Manchester United are just one win away from a Wembley final as they face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola go into the game off the back of impressive wins to start the New Year with the tie perfectly poised ahead of kick-off.
City have lost just two of their 23 League Cup matches under Guardiola (W17 D4), however both those defeats came against United. The City manager has lost three of his six matches against Solskjaer (50%), his worst loss percentage against any manager he’s faced at least five times.
In terms of early team news, Edinson Cavani is suspended for the match while Phil Jones misses out through injury.
This might be one of those instances where yours truly’s XI is the same as Solskjaer’s XI. Dean Henderson expects to start and deserves to, while there is no need to change the back four from the Villa win.
Matic was an upgrade on McTominay last week and has form against City dating back to his half-time arrival in the second leg of last season’s semi-final. Pairing him with Fred is far more sensible than putting Pogba there, so the Frenchman can continue on the left in an unchanged front four.
Solskjaer has been the king of rotation this season but there’s a strong argument to keep changes to a minimum here. The schedule has worked out well, with United getting a five-day break, while players can be rested against Watford this weekend.
The defence picks itself at the moment but Henderson deserves the chance to start a game of this stature. It could signal the beginning of the end of his Old Trafford career if he doesn’t start.
The diamond midfield/4-3-3 combo worked well against Aston Villa and Solskjaer can turn to it again. It gives United flexibility, which they might need given the uncertainty around how City will shape up.
That means Fred, McTominay, Fernandes and Pogba in midfield, with the latter capable of moving to the left and turning it into a 4-3-3. In attack Rashford and Martial are the obvious picks with Cavani still banned.
City’s weekend win over Chelsea might worry some fans over a possible tactical surprise but United’s best way to combat such a threat is simple – by playing their best team.
Henderson might be due a start in goal, but De Gea is in form and has produced big saves in almost every recent victory. Bailly and Maguire are undroppable on recent form, while the two full-backs pick themselves.
The best bet in midfield would be to choose the midfield quartet of Fred, McTominay, Pogba and Fernandes – something which would allow a diamond or a 4-3-3 with the Frenchman on the left. It means United can not only switch in-game, but adapt based on the tactics which City deploy.
Up front Martial and Rashford are the only option with James and Greenwood both players who could influence the game from the bench.