Wayne Rooney could return to the Manchester United squad as they look to overturn a 2-1 deficit in the second leg of their Capital One Cup semifinal with Sunderland. The England forward has been missing for three weeks with a groin injury, but is expected to play some part at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
After a run of four defeats from their last five matches, United boss David Moyes will be desperate for Rooney, who leads the team with 11 goals and 14 assists this season, to return to action. The match is likely to come too early, though, for Robin van Persie, although the Dutch striker could return for next Tuesday’s Premier League clash with Cardiff City.
But it is the League Cup that will be firmly at the front of Moyes’ mind right now, and the possibility of lifting a first trophy in his managerial career to lift some of the growing pressure on his shoulders. A 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at the weekend leaves the Premier League champions in seventh place, a full 14 points off the summit and six points removed from the final Champions League place. The defeat also cost them the services of Nemanja Vidic for three games, after the defender’s late sending off. Another casualty was Patrice Evra, who limped off against Chelsea and is a doubt to face Sunderland.
United were left frustrated at the Stadium of Light by three former Old Trafford defenders in the Sunderland side -- Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Phil Bardsley -- as well as a debatable penalty decision. United midfielder Darren Fletcher believes that the players’ mentality will be crucial to turning the tie around.
“I thought it was a game we were in full control of until we lost a sloppy goal before half-time,” Fletcher said, according to Manchester United’s official website. “We went in 1-0 down and then I don’t think it was a penalty kick that gave Sunderland their winner, so a lot of things didn’t go our way.
“But fair play to Sunderland: they got behind the ball, made it very difficult and three of our old friends at the back there -- Bardo, Sheasy and Wes -- pulled out great performances, as we know they’re capable of because they’re great players. “It’ll be the same in the second leg and we have to expect that, but we’ve got to believe in ourselves and believe we’re good enough to win the match.”
The man who won the penalty in the first leg, Adam Johnson, has gone onto play a key part in Sunderland’s mini revival that has seen them take four points from their last two Premier League matches to lift themselves off the foot of the table -- albeit only on goal difference. The former Manchester City winger scored a stunning hat-trick in the 4-1 victory at Fulham before grabbing an equalizer as Sunderland came back from two goals down against Southampton at the weekend.
While Premier League survival is undoubtedly the club’s priority, manager Gus Poyet is eager not to pass up the opportunity to make it to a major Wembley final.
“You don’t get to a semi-final every year -- sometimes not even in 10 years,” he told Sunderland’s official website.
“It’s a great opportunity to put ourselves in a final but we’ve only done part of the job. You never know how much -- whether 50 percent or not -- but definitely a part. We must go there and try to make sure we finish the job and put ourselves in the final.”
Sunderland have no new injury worries, with only goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and defender Carlos Cuellar remaining on the sidelines.
Where to watch: The Capital One Cup semifinal second leg will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sports, with a live stream provided by beIN Sports Play.