Fresh from his latest nadir as Manchester United boss, Tuesday’s Capital One Cup semifinal first leg at Sunderland has become ever more important for David Moyes. Sunday’s defeat to Swansea City to meekly exit the FA Cup has seen renewed pressure on the man an increasingly forlorn banner at Old Trafford deems “the chosen one.”
Already lying 11 points off the pace in the Premier League and with even the most ardent fan requiring a giant pair of blinkers to think that they can take home the Champions League, the League Cup is by far the most realistic chance for Moyes to take home a much-needed trophy in his first season in charge.
Given the heightened desire for a win, and an encouraging performance to boot, Moyes could well be happy to be getting away from Old Trafford. The Theatre of Dreams, which was such a fortress under the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson, has become the happiest of hunting grounds for visiting sides, with United having lost five games there already this season and incredibly four of their last six.
The Stadium of Light will hold better memories for United and for one of their few bright lights of the season, in particular. Adnan Januzaj announced himself to the wider world in the Premier League clash between the two sides in October when scoring two outstanding goals to lead his side to a come-from-behind win that raised hopes of a turning point before turning into another false dawn.
Having come off the bench against Swansea and shown glimpses of invention that was so sorely lacking from the rest of the team, the young Belgian is likely to be handed a start on Tuesday. With Robin van Persie still ruled out and Wayne Rooney highly doubtful, United could well again be in the unflattering position of relying on an 18-year-old in his first season with the senior side.
Rio Ferdinand has become the latest injury casualty, having been forced off against Swansea, while his replacement, Fabio, is suspended after his sending off. Phil Jones, Rafael, Nani, Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young are all also expected to sit out the first leg. Moyes has voiced his displeasure with having to play twice in just over 48 hours and is set to make several changes to his side. David de Gea, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick are all likely to come into the side.
Like their opponents, it has been a difficult first half of the campaign for Sunderland. Gustavo Poyet’s arrival as manager has seen an upturn in performances, but with results failing to follow suit, the Wearsiders remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League table. They have been hard to beat in recent weeks, though, losing just one of their last seven. That run included a dramatic extra-time victory over Chelsea that booked Sunderland’s place in the semifinal and within sight of a first major trophy since 1973.
With Sunderland also having played on Sunday, Poyet may be tempted to rotate his side. John O’Shea is expected to return to the lineup to join fellow former Manchester United defender Wes Brown in defense.
Where to watch: The Capital One Cup semifinal first leg will kick off at the Stadium of Light at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.