Sometimes the best thing that can happen after a team loses a match is to play another one shortly thereafter. Manchester United has that luxury on Wednesday night when Sunderland arrives at Old Trafford to face United in the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final; the Black Cats hold a 2-1 advantage from their first leg victory at the Stadium of Light.
“We are giving everything at the minute but it’s just not going our way,” Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick said. “If we all stick together, I am sure it will turn soon. We want to play again as quickly as possible and Wednesday is another big game.”
Yes, of the major trophies a club could win over the course of a season, the League Cup is arguably low or last on the list of achievements behind the FA Cup, Europa League, Premier League and Champions League titles.
But what Wednesday night represents to Manchester United is a chance to advance to a cup final at Wembley Stadium. With the team low on confidence and belief, David Moyes and Manchester United need a Wembley final.
Programming note: For viewers in the United States, Wednesday’s game between Manchester United vs Sunderland at 2:45pm ET is being shown exclusively on beIN SPORTS and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORTS, you can access those channels via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website. Setup takes just minutes.
“It is an opportunity to get to a final. You can’t take that lightly and the fans have been unbelievable over the last month or so especially,” said Michael Carrick.
Should United progress past Sunderland on Wednesday, their likely opponent at Wembley will be Manchester City, barring a catastrophy in City’s return leg against West Ham United.
A Manchester derby will guarantee a sold out Wembley Stadium for the Capital One Cup final.
Regardless of the ‘importance’ of the League Cup, when both teams walk out on to the pitch in front of 90,000 fans, with half of the supporters in red and the others in sky blue, the event will take on enormous significance. The roar at the stadium on March 2nd will leave no doubt that this League Cup final is a ‘big’ game.
The talk around Manchester City is that they are lining up to do the ‘quadruple’. No club has won the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup in one season. But City manager Manuel Pellegrini has not ruled out his club’s chance of doing it during his first season in charge.
“It’s difficult [to win all four] but we’ll try,” the 60-year-old Chilean said recently. “It’s important to have the mentality.”
And what better way to start their run towards the quadruple then by beating their city rival in the League Cup final and thus inflicting further pain on United and their supporters.
On the other hand, Manchester United would enter the League Cup final as underdogs for the first time in recent history.
Before the season started, if you were asked who would win a matchup between the two Manchester clubs, the answer would have probably been split down the middle, or very close to half-and-half.
But after Manchester City’s 4-1 demolition of United at the Etihad in September and their continued offensive onslaught of Premier League opponents, the pendulum of pubic opinion would have to swing in City’s favor leading into an all-Manchester final.
So David Moyes and Manchester United would have the weight of expectation lifted from their shoulders. All of the pressure would be on Manchester City to perform and for Pellegrini to obtain his first trophy at the club.
Of course people will say that David Moyes will need to find a way to beat Manchester City and win a trophy during his first season at the club; even if it’s the League Cup. But if the final whistle blows and Manchester City lift the Capital One Cup, would anyone really be surprised? City has the best squad in England and one of the best in Europe. Manchester United is an aging, underperforming side who has been struggling under their new manager in the league.
But fan and public opinion play very little part on what goes on during a match. When the whistle blows to start the match, Manchester United and Manchester City aren’t going to care who is favored to win and who isn’t. Both sets of players will be focused on beating the other and each manager will be trying to outmaneuver his counterpart. Past results may creep into their head for a moment, but the event and what is transpiring in front of them will take over and they will be fully focused on winning the cup.
That’s why a Wembley final could be just what Manchester United need to galvanize the club.
The risk of meeting City in the final and creating a monumental upset would give Manchester United supporters something else to sing about, it would also give David Moyes the confidence of winning a trophy (sorry, Community Shield doesn’t really count). It would give the team an obtainable goal to focus on for 90 minutes. United’s players will be doing everything in their collective power to be the ones walking up the stairs at Wembley to lift the League Cup trophy.
The buildup and magnitude of an all-Manchester cup final would unify everyone involved at Manchester United. The club needs to find a way to get past Sunderland on Wednesday night and advance to the Wembley final.
For those who have witnessed Wembley finals, you know what to expect, they are a spectacle to behold. And for the others who have seen recent meetings between the Manchester Clubs at Wembley during the FA Cup and Community Shields, you know what to expect.
The noise at the stadium that day will be enormous. The color and the pageantry of the event will be breathtaking and memorable. Something about the occasion transcends sport, almost turning it into a fairy tale.
A Manchester Derby at English football’s biggest venue.
David Moyes and Manchester United need a Wembley final.
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