wednesday. Few expect the Scot to have a major impact on United’s season, with Fletcher having made just 11 appearances over the past three campaigns, yet the midfielder’s return remains a great news story in a campaign of few bright moments.

The Scot’s fight to play once again, where many expected early retirement, is surely an inspiration to colleagues who have seemingly lost some of the old determination.

“If the operation was not a success there was no way I would be able to play football,” Fletcher told ManUtd.com this week.

“My everyday life would be very difficult if it wasn’t a success. It was two or three operations not just one, so it was psychologically challenging dealing with surgery as well. But I couldn’t live my life at all. I needed something to be done.

“There was a day in about May when we said ‘this is it’. Once I came out of that operation it was going to be, ‘this has either worked or it hasn’t’. It was a very emotional day. There was a lot of fear and anxiety and a lot of build-up. When that moment came, it was such a relief.”

“Now I am back to normal, I am standing here and I do not have ulcerative colitis. I have come through that, and now I am leading a normal life. I am back playing football in the Premier League, it has all been a success. I am just like anyone else.”

Meanwhile, Stoke manager Mark Hughes will be without German defender Robert Huth who is recovering from knee surgery, although Matthew Etherington is available again after being sidelined with a back problem.

Hughes, who enjoyed a spiky relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson, is forcing through a period of transition at Stoke in the post-Tony Pullis era. No longer purely a long-ball side, Hughes’ outfit has gained some notable results this season including a recent victory over Chelsea.

And Hughes is not one to join many pundits and supporters in believing that United is weaker under Moyes than in previous seasons. The Welshman is set to field a strong Stoke side against the club for whom he appeared 467 times in two spells as a player.

“Manchester United teams always display certain characteristics and traits, and in recent weeks people have wondered what kind of season they will be having,” said the Stoke manager.

“But when that happens, invariably the players respond. That’s what you saw against Aston Villa. The qualities that United teams in the past have had are still there in abundance.

“But this is a game that we want to win, and that will be shown in the team that I select. You do have to be conscious of certain things over this period, because you don’t want to burn out your players, but at the same time you want to win matches too – whether they be in the Premier League or in the cup competitions.”

It is a sentiment with which Moyes might agree. In fact with United so far behind in the league, and not one of the favourites in European competition, the Capital One Cup represents a realistic opportunity for the Scot to secure his first trophy as United manager.

It  is a prize, albeit a lesser one, that the Scot risks in selecting a much-changed team on Wednesday.

Stoke City v Manchester United, Capital One Cup, Britannia Stadium, 7.45pm, 17 December 2013

Teams
Stoke (4-5-1): Sørensen; Pieters, Shawcross, Muniesa, Cameron; Arnautovic, Whelan, Adam, Ireland, Assaidi; Jones. Subs from: Begovic, N’Zonzi, Wilson, Palacios, Crouch, Pennant, Wilkinson

United (4-4-2): Lindegaard; Fabio, Smalling, Ferdinand, Buttner; Nani, Jones, Cleverley, Young; Welbeck, Hernández. Subs from: De Gea, Johnstone, Rafael, Evans, Evra, Vidić, Anderson, Fletcher, Ekangamene, Cole, Giggs, Zaha, Valencia, Kagawa, Januzaj, Rooney

Head-to-head
Stoke 26 Draw 32 United 40

Officials (all Serbian)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Assistants: Simon Beck, Ian Hussin
Fourth Official: Simon Hooper

Prediction
2-3

Matchday Forum discussion

Momentum, at last

October 31, 2013 Tags: , , Opinion 9 comments
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Admittedly it is a little churlish, but there’s nothing quite like winning to prove the fickle nature of fandom. With 15 minutes to go, Stoke City 2-1 up at Old Trafford on Saturday, David Moyes was under intense pressure. Little wonder after Manchester United’s most traumatic start to a campaign in the past decade. Two attacking substitutions later and a sense of momentum has developed around the club; comprehensive victory over Norwich City on Tuesday only creates renewed belief after three wins on the spin and a run of six games unbeaten.

