After the travesty that was Sunday’s performance at home to Manchester City, Sir Alex Ferguson will take his side to lowly Aldershot expecting the fiercest of reactions from what will undoubtedly be a much changed line up for this mid-week fixture. For Aldershot, this is a dream tie, as the League Two outfit welcome the Premier League champions to their EBB Stadium.
Aldershot has seen off promotion chasers West Ham United in the third round, as well as also beating Carlisle and Rochdale in the preceding two rounds, whilst Manchester United eased through a vociferous atmosphere in Yorkshire, defeating Leeds United 3-0 at Elland Road thanks to goals from Michael Owen and Ryan Giggs. Manchester United have won two of the last three Carling Cups and will look to see off their opponents as quickly as possible as they look to banish the memory of Sunday’s defeat.
Aldershot’s manager, Dean Holdsworth, has a full squad to choose from, and will look to play his strongest side possible as he hopes to cement himself in Carling Cup folklore by pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the competitions history by knocking out the Premier League champions. Holdsworth has made a habit of proving doubters wrong too, after steering the Shots through a fantastic second half to last season’s campaign, after coming in when relegation looked a certainty.
Sir Alex also has a near full squad to choose from and will most certainly tinker with his side, as he looks to secure progression to the next round. A number of senior players have failed to play much first team football this season though, so regardless of changes, one can probably still expect a very strong and experienced lineup at the EBB stadium.
After the weekends embarassment at the hands of City, there is no doubting that the priority this week goes to winning all three points at Goodison Park at the weekend, and as such there will be a number of changes to the starting lineup, as there always are.
These predictions are very often just my best attempt at educated guess work, but given how little we have seen of Valencia and Park since the international break, I think we can expect both players to get the start. This match also provides ample opportunity to blood Tom Cleverley back into the team after over a month out with injury, whilst perhaps the surprise of the lineup could be the inclusion of young Frenchman, Paul Pogba, who made his senior debut off the bench in the last round. Pogba is a player who has a lot of hype surrounding his rise through the ranks at United and played a pivotal part in United’s FA Youth Cup success last season, and Sir Alex has stated that the youngster would get chances in the first team this season.
Up front, I’ve predicted that Owen and Berbatov will both start, despite not seeing any game time in quite some time. Will Keane is another youngster whose form in the youth and reserve teams over the season might warrant a call up, but he might have to wait for a debut off the bench, with both Owen and Berbatov needing the minutes on the pitch.
At the back, I think Vidic will be given the opportunity to prove his match fitness ahead of the weekends clash on the Merseyside, after not being selected for either the Liverpool or City games, and being sent off in the last Champions League match in Romania. Alongside him young Ezekiel Fryers cold very well be given another chance to shine, after a promising, if somewhat easy performance at Elland Road in the previous round. Anything could happen in the fullback positions. I sense this game might be a bit too early for Rafael, who has returned to training after dislocating his shoulder in pre-season, but he could feature instead of Jones in the berth at right full-back.
For the players playing, this is a fantastic opportunity for them to prove to Sir Alex that they deserve to be in the first team, after a string of unconvincing displays has seen United take 4 points from the last 9 available in the league. There is always the chance that the underdogs can pull out a major surprise, and with so many players lacking match fitness set to play, Aldershot may just fancy themselves against the reigning champions of England, particularly on the back of such a disheartening display at the weekend.
Aldershot Town – 0
Manchester United – 3