Wednesday night’s EFL Cup third round tie with Manchester City couldn’t really come at a more awkward time for Manchester United. Having taken just one point and scored no goals from two big games with Liverpool and Chelsea in the last nine days, Jose Mourinho would arguably prefer to go up against a far less formidable opponent in an effort to raise the confidence of his players. He won’t be getting that on Wednesday, if September’s 1-2 defeat at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s team is anything to go by. City dominated the first half at Old Trafford and could have made their slim margin of victory far more embarrassing for the home side, and Mourinho must be very careful about who he throws onto the pitch tonight. Online Soccer odds sites already have City as the odds on favourites to win this clash. Obviously based on their current form.
One player who certainly won’t be featuring is Eric Bailly, who damaged knee ligaments during Sunday’s 4-0 defeat to Chelsea. The Ivorien could be missing as much as two months of action or even five months if his country calls him up for the Africa up of nations in January 2017. Aside Bailly who is certainly out of the clash, Marouane Fellaini’s inclusion is also in doubt after David Luiz’s robust studs-up challenge on the Belgian’s knee. With that in mind, here’s who we think United should start with.
This isn’t the time to drop Sergio Romero into the line-up, not in a game of this significance, so David De Gea has to start, with the Argentine more likely to be utilised during next Thursday’s Europa League tie with Fenerbahce in Turkey.
The defence will require a significant reshuffle, however. Given Bailly’s injury, and the need for United to offer a solid display even if the EFL Cup isn’t high on Mourinho’s priority list, the Portuguese needs to go for as solid a defence as he can possibly muster. An embarrassing defeat to Manchester City in a derby will certainly not be welcome by United fans and I am sure Jose Mourinho knows this. There might be space for academy graduate Timothy Fosu-Mensah to slot in at right back, but Daley Blind and Chris Smalling must start in the centre of defence with Luke Shaw at left back.
Midfield will be a key area for United to get right, which is why, having seen United overrun when utilising the duo of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini, Mourinho might be far better off sticking to something akin to what they’ve used of late. Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin, who could easily be replaced by Michael Carrick if Mourinho wants less of a physical presence and more nous, back up Pogba, who will be determined to perform after his sub-standard display on Sunday.
Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should help with that. Both are excellent at creating chances, something United have lacked of late and should ease the burden on Pogba. Given Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s troubles in front of goal of late, Wayne Rooney deserves a start up front with Martial and Mkhitaryan doing the running for him.