The Reds haven’t metamorphosed from Champions to whipping boys, and back again, inside three months, although Moyes’ start to life at Old Trafford has been anything but positive. Indeed, a pervading sense that United had gone backwards this summer was catalysed by an incomprehensibly shambolic approach to the transfer market, and reinforced with three Premier League defeats in the opening six games.

After 25 years of success under Sir Alex Ferguson, Moyes – conservative, frustrating Moyes – had not only found a way to lose, but to do it in distinctly un-Manchester United fashion. To paraphrase Guardian journalist Daniel Harris, only three things had changed from the team that won the Premier League by 11 points last season: a player acquired by Moyes, the coaches Moyes brought in, and Moyes.

Yet, the late draw with Southampton, followed by a positive performance against Real Sociedad, and victories over Stoke and Norwich, has put a halt, for the moment at least, to the aura of negativity. After all, while United’s performances over the last six matches have sparkled only in bursts, results do count.

During that period Southampton dominated for much of the second period at Old Trafford, while United’s performance at home to Stoke was one of the most demoralising in recent seasons, save for the final 12 dramatic minutes. Even the Reds’ comfortable victory over La Real in Europe came not without moments of opposition-induced panic.

Yet, Moyes’ outfit now travels to Fulham at the weekend, then Sociedad in midweek, in the belief that qualification for the Champions League knock-out stages can be achieved, and a more solid Premier League footing established.

For a new regime the self belief that victory brings counts; a sense of momentum essential.

“You need to go on runs in this league and this club is the best in the business at building that,” said assistant manager Steve Round after United’s 4-0 victory on Tuesday night.

“This club has a winning mentality. There were no great celebrations after Saturday’s Stoke win and none tonight. There will be teams on the end of some big scores from us because we’ve got that capability and we’ve got that firepower right the way through the squad.”

There is no little irony in United’s new-found confidence stemming, in large part, from the performances of a rookie, but 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj has certainly inspired his more experienced colleagues. Hugely impactful as a second-half substitute against Stoke at the weekend, Januzaj’s headline-grabbing performance in Capital One Cup victory over Norwich on Tuesday was the most assured from a United youngster in some time.

The teenager’s flexibility has played a role too – confidence on the right to fashion late pressured at home to Stoke, while his abundant maturity in possession from a classic number 10 role dominated proceedings against an admittedly timid Norwich. More impressive still, Januzaj ‘s ability to dictate both the tempo and pattern of United’s play on Tuesday came in a manner that Wayne Rooney has not always replicated this season.

It is this flexibility to play across any of the front positions that will ensure Januzaj gains plenty of first team football this season, although fans will hope that it comes without the ensuing pitfalls of failing to settle in any one role.

“We see him as a number seven, 10 or 11. He can play any of those three,” said Round.

“If you ask our Reserves coach [Warren Joyce], who had him last season, he’d say he felt his best position was number nine. He played there for the Reserves. So any of the top four positions he is capable of playing in.

“For a young player like Adnan, we’re trying to give him as much experience as we possibly can and develop him in numerous different positions and give him different ideas and thoughts about the way he should be playing.”

Januzaj has appeared just eight times for the club, including three starts, yet is already being discussed in the same breath as teenage stars Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney. The tendency to revert to hyperbole is rife, of course, but on occasion it is surely beholded to supporters to enjoy genuine emergent talent.

Meanwhile, United’s cup win also brought confidence to those players on the fringes this season, including Javier Hernández, Wilfried Zaha and Fabio da Sila.

While the Brazilian did not start, much to many fans’ surprise, his late goal brought a rare moment of joy in an otherwise frustrating season for the youngster. Little more than two years ago Fabio started the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley. His career has rarely looked so positive since.

Hernández, meanwhile, scored twice to underline the Mexican’s instinctive ability to finish is not lessened by lengthy spells on United’s substitutes bench. That the 25-year-old will almost certainly drop out of the side for the Reds’ visit to Fulham on Saturday is an indication of his continued status within the squad.

Then there was Zaha, whose positive performance was overshadowed by that of Januzaj, but should earn the England international a shot at a place on United’s bench at least.

