Manchester United host Championship side Burton Albion in the third round of the EFL Cup.
Manchester United have kicked off their season in prime fashion, and are currently joint top of the league. They also kick started their Champions League season in style, drubbing FC Basel 3-0 at Old Trafford. Mourinho’s men come into the match on the back of an emphatic 4-0 home victory over Everton, when goals from Valencia, Mkhitaryan, Martial and Lukaku extended their 100% league record to five games this season. United lifted the trophy last season, defeating Southampton 3-2 in the final, and they’ll be out to defend the title, starting with a tricky home game to a lesser known Championship side.
Burton Albion, on the other hand, haven’t had a great start to the season. Nigel Clough’s men lie 19th in the Championship, only four points outside the relegation places after eight match days. They defeated Fulham 2-1 this Saturday, courtesy of a goal from Stephen Warnock and a late Lucas Akins penalty. They have, however, saved their best form for the Carabao Cup as they’ve outdone both Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City on their way to this third round stage. The team, who struggled last season in what was their first ever season in the Championship following back-to-back promotions, have not had a desired start to league campaign, but there have been suggestions that Clough is finally gelling together a squad that’s good enough to challenge for promotion to the top tier. Having brought 12 new players to the Pirelli Stadium this summer, the boss doesn’t have many excuses and is under pressure to significantly improve on last season’s finish- when they only managed to beat the drop by one point.
Manchester United will be without long-term absentees Pogba, Rojo and Ibrahimovic, while Axel Tuanzebe has been ruled out with a back strain. Mourinho has already confirmed that De Gea, Bailly, Valencia and Matic would all be rested for this game. This could mean Shaw’s return to the pitch following a long-term injury, and could also mark skipper Carrick and ‘keeper Romero’s first games of the season. Such has been the depth of United’s squad that many top players haven’t seen regular action this season, and young players like Scott McTominay and new signing Victor Lindelof are also expected to start against the Championship side. Given the quality of the players raring to go out tonight, its certain that United would announce a pretty strong starting eleven.
For the visitors, deadline-day signing John Brayford isn’t available as he is cup tied, while fellow summer signing Liam Boyce is still out with a long-term injury. However, Hope Akpan and Matty Palmer could make a return following spells on the side line.
Burton Albion have only played Mancheter United twice before, in the 2006-06 FA Cup. They earned an impressive 0-0 draw at home, but were destroyed 5-0 in the replay at the Theatre of Dreams.
Not many Premier League bosses rate the League Cup, but it holds a great significance to Mourinho, who began his Old Trafford reign by winning this trophy in his very first season in charge. He’ll also have an extra incentive, as another League Cup trophy would take him ahead of Sir Alex Ferguson as the manager with the most League Cups ever. And as United face Southampton on Saturday, they’ll want to end the game in normal time, and could mean that Mourinho packs his defence with as much experience as possible.
United are obviously clear favourites for the match, and with no disrespect to the Championship side, even a second string United team would be too strong tonight. Burton are good enough to spring a surprise, but only a surprise and not an upset. I expect Mourinho’s stars to claim a 3-0 or even a 4-0 victory tonight.