United continued their red-hot form at the weekend with a resounding result over Everton that really flattered José Mourinho’s side. Now returns the competition that the Reds won last season, the EFL Cup – which is now contentiously referred to as the Carabao Cup. Burton Albion come to Old Trafford in the 3rd round, and the West Midlands side are not to be underestimated too much.
Managed by Nigel Clough, the visitors have had an up-and-down start to life in League 1 following relegation last campaign. A very mixed bag of results has left them just outside the relegation zone. Injuries to Hope Akpan, Liam Boyce and Matthew Palmer will make the selection for Clough a tricky one, with John Brayford also being cup-tied. Akpan and Palmer could return in time for the match, despite their current injury status. Usually adopting either a 3-5-2 or 4-1-4-1 system, it’s clear Burton aim to not end up being easily broken down by the opposition rather than going all-out attack and hoping to outscore teams. United will find it tough on the night if they revert back to last season’s form in front of goal by struggling to put away chances, which heavily contrasts this season.
Two former Bolton Wanderers players, striker Marvin Sordell and defender Stephen Warnock, are two recognisable names in the visiting squad. They both have plenty of other teams on their CV too – as do experienced midfielder Lloyd Dyer and equally experienced striker Luke Varney. The Brewers have won both their ties on the way to this stage away from home, a 2-3 at Oldham Athletic and a 1-2 win at Cardiff City gave them the dream draw and it’s not worth ruling them out to cause an upset in Manchester. The last time these two sides met at Old Trafford, United ran out 5-0 winners. However, it was an FA Cup replay 11 years ago after a 0-0 draw the the Pirelli Stadium.
As for the reds, Mourinho has already confirmed four men who will be rested. David De Gea, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, and Nemanja Matić are being given the match off. This will likely lead to Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Victor Lindelöf, and Michael Carrick the chance to start the tie. Axel Tuanzebe will not be available due to a back injury, meaning he may have to wait till a later date to make an appearance for United this season. Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimović are still on the sidelines but Luke Shaw has finally returned from the injury that he suffered in April. This is a huge positive for Mourinho, despite the pair’s differences over the past year or so.
Players such as Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Scott McTominay, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial will all be aiming for some game-time, due to their absence from most starting XIs thus far in the campaign. United could test a 4-3-3 or a 3-5-2 but their success in the 4-2-3-1 as of late will probably make Mourinho not fixing something that isn’t broken. The competition gave United (and usually any side that wins it due to favourable final date) huge confidence last season and it would no doubt be a big help this time round. Refereeing the tie is Graham Scott, who has never refereed a United match before.
Cup ties are always intriguing early in the season as fringe players aim to make their mark. It could get nasty for the home side if the away side are at their stubborn best, but surely Mourinho will be desperate to keep an unbeaten streak going – especially against the son of one of football’s most iconic managers.