Zaha remains raw, and his inability to understand when to retain possession, when to pass and when to beat his man, is a frustration. Still, the former Crystal Palace winger remained positive throughout, beating Norwich left-back Javier Garrido inside minutes to stamp some early authority on the game. The talent is present, with responsibility now incumbent on Moyes and his team to coax the best out of the youngster.

“I was really pleased for Wilf to get a start and play so well,” added Round. “He got a bit tired at the end so we replaced him. But this will have done his confidence the world of good and he’s gone out there and experienced what it’s like to win at Old Trafford.”

Indeed, much the same can be said for United after victories over Sociedad, Stoke and Norwich in successive home games. The key to retaining that momentum is to repeat the result in upcoming away fixtures against Fulham and Sociedad, before Arsenal visit in less than a fortnight’s time. Victory over the Gunners would breed confidence in another level again.

Chicho relieves pressure as Moyes warns of trouble ahead

September 25, 2013 Tags: , Opinion 11 comments
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There was, Old Trafford would surely agree, an essential truth on Wednesday night as Manchester United hosted Liverpool in the League Cup. There have been few occasions in recent years on which the nation’s secondary cup has taken on such importance. No, David Moyes’ priorities have not shifted at all this season. After all the Premier League, Europe and then domestic cups follow in that order of importance. But a third defeat of the season, to a major rival at that, was beyond countenance.

Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford, so soon after United’s devastating loss to Manchester City last Sunday, could not have come at a more critical time. Or opportune, depending on the perspective. While the League Cup might ordinarily provide fodder for United’s youth manager David Moyes could hardly afford another crushing defeat.

It was understandable, if unfortunate timing, that Moyes should change eight men for Liverpool’s visit, although it was to the squad rather than kids that the Scot turned. Three of United’s old-guard in the back-four simply had to be offered a rest, while Shinji Kagawa, Nani, Jonny Evans and Rafael da Silva were all short of minutes in recent weeks. Sound logic at play then.

But it is not always the science of reason that pervades in football; a sport of wildly contrasting emotions and a tendency towards the hyperbolic that is utterly deep-seated. In that it proved a decidedly brave decision by Moyes to swap around his entrenched first choice players, if ultimately successful, even if so many conspicuously failed at the Etihad.

On the pitch United barely edged Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Brendan Rogers’ traveling outfit – a match in which the hosts defended resiliently for periods when Liverpool hogged possession. Little wonder, with the Merseysiders’ at full-strength for the 30 mile journey east.

Yet, just as United had secured a narrow victory in the Premier League following City’s 6-1 win at Old Trafford two year’s ago, so the Reds dug in to knock Liverpool out of the League Cup. United will meet Norwich City in the fourth round as part of a decidedly winnable run of games during October.

Beyond Wednesday’s victory United’s mixed start to the new campaign has proffered a conclusion: that the Reds are a little short of previous vintages, and quite some way adrift of the continent’s very best. Indeed, Moyes chose the eve of victory against the Merseysiders to remind all that he had sought at least two further reinforcements in the summer past.

As it happens United’s over-priced acquisition of Marouanne Fellaini is all the manager has to show for a summer of not inconsiderable frustration. Quite probably incompetence. It was a period in which United’s executive let the new man down when he needed the greatest support.

Moyes remains defiant in the face of early criticism of his new regime; a finicky assessment that is, of course, far too premature. More to the point Wednesday’s narrow win suggests Moyes is accurate in his assessment that while the Scot’s first choice side is short, United’s squad is replete with decent quality. Just enough.

“Where we’ve got work to do is bring players in to go right into the team – that’s the slightly different equation,” said the 50-year-old on Tuesday.

“We needed one or two who might have just gone in, but that will happen. We always said it was going to be a tough one and it was going to take a little bit more time.

“Not for a minute did I think this job was going to be easy. There will be days like we had on Sunday and there might be more of them because we are in a period where there will be transition. If people thought this was going to be easy and smooth after Sir Alex, I don’t think that was ever going to be the case.”

