Manchester United – Sunderland (Capital One Cup)
Manchester United host Sunderland for the second leg of the League Cup semi. They’ll be hopping to overturn a 2-1 deficit gathered at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago. The Black Cats will try to make a sort of mends for dwelling around the bottom of the table. Go for it, this window of opportunity is bound to close soon.
Sunday David Moyes tried, and failed to beat José Mourinho for the tenth time. The difference is he’s now leading the defending Champions and shouldn’t have been the underdog. Yet, they were. Chelsea won 3-1 with a hat-trick by Samuel Eto’o. In the aftermath the Scot talked about being unlucky. Seriously?! A lot has been said about the dark place the Red Devils are in but blaming it on luck is a really bad excuse. Without Rooney and Van Persie United are just not good enough for the likes of Chelsea and the other top squads. And if a final proof was needed of this “average-at-best” characteristic is the role of Adnan Januzaj. He had his first start for Manchester United in October, against Sunderland, at the Stadium of Light. In 3 months he changed from a bursting new talent taking the chance to prove himself to be the one the expected to save the day. The world is upside down when the best player of the defending Champions of the Premier League is an 18 year-old-boy, no matter how good he is.
Some United supporters are facing something of a conundrum. Yes, they want their club to win but they are not so eager to reach the League Cup final at Wembley. Sure, first they’ll have to beat Sunderland to go through, which is not a given. But even if they do they’ll have Manchester City awaiting them. Considering the place each of the sides are at the moment such a fixture could become the Red Devils worst nightmare: getting hammered by your neighbour rivals.
Fellaini, Robbie van Persie, Nani and Wayne Rooney continue in the treatment room. Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand are doubtful. Vidic was sent off at Stamford Bridge and is now suspended. The more likely scenario puts Phil Jones pairing with Jonny Evans at centre-back, Alexander Buttner in left-back and “Chicharito” Hernández in front. The Mexican earned it against the Blues.
Probable line-up: De Gea — Rafael, Jones, Evans, Buttner — Carrick, Cleverly — Valencia, Welbeck, Januzaj — Hernández.
Sunderland had a terrible first half on Saturday hosting Southampton. Whatever Gus Poyet said or did in the locker-room during the break worked. I hope he took notes so he can repeat it word for word, they’ll need it. After they were a different squad all together, Adam Johnson scored the equalizer at minute 71 and they could have notched a win.
In this Capital One Cup semi-final first leg the Black Cats managed to force United to a 2-1 defeat. However, they’ll probably need to tweak the tactics for this second one. You may want to prepare a plan A that doesn’t include a penalty, to begin with. And the opposition have quite a bit to prove following the Chelsea fiasco. Poyet has the right to Old Trafford confident, though. They have a strong chance if they fight and maintain focused. Marcos Alonso, who was Man of the Match the other time around, did an excellent job shutting Valencia down. Winger Adam Johnson is coming back to live under the Urugayan’s influence and he is a man show either Evra or Buttner a bad time. Keiren Westwood and Carlos Cuéllar are the only casualties for the manager to worry about.
Probable line-up: Mannone — Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Alonso — Larsson, Cattermole, Ki — Johnson, Steven Fletcher, Borini.
The question is who will join Manchester City at Wembley in the Capital One Cup final? And can either of the contenders stop the Citizens get a hold to some silverware? It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. Devils or Cats, it’s a date.