Why Manchester United Must Prioritize Winning the Carabao Cup

Posted By Uttiyo Sarker on January 6, 2020

Who: Manchester United vs Manchester City
When: Tuesday, January 7th @ 3:00pm ET
Line: Manchester United +380 | Draw +330 | Man City -167

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The year hasn’t started kindly for Manchester United. Winless, goalless in two games and being linked with just about EVERYONE in the transfer market, there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the club.

They’re so inconsistent these days that I can’t help but have a Gordon Ramsey-like reaction. But there’s a chance to wipe the slate clean by winning the Carabao Cup semi-finals against Manchester City this week.

Now the trophy has very little significance in England. But City has an unhealthy obsession with it. They’ve won it for the past two seasons. Perhaps it’s their attempt to hide their inferiority complex when it comes to measuring overall trophy count with the bigger clubs.

That being said, destroying the Citizens theme park would be a big confidence-booster for United. Winning the trophy- regardless of how insignificant it is- can be validation that some progress is being made.

Being trophyless in nearly three years, the supports will latch onto just anything available. They must prioritize this tournament to bring silverware back to Old Trafford and avenge their season from completely spiralling out of control.

Who All Should Feature?

Of course, the Carabao Cup is meant to play reserves or give youngsters more exposure. But this being a derby, United should take things seriously. Expect them to go with their strongest side possible. However, they’ll be without their star midfielders Paul Pogba & Scott McTominay.

That being said, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shouldn’t discard youth. There’s no need to play inexperienced teenagers like James Garner or Ethan Laird, but Brandon Williams & Mason Greenwood must start both the legs. Tahith Chong also deserves more time, as does the fit-again Diogo Dalot to bring diversity to their style.

Knowing how thin their squad is, they can’t really rotate in both fixtures. Marcus Rashford & Anthony Martial must continue their heroics from the win at the Etihad Stadium, while Daniel James needs to be more decisive to torment the defending champions. Jesse Lingard’s in terrible form, but is surprisingly effective on these occasions. Time for him to repay his manager’s blind trust.

OGS needs to structure a rock-solid backline to endure the pressure City throws to keep frustrating them. At this point, Sergio Romero must start the games knowing his solid form in Cup games and David De Gea’s error-prone nature. One mistake could be lethal for United’s chances.

How To Approach The Tie?

As OGS himself admitted recently, United are nowhere near playing like their noisy neighbours. Despite Pep Guardiola’s side’s recent struggles, they still possess enough firepower to run rings around the Red Devils. In order to not get goaded into their trip, they must be smarter.

Ole’s tactics worked a treat at the Etihad but attempting the same thing can badly backfire. City will defend deeper, be wary of their counter-attacks and not pile everyone forward, making things easier for their rivals.

This is a two-legged tie, so it must be approached accordingly. Going for a high spectacle can only cause problems. United must be pragmatic with their approach, but more importantly, be clinical in finishing off opportunities.

It’s guaranteed they won’t get many chances to counter-attack, but their front-three must be accurate in making Claudio Bravo work when they are on the front foot. If they can’t, the Citizens won’t hesitate in making them pay.

Guardiola should mix in youngsters Phil Foden, Eric Garcia into the fray, but expect him to play the big guns too. Kevin De Bruyne is so good right now he can dominate United’s entire midfield by himself.

Then there’s the unpredictable Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero, who almost always scores against the Red Devils. Unless OGS’ side puts their heart & soul into nullifying their threat, they’ll never be able to force the defending champs out from their comfort zone.

Could the Carabao Cup success have implications on Europa League dreams?

The Carabao Cup- if United reach the final- is over by the end of February. Their UEFA Europa League campaign restarts next month as well. They must inherit the winners’ mentality from clinching this irrelevant trophy if they’re to gun for something more formidable.

Lets date back a few years ago to 2017. United struggled in the league. But winning the Carabao Cup(thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s heroics) proved to be a stepping stone inspiring the squad into winning the European competition as well. That’s what happens when a side wins silverware. You get hungry for more. Solskjaer needs that desire back.

But to repeat his predecessor Jose Mourinho’s heroics, he must put his big-game tactics to work. Not only United, but OGS also must be at his very best to oust Guardiola consecutively. If he’s to properly solidify himself as the man to trust, the Norwegian must get his side firing on all cylinders and maintaining a high work-rate to pull off a memorable win.

Prediction

The last time there was a Manchester Derby semi-final in this competition(in 2009), United came out victors after a thrilling set of games. I think this will be an exciting tie packed with action, fireworks and heated battles. It should make watching this competition somewhat worth it!

I think the Red Devils will be able to win the first leg. If that happens, they should park the bus & gain something from the Etihad. I’m going with a United win over the two legs, but by the closest margins.

Uttiyo Sarker Avatar
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Uttiyo Sarker

An unbiased Manchester United die-hard. Lover of the beautiful game. Addicted to the Premier League and beyond. Hopeful writer in the search for the greater good.

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