Admirable honesty one might say, although not entirely a mea culpa of course. Ed Woodward’s ability to navigate the January transfer market might be tested once again. And might define a campaign more than the new manager would ever have liked.

It is the nature of transition fascinates, with the principle change in the opening months of Moyes’ regime appearing to be an odd conservative bent. One demonstrated again on Wednesday, with Moyes swapping goalscorer Javier Hernández for midfielder Michael Carrick with 15 minutes to go. It could so easily have backfired.

Yet, with United’s “toughest start for 20 years” now out of the way the real work starts. Moyes’ ability to use his squad is key. Indeed, the fatigue demonstrated by Messrs. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra on Sunday ensures more time for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the weeks to come.

Whether Moyes can integrate creative players, including Kagawa and Nani, will be tested as the Champions League bites into United’s schedule. The short-term futures of Wilfried Zaha and the prodigiously talented Adnan Januzaj will beguile many. The Belgian featured as a late substitute at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Zaha didn’t leave the bench.

The suggestion that the Scot does not always trust creative players will persist until the more inventive among his squad are used in more challenging games.

Still, there can be no doubt of the relief ringing around Old Trafford by the end – a bouyant crowd pushing the home side over the line. More excitement for a League Cup third round tie than for many a year. And much of it had little to do with the competition or even opponents at play.

It is, perhaps, a realisation that after 25 years, United’s face is human again. Moyes seemingly knows it, although the brass undercarriage demonstrated on Wednesday night augurs well for future moments of pressure at least. There are likely to be many.

Young guns push for place with history no longer on side

September 28, 2012 Tags: , , Opinion 9 comments

It could hardly be rosier at Manchester United’s academy. Despite the extensive building work taking place at Carrington, academy players enjoy some of the finest facilities in England, a large coaching staff, education and medical programmes second to few, and a manager whom professes dedication to youth. Indeed, United – culturally, historically, and financially – is set up to deliver high quality from the academy and under-21 sides into Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team.

On Wednesday four more youngsters made first team débuts for the club, this time against Newcastle United in the Capital One Cup – long a route from youth to Ferguson’s principal side. This brings to 206 the number of players brought from youth and academy sides into the first team in the club’s history – 94 having also played for their respective international sides. It is, by any measure, a remarkable statistic.

Yet, the road for Wednesday’s début four – Marnick Vermijl, Robbie Brady, Scott Wootton and Ryan Tunnicliffe – is long and comes with no guarantees of success. After all, not since the famous class of ’92 has the club consistently brought players through age-group sides to regular places in the first team. At least not in batches.

On Wednesday, in addition to the four youngsters, former youth team player Darren Fletcher started for the club, while Ryan Giggs played his 912th game for United at Anfield last Sunday. Paul Scholes, still going at 36, has 702 appearances for the club. Into his sixth season with the club, Jonny Evans, at 24, is no longer a ‘youth’.

Elsewhere Danny Welbeck could yet enjoy a fine career with United, although at this stage there are few guarantees quite how fine, while Tom Cleverley holds the hopes and hearts of millions. Cleverley’s game number 19 brought a first goal for the club against Newcastle United on Wednesday, but the player’s ‘brand value’ to date eclipses performances from the Basingstoke-born 23-year-old.

Indeed, over the past two decades there has been mixed success in the path from youth to Sir Alex’ side. For every Scholes, a John O’Shea; for every O’Shea, a Ravel Morrison. Failure is far more common than success at all clubs, and none bar modern Barcelona has matched ’92’s transition from youth to the international stage.

Yet, there are signs that a new wave of high quality youngsters is on the cusp of a breakthrough at Old Trafford, although only time will tell how many make it at United, let alone on the international front. Talent, as ever with youth, is only part of a far greater picture.

On Wednesday each of the quartet can be proud of bows taken in front of a lively if sparse Old Trafford crowd. Performances were understandably mixed. At right back Vermijl, who has impressed at reserve level with tireless running and attacking intent, suffered from début nerves, although the Belgian’s quality in the attacking third was reminiscent of positive displays for the reserve side over the past year. Aged just 20, time is still on the former Standard Liège player’s side.

