Only one week ago a Carlos Tevez brace gave Manchester City a slender 2-1 lead over Manchester United in the Carling Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg, but as United strolled to a 4-0 victory over Hull at the weekend, they sent out a clear message. We are top dogs in Manchester and will not be giving cup the trophy without a fight, Wayne Rooney is in inspired form and Sir Alex Ferguson will be going all out for victory.
City have won the League Cup on two previous occasions and coincidently the Final comes exactly 34 years after the last won the trophy, their last trophy. So the fans, players and management will be well aware of what this game means, especially as it is against bitter rivals United.
In the first leg United dominated for long spells and will not look to let a lead slip at Old Trafford this time around and as we are out of the F.A. Cup, Fergie will make retaining the Carling Cup a priority, so a full strength line-up is expected.
Edwin van der Sar will continue in goal with Tomasz Kuszczak an able deputy.
Rio Ferdinand will continue his comeback from injury and partner Jonny Evans in central defence, Patrice Evra will also take up his usual spot at left-back and Rafael should keep his place at right-back. Nemanja Vidic is out with a calf strain along with long term absentee John O’Shea.
With Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia rested at the weekend, expect both to start on the left and right side of midfield respectively against City. Paul Scholes should drop to the bench with Michael Carrick returning to the starting line-up to partner Darren Fletcher.
It is inevitable Wayne Rooney will start against City after a four goal haul against Hull, but his strike partner is a different story. Dimitar Berbatov replaced Michael Owen against Hull and it is highly unlikely the former Liverpool striker will start two games in a row.
Sir Alex has called for discipline from his side after the spat between Gary Neville and Carlos Tevez threatens to boil over in the 2nd Leg.
“We have enough experience of playing in big games to know it is important to keep your head. It is always a key factor. We have had feisty games against the likes of Leeds and Liverpool since I have been here. Player behaviour has always been good. It has never been an issue.” Said the United manager.
Manchester City want to establish themselves as the best team in the world, and since the arrival of Roberto Mancini the Blues have won five wins with one defeat since his arrival just before Christmas.
Carlos Tevez is in imperious form netting 13 times in his last 11 games, so he will be a key member of the City arsenal. Emmanuel Adebayor could have a part to play after returning from compassionate leave. Kolo Toure is also available upon his arrival back form the African Cup of Nations. Wayne Bridge and Joleon Lescott are both out with knee injuries and United nemesis Patrick Vieira is sidelined with a calf strain along with Roque Santa Cruz. Robinho could also play a part as his move to Brazilian side Santos has not been completed as yet.
Roberto Mancini has set his stall out well in advance, he will attack United.
“We don’t want to go to Old Trafford only to defend,” said the Italian tactician.
“It is possible we will have to defend if United attack. Then we will need to defend very well because they have so many good players. But we want to win, not just the tie, but at Old Trafford. To do that we must attack.” He added.
United have only conceded nine goals in 15 domestic games at home so far this season. While Ferguson’s semi-final record is exemplary, he’s been at the helm for 42 last-four matches and, of those, United have lost just six, including last week’s first leg. Let’s hope Sir Alex and the Red Army can silence Carlos Tevez once and for all.
Prediction: 2-1 United
Probable Line Up: van der Sar, Evra, Evans, Ferdinand, Rafael; Valencia, Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs; Berbatov, Rooney.
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Also see: Manchester United v Manchester City preview.
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