Our live stream ahead of Wednesday nights EFL Cup semi final, Manchester United vs Manchester City is now up, kicking off at 19.45 GMT
You can keep an eye on the commentary as it happens below, but first, we take a preview into the fixture, lineups, predictions and much more…
Local rivals Man united and Man city, the two most in-form teams in the Premier League, are meeting in the semi-finals of the competition for the second year in a row, and both of them come into the contest off the back of notable weekend wins.
Victories over Aston Villa and Chelsea respectively at the weekend ramped up the talk of a potential title challenge for both clubs, despite both making underwhelming starts to the season.
They have since made up for lost time, though; Man United have taken 26 points from the last 30 on offer in the top flight, with Friday night’s triumph over Aston Villa sending them level on points with champions Liverpool at the summit, while Man City have won five and lost none of their last seven league games.
Man United have progressed from nine of their previous 15 semi-finals, but have been knocked out in two of their last three and, as is the case with the Premier League as well, it is Man City who have had the greater bragging rights in this competition in recent years.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won three of his six managerial meetings with Guardiola – the Spaniard’s worst loss percentage against any manager he has faced at least five times.
The Red Devils caused heartbreak for Everton in the Carabao Cup quarter-final as Manchester United struck twice in the closing moments to knock the Blues out ith a 2-0 win. Gylfi Sigurdsson had the best chances for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, but Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial had the final say as the clock ticked down…
Guardiola has won 17 of his 24 matches as a manager in this competition, while Man City as a club have progressed from each of their last five League Cup semi-finals, winning the trophy each time.
Remarkably City have only lost two of their 23 League Cup matches under Guardiola, and they have both come at the hands of Manchester United.
Man City’s away form is good – three wins in a row and just one defeat in 15 across all competitions – but that includes a drab derby draw at Old Trafford last month which is best consigned to history.
Guardiola’s men have looked increasingly strong defensively while Man United are yet to concede a League Cup goal this season and so a repeat of that stalemate is not entirely out of the question, but this contest does seem to promise many more fireworks than that one provided.
The Citizens beat Arsenal 4-1 in the quarter-final stage, as second-half goals from Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte put an end to Arsenal’s fight back after Alexandre Lacazette had cancelled out Gabriel Jesus’ opener…
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
In the programme the other day, you spoke about the need to win silverware. Clearly this a fourth semi-final in a row for you, you haven’t won one yet – how important is tomorrow’s game?
“It’s always a good question: how important is it? Then I can answer: very. The next game is always important but a semi-final is always very important and a chance to get to the final and to get your hands on a trophy in the next round.”
“For this team it would be a very big step, getting your hands on a trophy. We’ve developed a lot in the last six months, or 12 months from the last Carabao Cup semi.”
“It’s not just learning to win semis, we’ve also earned the right to feel we can go all the way with our performances. We’re confident; we go into the game in form. There are no excuses.”
In terms of winning something for you as well – people can see the progress you’ve made, but a trophy is something tangible that you’ve achieved…
“Yeah, of course. You play football to win trophies, to get your hands on trophies. Even though, as soon as you win a trophy you move on to the next one.”
“It gives you the hunger to get more. Of course, the squad is focused and we’re ready to give it a go. I think we’ve prepared well for this game.”
Has the squad benefited from a bit of downtime? I know it’s not been a huge amount of time, but it’s more than usual. How is the squad looking in terms of doubts and absentees?
“We’re disappointed not having Edinson [Cavani] involved. He’s probably the only one that’s not – and Phil Jones who has been out for a long time – they’re the only two that are not available for selection, which is a good position to be in.”
That’s pretty remarkable at this time of the season. In terms of Darren Fletcher, it was announced yesterday that he would join as a first-team coach. Why was that move made and I know you spoke about him having Manchester United DNA, but what does he bring to the club?
“He’s got the Man United DNA and there was a spot open because Mark Dempsey has moved to the Academy. We felt he is so valuable there; he has been brilliant in the Academy.”
“So then when this opening came… Darren has been away from the club for a few years and then he has been back doing coaching with the [Under] 16s.”
“With his experience of being here through both successful and difficult times, we felt it was right now for Darren to come in and give us that input.”
“I think it’s important that we bring in ex-players who have been somewhere else. I’ve been somewhere else after having Sir Alex [Ferguson] and Mick Phelan and Carlos [Queiroz], we know one way of coaching, but they’ve been at different clubs and have got different ideas.”
“Fletch, with his years and knowledge, will improve us in the backroom staff.”
What sort of game are you expecting tomorrow? Because when the two sides met in December it was quite a cagey affair. How do you think it changes things that it’s being played over one leg at Old Trafford tomorrow, rather than the two legs that we’re used to?