Meanwhile, Wootton, 21, will take no embarrassment from a display that kept Shola Ameobi quiet for large portions of the game, while far more experienced defenders will also struggle with Papiss Cisse’s quality.

Yet, it is key season for Wootton who has spent time away from the club at Tranmere Rovers, Peterborough United and Nottingham Forrest in recent seasons. With five central defenders ahead of the youngster in the pecking order it is hard to envision a breakthrough for the Birkenhead-born defender.

Wootton’s defensive partner, Michael Keane, was the stand out youngster on Wednesday in only his second start for the club, demonstrating the poise that has become so evident in recent times. The Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year was thought by many little more than an average right-back 18 months ago, but has made more progress than almost any other young player at Old Trafford.

In this Ferguson has reason to be satisfied – not least victory over a more experienced Newcastle outfit that should have exploited United’s fledgling back-four with more purpose.

“I’m very pleased,” claimed Ferguson after United’s 2-1 victory.

“First of all, given the tie was an all-Premier League one and Newcastle are probably a stronger team than us physically, we played some fantastic football. We kept on playing our football and persevered with that and had good composure in our game. I was really pleased with that and I think we deserved to win. Newcastle are a very powerful team so it’s good to get through that one.”

United’s next Capital One fixture, away at Chelsea on Halloween, is unlikely to be as forgiving, with Roberto di Matteo having deployed an experienced side against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday. Tempted though Ferguson may find the opportunity to further blood his youngsters, it is unthinkable that the Scot will once again deploy a back-five, including David de Gea, whose average age was just 20.8 years.

Yet, there are others still waiting for an opportunity. Late substitute Tunnicliffe, deployed out of position at right-back, will surely get more chances this season – and the Heywood-born youngster at least earned his old man a nice bonus for the night’s work.

Besides Tunnicliffe, Brady is also seeking more playing time this season, appearing for a few short minutes on his début against the Magpies. Brady scored one and made one when making his Republic of Ireland bow against Oman earlier this month. There is much more to come from the left-sided midfielder.

There are plenty more who did not make it into Ferguson’s Capital One side – Larnell Cole, Jesse Lindgard, Davide Petrucci, Tyler Blackett, Joshua King and many more. And for many the newly formed Professional Development League simply won’t be test enough this season.

In that there is a warning; competition for the right to get a shot at the first team is equal to the fight for places in Ferguson’s main side itself. History may may spin a positive tale when it comes to United’s dalliance with youth, but the modern game is less forgiving. As the last of ’92’s class heads into the winters of their careers, the new generation unveiled on Wednesday has a tough road ahead.

Preview: United v Newcastle United

September 26, 2012 Tags: , Matches 102 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson will field an experimental side as Newcastle United visit Old Trafford for the third round of the newly renamed Capital One Cup on Wednesday night. In common League Cup policy over many years, Ferguson will use the tournament to blood youngsters and offer minutes to squad played under-used so far this season. But the Scot’s team is likely to play in a half-empty stadium, with the club having sold just over 40,000 tickets for the match. Years of price rises having finally taken a serious toll on attendances.

News of Nemanja Vidić’s injury is a serious blow to United’s short-term ambitions, with the Serbian defender likely to miss at least two months of the campaign. Although the defender was never likely to feature in Wednesday’s match with Alan Pardew’s visiting Geordies, the match takes on even greater significance for Ferguson’s other defenders who must now get, or stay, fit.

To that end Irishman Jonny Evans is likely to start, with the 24-year-old Irishman needing minutes in his own road towards full fitness, while youngsters Scott Wooten and Michael Keane come into the frame.

Meanwhile, winger Antonio Valencia will definitely miss the match having left Anfield on crutches according to press reports. United is yet to release details about the wingers reported foot injury, although there is an outside chance Wayne Rooney could make United’s bench.

Far better news comes in the shape of Darren Fletcher who will start a first team game after more than 10 months out. The Scot, who suffers from a serious bowl problem, should line-up in central midfield. Anderson, Bébé, Federico Macheda, Nick Powell and Alexander Büttner should all feature as the Reds defend an outstanding record against Newcastle at Old Trafford. Newcastle has not won at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ since February 1972.

