A trip to Stoke on a, presumably, cold Wednesday night in December is nobody’s idea of glamour, but tonight’s Capital One Cup quarterfinal at the Britannia could prove to be a lot more important than it would have in seasons gone by, where the League Cup was the least important competition of the season.
The tournament might have lied way down United’s priorities order at the start of the season but, given the current circumstances, United could do worse things than focusing on the Capital One Cup, particularly given that a place in the semifinal is only 90 minutes away.
Manchester United’s reassuring 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa last weekend was notable for more than just the club’s long overdue return to form. It was a game which also marked the return of fan favourite Darren Fletcher, who finally made his long-awaited comeback after 12 months out with a bowel condition. Many had questioned whether he would ever pull on red shirt again.
Fletcher’s return is a major boost for United. Not only will he bolster the side’s struggling midfield and possibly prove a vital player for the latter stages of the Champions League, but will also boost the spirits of a flagging team. As manager David Moyes said after the fixture at Villa Park: “Today was a big message to a lot of people – keep believing. If you are not well then keep believing that you can get yourself right.”
Having come back to play first team football, Darren Fletcher has revealed the full extent of his illness, which was so serious that it prevented him from even playing football with his kids or leaving the house.
Fletcher has been plagued by a chronic bowel illness for over two years now and hadn’t played for United since Boxing Day last year, when his latest comeback came to an abrupt end as the condition returned to afflict the 29-year-old midfielder.
Adnan Januzaj has backed David Moyes to be successful at Manchester United and has insisted that the United manager must be given time to succeed, despite a stuttering start to the season, that has seen the Reds losing five of their opening 16 games, as David Moyes’ men currently sit eight on the table, 10 points adrift of league leaders Arsenal.
Januzaj has been one of the few bright notes of United’s first half of the season, making his Premier League debut against Crystal Palace and then scoring twice on his first start at Sunderland – where United came from behind to secure the three points – on his way to establish himself as a first team regular and one of the most exciting prospects United fans have seen in a long time.
Manchester United will face Olympiacos in the round of 16 of the Champions League, after David Moyes’ men were drawn against the Greek champions in today’s draw in Nyon.
Having won their group, United had put themselves into a relatively safe position as they could not be drawn against the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid or Barcelona and they’ll go into the round of 16 fancying their chances to reach the quarter finals for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
Considering the circumstances that have surrounded United’s first half of the season, it’d be a tad premature and probably downright foolish to read too much into yesterday’s performance for, good as the 3-0 win at Villa was, we’ve already been inundated with false dawns and moments when “United turned the corner” this season.
While feet will be better left firmly rooted on the ground, it’s hard not to feel happy for Danny Welbeck who, after a season plagued by injuries and niggles, delivered the sort of performance every United fan know he’s capable of, apart from those who consider Welbz a waste of space and a player not fit to wear the shirt – which, truth be told, could be said about at least a couple of other elements of the squad.
It’s all kicking off between Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson currently, and not for the first time. Out of context, it’s tempting to blame their recent spat on Keane’s inherently hostile nature, but to reach such a conclusion is to overlook one of our former boss’ key characteristics: he too sure likes a good fall out.
Indeed, several former United players would have responded with a wry smile to Ferguson’s recent claim that one of the key secrets to successful management was “to never hold a grudge – it’s very important”. His feuds with his own players would go on to define his Old Trafford reign. Here are five of the most significant.
Last season, fixtures against Aston Villa provided plenty of memorable moments for Manchester United. In November, trailing 2-0 at Villa Park after a dreadful first 50 minutes, United produced a typical Fergiesque comeback, with Javier Hernandez scoring two and forcing an own goal, as the Reds emerged with a 3-2 victory.
Five months later, on a balmy April night, United clinched their 20th title in spectacular fashion as they thrashed Paul Lambert’s men 3-0 at Old Trafford, courtesy of a Robin Van Persie’s hat-trick within 33 minutes.