Carabao Cup holders Manchester United begin the defence of their title against Championship strugglers Burton Albion on Wednesday night.
Jose Mourinho is a major fan of the competition, having won it four times in his career and he perceives it as a great way to ensure a winning mentality permeates the squad, by capturing the first piece of silverware on offer.
The last time these sides met was 11 years ago and Burton were still a non-league club, though they held the Red Devils to a credible draw in the FA Cup Third Round. In the replay, a young Gerard Pique and Giuseppe Rossi featured.
Mourinho will likely view this game as a chance to rest his first XI and rotating the squad.
Last time out
MANCHESTER UNITED 4-0 Everton [Premier League]
Romelu Lukaku scored against his former club as the Red Devils secured their third 4-0 win of the season, and their fourth clean sheet in five games, to go joint-tap of the Premier League with their neighbours.
Antonio Valencia smashed a 25-yard shot past Jordan Pickford in the fourth minute and United’s lead was never in any doubt, although the remaining three goals came in the final ten minutes of the game.
Wayne Rooney’s return to Old Trafford was a dismal one and he spurned Everton’s best chances of the game, ultimately sending them into the bottom three.
Once Rooney left the pitch, the Toffees capitulated further, with Lukaku finding Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the second before adding the third himself. Anthony Martial scored a late penalty, meaning nine of United’s 16 goals have now come in the last ten minutes of matches.
BURTON ALBION 2-1 Fulham [Championship]
Stephen Warnock’s first goal in three years gave Burton a contentious win over Fulham in the EFL Championship.
Warnock tapped in at the far post from Sean Scannell’s cross to end a run of 99 goalless games. Oliver Norwood’s long-range strike drew the Cottagers level, but Lucas Akins secured Burton’s second win of the season with a penalty.
Although Fulham dominated possession and feel slightly aggrieved by the penalty decision -awarded for pushing at a corner- the Brewers created the clearer scoring opportunities and deserved the three points.
Manchester United Lineup
Jose Mourinho will rotate his squad for the visit of Burton, with Victor Lindelof -who impressed in the Champions League against Basel- and Michael Carrick set to start.
Youngsters Scott McTominay and Angel Gomes could also feature, whilst Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw remain sidelined.
The likes of Sergio Romero, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial are all likely to start given how seriously Mourinho takes the competition.
Burton Albion Lineup
Key Battle: Anthony Martial vs Stephen Bywater
Since Manchester United will play on the front foot, dominating possession and getting shots away at goal, Stephen Bywater, the Burton ‘keeper, will be crucial in the Brewers’ efforts to take something away from the game other than a memento from the changing room.
The 36-year-old is a football journeyman and has faced many strikers, but perhaps none with the finishing ability of Anthony Martial, who’s likely to lead the line for United in the Third Round.
Martial will have a lot of chances fall his way and Bywater will have to bring his best game to Old Trafford, with a clean sheet looking more like a pipe dream than a reality.
Overawed by the occasion
Whilst United would have faced lower league opposition multiple times in the Carabao Cup, with a professional manager in Mourinho ensuring a complete performance, it’s unlikely Burton face an opponent of the Red Devils’ calibre often.
The key for the Brewers is to ensure they’re not overawed by the occasion and treat the game at Old Trafford as any other fixture, not paying too much heed to where they are and who they’re up against.
If Burton do focus on the occasion too much, they’re more likely to succumb to a heavy defeat than if they concentrate purely on the game at hand.
There’s a risk in this game that United switch off and don’t treat their opponents with the respect they deserve. If you remember the 4-0 battering Louis van Gaal’s United received at the hands of MK Dons in August 2014, then you’ll realise how important this is.
Lucky for United, Mourinho is one of the most meticulous and professional managers around and he’s keen to ensure his players remain focussed ahead of this game.
Given his desire to win the first piece of silverware available there’s more reason that the Red Devils won’t let their focus drop.
PREDICTION: Manchester United 4-0 Burton Albion
The Red Devils have been ruthlessly clinical this season and given Mourinho’s penchant for winning the Carabao Cup, I don’t expect them to take their foot off the gas against Burton.
The gulf in quality between the two is practically insurmountable for the Brewers and they should enjoy the occasion rather than focus on the result too much.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?