#Manchester United will look to make amends for dropping points at home to West Ham United at the weekend when they face the same opponents at the same venue on Wednesday. The prize for a successful evening will be a place in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup.
The EFL Cup, better known as the League Cup, is traditionally a competition in which managers rotate their squads. A heavy workload, particularly around the festive period, means that the #Premier League usually takes priority.
United fans will hope that the likes of Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, both out of favour in the league, can build on their strong performances from the 4-0 Europa League win over Feyenoord last Thursday. Premier League strugglers West Ham are likely to rest players, but their impressive win over Chelsea in the previous round shows they should not be taken lightly.
Fond memories for Mourinho
United manager Jose Mourinho has good reason to expect a positive result on Wednesday. The League Cup brought his first trophy as manager of Chelsea, and paved the way for the successive Premier League triumphs that followed. He has won the competition three times in all – a fourth this season would equal the managerial record.
Mourinho has always valued the League Cup, perhaps more so than some of his counterparts. Other managers will often use the competition as an excuse to change the entire team, but the Portuguese prefers to make minor changes in order to progress as far as possible. He is of the belief that winning trophies becomes a habit. There is no doubt that a League Cup success this season would provide a welcome boost for an under-pressure Mourinho.
Best chance of success?
After Sunday’s draw left them 11 points adrift in the Premier League, the League Cup is arguably United’s best chance of silverware this season. They will also look to go well in the FA Cup and the Europa League, but Mourinho’s record in those competitions doesn’t quite match up to the League Cup.
The United board will want more than a League Cup to show for Mourinho’s first season in charge. Champions League qualification through a top four league finish remains the undoubted priority. But that looks a long way off at the moment – United’s return of 20 points from 13 games is less than they achieved under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. They have also drawn four successive league games at Old Trafford for the first time since 1980.
That said, Sir Alex Ferguson’s United started in remarkably similar fashion all the way back in 1986 (21 points from 13 games). So there is hope for Mourinho yet. Cup success will go some way to convincing supporters at least that he can be a success at Old Trafford.
Strong quarter-final line-up
United are far from guaranteed to win on Wednesday. Mourinho has looked especially flustered in recent weeks, with his latest show of anger coming on Sunday when he was sent to the stands for kicking a bottle after Paul Pogba was booked for diving. West Ham were resilient as they held out for a 1-1 draw, and will look to frustrate Mourinho once again.
If they were to overcome the Hammers, United’s path to the final would still be fraught with danger. All of the quarter-finalists are from the Premier League apart from Newcastle United, who have been in table-topping form in the Championship under Rafael Benitez. Liverpool, finalists last season, and Arsenal loom particularly large. #Football