The League Cup semi-final is, sadly, unlikely to be the top priority of the season for either Manchester United or City.
But with the two meeting in their first leg on Tuesday, there’s still plenty at stake for both teams, and one of the managers in particular.
“This could be enough to save Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job,” said Tom Williams on this week’s Totally Football Show. “If United win the Carabao Cup having knocked out City en route, then Solskjaer becomes unsackable, and the fans will give him some credit for that.
“Whereas if they go out and the season continues as it has been – one step forward, two back – then we’ll just end up where we are now by the end of the season, and those calls for him to be axed will only get louder, particularly while Mauricio Pochettino remains out of a job.”
However Matt Davies-Adams thinks the pressure is on the other side.
“United can say the pressure is on City: they know they’re not going to win the Premier League, and their ambition is to win every competition they’re in. United, certainly outside the club, seem to be viewed as tragicomic and not expected to get results. Maybe that will work in their favour: they were poor against Wolves, but maybe they were saving themselves for this, a bigger game against their big rivals.
“They’re still fifth in the Premier League, and if they can sneak into the top four, or even if they don’t and put a trophy on the table, that will keep Robin van Persie quiet for a bit.”
The game should be an interesting tactical battle at least, particularly considering United surprisingly beat City the last time they faced each other, at the Etihad in December.
Tom Williams said: “The standout feature of United’s win over City recently was their ability to counter-attack, which they did at will and City ultimately had no answer to. It’s been interesting that Guardiola has started testing out this new system, with a back three, which seems to be designed almost purely to make them more counter-attack proof.
“I suspect United will approach the game with the same intent, to allow City to have the ball then hitting them on the break, but I suspect City are now better placed to resist that sort of tactic.”
The winners will face either Leicester City or Aston Villa in the final, and Daniel Storey thinks Brendan Rodgers’ men need to convert their brilliant form this season into something more tangible.
“For all the brilliance of getting into the Champions League again, getting that trophy – they’ve only won four major trophies in their history – that’s how you really cement a legacy. We know that was always the argument against Pochettino and Tottenham. A club like Leicester, they should take any opportunity they can to win a trophy.”
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