Manchester United entertain Championship side Burton Albion in the EFL Cup this evening, beginning the defence of the first trophy claimed by Jose Mourinho as United manager last season. The East Midlands club, once again under the guidance of Nigel Clough, have had an indifferent start to life in the Championship, currently sitting 19th with 8 points from 8 games played, but have battled through two rounds of this knock-out competition already, winning at Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City to earn the right to face the Red Devils.
I would expect United to start as strong favourites to win this tie, particularly on our own ground, and whilst Burton will be no mugs (no side managed by a Clough ever would be!), I would hope any United side would get the job done on the night.
With that in mind, here is my team selection for this game: (4-2-3-1)
GK: Sergio Romero – the Argentinean stopper has had to be patient to date, and with David de Gea starting Champions League games, his opportunities will be even more limited than last season, but he is a top keeper in his own right, and I have no concerns in selecting him for this game.
RB: Matteo Darmian – the Italian full-back is much better on the right side of defence, and like many of his countrymen, takes pride in keeping clean sheets. He needs to develop his ability as an attacking full-back, and this evening’s game should give him a few opportunities to do just that.
LB: Daley Blind – Blind wasn’t even in the squad for Sunday’s 4-0 win over Everton, but he should be more than ready to line up against the Brewers, and like his fellow full-back Darmian, this game should be a good chance for Daley to show some of his ability to support the attacking build-up play on the left side.
CBs: Victor Lindelof & Chris Smalling – both the Swede and Smalling had steady competitive season debuts against Swiss Champions FC Basel last Tuesday evening, and this is another ideal opportunity for them to get 1st team game-time against opposition they should be confident of bossing. Burton suffered a major setback to their planning for the season when club record signing, Northern Ireland international striker Liam Boyce, sustained a long-term injury in pre-season; the likes of Sean Scannell and Marvin Sordell should be well shackled by our centre-backs.
DMs: Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera – again, this should be ideal opposition for Club captain Carrick to come into the side to face. Burton will sit deep and look to play counter-attacking football at Old Trafford. Michael is a master at linking the play and timing searching through-balls to perfection. Alongside him, Herrera will look to get forward to support the attack, and his late runs toward the box may cause the visitors some problems. The little Spaniard needs the game-time as he will be expected to play a bigger role in Premier League and Champions League fixtures in the absence of Paul Pogba.
AM(R): Jesse Lingard – will run all night for you, and is often clever in finding space in crowded areas. He caused Everton’s defence problems when he came on last Sunday, and this is a good chance for Jesse to put pressure on the manager for a regular starting place in forthcoming Premier League fixtures.
AM(C): Scott McTominay – the young man looked very assured during his appearances in pre-season, and will relish the chance to start for the 1st team and show what he can do. His passing is accurate, and with Andreas Pereira having decided to join Valencia on a season-long loan, McTominay needs to use this opportunity to prove he is more worthy of consideration for inclusion in Premier League match-day squads than his team-mate.
AM(L): Angel Gomes – it’s hard not to get too excited about this kid because his ability is clearly outstanding, and this should be a good chance for Angel to further enhance his reputation, and give the Burton defence all sorts of problems… I wouldn’t want to have to mark him, that’s for sure!
CF: Anthony Martial – Martial gets the nod ahead of Rashford because the young England man played for the majority of the Everton match, so Martial should be fresher to start this game. His pace and trickery will be on a different level to what the Brewers’ players normally face in the Championship, and if he is having a quiet night, the sight of Rashford coming off the bench won’t fill the visitors with any joy… Later, with Burton legs tiring, I’d bring on Rashford and let him try to get his ‘scoring season’ up and running against lesser defenders than he will face in the Premier League.
BENCH: Pereira, Shaw (if fit, Valencia if not), Rashford, Young, Bailly, Fellaini, Mata.
I expect this to be a comfortable evening, despite the youthful nature of our team. Burton Albion, with all due respect, are a club I expect to see struggling to retain their Championship status next April, and it will be a major shock if this United side cannot overcome them on our own pitch. Ex-Liverpool full-back Stephen Warnock is the only member of their squad with any decent amount of experience of playing Premier League football, and anything other than a quiet evening for Sergio Romero will be an unpleasant surprise.