Carling Cup Final Match Preview
The first domestic final of the season and the first chance Manchester United have to pick up some silverware and open their account for the season. Standing in Sir Alex Ferguson’s way are Aston Villa – a side who have taken four points off United this season and a very real threat.
I had hoped Rio Ferdinand would be fit for this one but he has a back problem and has been ruled out for a couple of weeks. However, Nemanja Vidic came through Tuesday’s victory over West Ham unscathed and should take his place in the defence. Both Vidic and Ferdinand were missing last weekend as United suffered defeat at Everton, personally I think if either had been involved the game could have turned out differently and it is a massive bonus the Serb is back, even without Rio. Midfielder Anderson has now been ruled out for the season with a cruciate ligament injury but in terms of the side this is less important, his form this season has been fairly indifferent and I doubt he would have started against Villa anyway. United’s other injury worries include long term absentees Owen Hargreaves and John O’Shea, while Ryan Giggs remains sidelined for another month with a broken wrist.
Defeat at Everton was hard to take but they are a team on the up, while I would argue Villa’s form has started to slip a bit. Martin O’Neill’s men have dropped off a bit in the race for fourth spot and they were made to work hard in their FA Cup tie with Championship side Crystal Palace. However, the Villa boss has the luxury of a pretty much fully-fit squad with no major injury concerns and having already taken four points off United they will be confident.
Ferguson is no stranger to League Cup finals but neither is O’Neill. The Villa boss is yet to pick up any silverware with his current employers but he did lead Leicester City to victory in 1997 and 2000. I doubt that will have any major bearing on the contest in all honesty, but O’Neill is a manager with a winning pedigree having picked up trophies nearly everywhere he has been and he will surely be eager to open his account at Villa Park.
It seems obvious to say but both the Villa and United attack are crucial for their respective sides at the moment. Villa conceded two against Burnley last weekend and the defence that was once the meanest in the league is looking a little suspect at the moment. United conceded goals they perhaps could have avoided against Everton and I’m not sure either defence can be counted on to keep a total shut-out. I expect some goals in this game, so making the most of the chances that come along is vital. Wayne Rooney has been in blistering form but both Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen have found the net recently and Ferguson has plenty of options in terms of his forward line. Villa striker John Carew has now fully recovered from injury and he’ll be confident after netting a brace against Palace, even if both goals were from the spot.
I don’t want to hesitate a guess on which way this one will go but United head into this as deserved favourites and will be confident, despite Villa’s record against Ferguson’s men. A victory is just what United need having slipped up in the league and hopefully Sunday will provide Ferguson with his first trophy of the campaign.