Man Utd v Man City: Carabao Cup preview
The evidence of three semi-final defeats last season might not fill Manchester United fans with optimism ahead of tonight’s Carabao Cup last four clash tonight. Particularly against a side in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City who have exerted a vice-like grip on this trophy for three seasons and for five of the last seven years.
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the new season has brought a new United to the table, one who will make history rather than repeat it.
And a squad who can become addicted to the “drug” which fuels serial winners.
It is with some justification the United manager insists his side are a different and more ruthless animal than the one beaten in those three semi-finals.
Against City in this competition, Chelsea in the FA Cup and Sevilla in the Europa League ‘United 2020’ side came up short albeit by what Solskjaer insists were “fine margins”.
“Sometimes losing is about fine margins and sometimes it’s about quality. But we we are a better team now than we were six months back or 12 months back,” he said.
“Now we want to go one step further. Speaking from experience, when I won the first league at Man Utd, it can become a drug – celebrating with your team mates on the pitch with a trophy.
“It becomes a thing, you become addicted to winning.
“We have added some players in our group that hopefully can give us that extra edge in the semis compared to last season.”
It is arguable whether United have taken a step forward from last season given they responded to Champions League disappointment by drawing level with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
But City in a one-legged semi final at an empty Old Trafford will present a useful litmus test of where they stand.
“You have two teams who want to get to the final,” he said. “And you could see with City against Chelsea on Sunday, the freshness and sharpness and intensity they played with after the break they had – it showed.”
Three wins from the last five matches in recent derbys bolsters Solskjaer’s confidence and a cagey goalless stalemate in December showed there is not much between the two.
“That last game showed two teams with respect for each other,” said the United manager.
“They’re not as much possession based against Chelsea, they were more counter attacking, they’ve got quick players on the break so we’ve got to be aware of that as well as their possession game.
“You never know what kind of system he’s going to come up with but you know you’ve got to defend really well against Man City.
“When we have the ball we have to be able to keep it, play out of their press because they’re one of the quickest to put the counter pressure on and win the ball high up.
“So it’s a balance. We’ve found that balance. We didn’t have the X factor last game. I think we’ve improved immensely in a year since the last semi against City and even when we were in Europe in August.”
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