Büttner was outstanding on his debut against Wigan Athletic, while Cleverley may get some minutes after sitting out United’s win over Liverpool at the weekend.

Manchester United v Newcastle United, Capital One Cup, Old Trafford, 26 September 2012, 7.45pmBut it is to United’s under-21 side that fans will direct a collective gaze in the hope Ferguson will hand senior caps to a swathe of talented kids. In addition to Wooten and Keane, Tyler Blackett, Angelo Henriquez, Davide Petrucci, Jesse Lingard, and Larnell Cole could all play some part in Wednesday’s fixture.

Powell scored a stunning 25-yard goal on his last outing for the Reds against Wigan a fortnight ago, while many fans have waited in eager anticipation of Chilean striker Henriquez – a £4 million summer capture.

“We have some really talented young players and I’m looking forward to seeing some of them,” Rio Ferdinand told United’s official website on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to maybe seeing our new signing from Chile, Angelo Henriquez. I’m sure Nick Powell will play and I’m looking forward to seeing him again too as he’s a very exciting prospect. I’m excited to perhaps see Jesse Lingard play and I think Larnell Cole as well. There is Michael Keane at the back too.

“There are loads of them and I could go on and on and be here all day. Hopefully they can stamp their authority on the cup this year. I just think it’s a natural progression for the senior players and it becomes your duty almost to not force it on the young players but to lead the way and lead by example.

“When you need to talk to players or give them a nudge in the right direction, you’re there to do that. That’s what comes with being a Manchester United player after a few years. We want it to be as comfortable and normal as possible for the young players coming into big stadiums, in front of big crowds with big expectations. It’s a new world they are entering and, as experienced players, we want to make that a much smoother ride if we can.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle arrive in mediocre form, having slipped to 10th in the Premier League table, although the Capital One Cup offers Pardew the opportunity to rotate, while easing Fabricio Coloccini and Cheick Tiote back into the side. However, Tim Krul and former Red Danny Simpson are definitely out.

Pardew is expected to make numerous changes to the side that beat Norwich City 1-0 at the weekend.

“In respect to this competition, the Capital One Cup, we’ve got to look to win it,” claimed Pardew on Tuesday.

“We have got a tough game right from the off, going to Old Trafford. But it’s a fantastic place to go and play football, and we are going to hopefully enjoy it and get a positive result.”

Certainly, United will want no repeat of the last fixture between these sides, when Pardew’s team came out 3-0 winners at St. James’ Park last January. It was the Magpies’ first victory over Ferguson’s team in more than a decade.

Yet, United boasts a strong record in the competition despite Ferguson’s patchwork selections. Victory at Wembley in February would represent a third League Cup gong in five years, although the Reds have lost to Southend, Coventry and Crystal Palace in recent years. The 40 thousand plus who shelled out full prices to attended Wednesday’s game expect better, of course.

Match Details
Manchester United v Newcastle United – Capital One Cup, Old Trafford – Wednesday 26 September 2012, 7.45pm

Possible Teams
United (4-3-3): Johnstone; Keane, Wootton, Evans, Büttner; Fletcher, Cleverley, Powell; Bébé, Hernández, Macheda. Subs from: De Gea, Anderson, Welbeck, Lingard, Vermijl, Petrucci, Tunnicliffe, Cole, Blackett, Brady, Henriquez.

Newcastle: (4-3-3): Elliot; Perch, Williamson, S Taylor, Santon; Gosling, Tiote, Bigirimana; Obertan, Sh Ameobi, Amalfitano. Subs from: Harper, Ferguson, Tavernier, Anita, Marveaux, Vuckic, Abeid, Ba, Campbell, Sa Ameobi

Officials
Referee: Anthony Taylor

Form
United: LWWWWW
Newcastle: LWDDDW

Head-to-Head
Last 10: United 5, Newcastle 1, Draw 4
Overall: United 77, Newcastle 40, Draw 37

Prediction
2-2