“Well, you have two teams who want to get to the final. We’ve had four days now after Villa so, hopefully, we’ve got more fresh legs. It’s a difficult season, but I think we’ll benefit from the rotation we’ve made.”
“I thought it was going to be important anyway this season, having fresh legs. You could see that with City against Chelsea, the amount of fresh legs, intensity and sharpness after the break they had.”
“It showed, and that was a quality game – physically one of the more intense games that’s been in the league this season. I don’t think that’s a surprise there because they had a few extra days to prepare for that one.”
“Two teams that want to go through. I think the last game showed two teams with respect for each other. They weren’t as much possession-based against Chelsea, they were more counter-attacking.”
“They’ve got quick players on the break – of course, we have to be aware of that, as well as their possession game.”
Can I get your view on the national lockdown that was announced last night? Do you think your players are safe to continue despite most of the country not being able to go out and work?
“Well, of course it’s a hard and difficult situation for everyone. Last year – from March to now – has been a testing time for everyone. We are privileged to play football under the protocols that we are working under.”
“We hope that we can continue. I think mentally, for many, it would be a release to watch games now, especially when we’re in full lockdown again.”
“We hope that we can continue, but we know that we have to work hard to stay within the rules and guidelines. We’re doing our best to keep the show on the road.”
Last season you suffered three defeats in a semi-final – is that something you have in the back of your head going into this one? How important is it to turn this table so it doesn’t become a mental thing as well?
“Well if you get to a semi, you’ve done a lot of good work to get to a semi-final. Naturally, you play against better and better opposition and I feel that we’ve improved immensely in a year since the last semi.”
“Even since we were in Europe in August. For me, it’s a step closer to get to the final. We’ve developed a lot. It’s easy to say: have we learned?”
“But it’s not about learned, it’s about fine margins in those semi-finals. When you win games of football you don’t think about if it’s a semi-final or just a normal league game, or a quarter-final. You just think about this game and you want to win it.”
It’ll be your seventh Manchester derby in two years as a manager. You’ve had the edge on results – aside from the results, what sort of progression have you seen in terms of the performances against City?
“I’ve seen progress and sometimes the results don’t show the whole picture of the game. Some of our counter attacking goals in the wins that we’ve had have been brilliant.”
“Away in the league when we won, we could have scored four or five in a 10-15-minute period. The counter attacks were just out of this world. But we’ve had less control of the ball and defended fantastically.”
“I think the last game was more or less 50-50 in terms of possession and maybe more cagey from both teams. Still, I felt that was a progression, staying more in the game.”
“You never know what kind of system he [Pep Guardiola] is going to come up with, but you know you have to defend really well against Man City. It’s hard to keep the ball in their half when they’ve got it because they can find a way of overloading.”
“So you have to be brave and be compact and trust your players. Then again, when we have the ball we need to keep it as well and play out of their press.”
“They’re one of the quickest ones to put the counter pressure on and want to win it high up. It’s a balance that I think we’ve found, but we didn’t have that X-Factor the last game.”
“Maybe because they were a little bit more cagey and set up to counter-attack more as well. It’s been some fascinating games and I feel we’ve got closer and closer and results, sometimes you can’t control.”
“If you want to compete in all competitions you need a full squad, but we have a second team (EDS) that have been training with us for a month.
“We know them quite well and I am pretty sure they can help us. They can help us to solve the problems but with this amount of games with 15 players it will be more difficult.”
“We don’t have many players…”
Pep Guardiola says Man City are struggling for fit players ahead of their Carabao Cup semi final v Man Utd tonight.
Watch it live on Sky Sports Football 📺pic.twitter.com/gPt4vDH69H
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) January 6, 2021
Manchester United EFL Cup form: WWW
Manchester United form (all competitions): WWWDWW
Manchester City EFL Cup form: WWW
Manchester City form (all competitions): DDWWWW
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred, Pogba; Fernandes; Martial, Rashford
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Steffen; Cancelo, Dias, Stones, Mendy; Fernandinho, Gundogan; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden; Aguero
Manchester United 2-2 Manchester City (Man City to win on penalties)
This is an incredibly difficult derby to call. After the dreary nature of the recent league meeting between these two we are at least expecting goals this time, but beyond that we are struggling to separate the two sides.
Both have enjoyed comfortable wins over Premier League teams already in this season’s competition, both go into the game in fine domestic form and both have recent experience of playing in the EFL Cup semi-finals.
Ultimately, the nature of Man City’s win over Chelsea on Sunday and their incredible recent record in this competition means we expect the visitors to reach the final, but it should be close and may even go all the way.
Time to take a look at our Manchester United vs Manchester City, EFL Cup semi final live match stream as it happens…