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United v Villa – Can the reds turn the tide around?

United have failed to beat Villa twice already this season but the market takes its lead from the history books by rating the Reds 1.89 (10/11) favourites to win the Carling Cup final on Sunday.

Those odds only apply to a Reds victory inside 90 minutes but the price is still well worth taking. This is a massive game but, at a congested period, Sir Alex will want his side to pick up their first silverware of the season in normal time. For a United win which allows for extra-time or penalties you can get 1.49 (1/2) in Betfair’s Carling Cup winner market. Villa are available at 2.98 (2/1) and 4.5 (7/2) in the match odds market.

The Villains have a decent pedigree in this competition. Martin O’Neill won the League Cup with Leicester in 2000 and before that Villa won the competition in 1996. Most memorable for fans of the claret and blue is their 3-1 victory over United in the 1994 final – a defeat which cost United what would have been an historic treble.

But nobody has a better trophy winning pedigree than the Reds. Sir Alex Ferguson has taken United to six League Cup finals so he knows exactly what it will take to win on Sunday. United have shaken off last week’s defeat at Everton with a clinical 3-0 win over West Ham and they look hungry for success.

The Reds attack will aim to put Villa on the back foot from the start and, after being taken off against West Ham, Wayne Rooney will be raring to go. He should be backed to be the first goalscorer but to make things interesting you might also fancy a small stakes bet on a less likely scorer, perhaps Antonio Valencia – whose influence increases with each match – or Nemanja Vidic at bigger odds.

The two early goals Villa conceded in the semi-final showed that they can be vulnerable early on the big occasion. United won’t want this game to drift away from them like two recent visits to Wembley – last year’s final against Spurs and the FA Cup semi-final against Everton – and Sir Alex will demand that his strikers take their chances early on. Villa were involved in a testing FA Cup tie on Wednesday and could tire late on so back United to lead at the break and to press home their advantage in the second half by snapping up odds of 4.2 (16/5) in the Man Utd Win Both Halves market.

Their failure to beat a 10 man United at Villa Park earlier this month suggests that O’Neill’s side will struggle to break down United. With Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and in-form James Milner, Villa are an exciting team, but United’s defenders have their measure and should be backed to keep a clean sheet.

A third League Cup trophy in five years will set up United nicely for the business end of the season which starts directly after this game.