Having started 2014 in terrible fashion with consecutive home defeats against Spurs and Swansea, United travel to Sunderland tonight hoping to take another step towards the Capital One Cup final, at the moment the Reds’ most realistic chance of silverware in this disgraced season.
Sunday’s showing in the FA Cup was nothing short of embarrassing – something we’ve become somewhat accustomed to in the first six months of the campaign – and United must improve, if they’re to secure a positive result against a side that might be bottom of the table, but will undoubtedly be fired up for the occasion.
Much like their incapacity to string two passes together, United’s injury crisis seems to know no end, with Rio Ferdinand joining Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Ashley Young, Nani, Rafael, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini on the sidelines, while Fabio is suspended after his red card against Swansea.
Injuries and the all-too-familiar lack of option will force David Moyes’ hand yet again in terms of team selection, with Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez likely to retain their place up-front, while Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick and David De Gea could return in place of Alexander Buttner, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher and Anders Lindegaard.
United’s last trip to Sunderland saw the arrival on the scene of Adnan Januzaj, who netted twice in his first start for the club to rescue a 2-1 win, after United had fallen behind to some calamitous defending, and the youngster could be involved from the start tonight, given Moyes is desperate for a positive result.
While at the start of the season the Capital One Cup might have been last by a long distance in United’s list of priorities, with the league and the FA Cup having already vanished five months into the season, English football’s second cup could prove to be a lot more important for the club than it’s ever been.
Securing a place at Wembley would give David Moyes the chance of finally break his silverware duck and picking up a trophy in his first season at United would go some way in buying him time and boost his confidence, not to mention that lifting a cup could give the whole team a much-needed lift.
Furthermore, should United get past Sunderland – hardly a formality on current form, given that the Black Cats have knocked out Chelsea and won at Everton on Boxing Day – a final against City looms large, given that they’re likely to obliterate West Ham over two legs.
Two games away from a possible derby at Wembley. If that doesn’t get us going, God knows what will.