A place at Wembley is at stake when Manchester United host Manchester City in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final at Old Trafford on Tuesday (3pm ET).
The pair of them are among the most successful clubs in the history of the competition, and between them they have lifted the trophy in each of the last four seasons. Man City have done so in each of the last two and three of the last four; United did so in 2016-17.
This also isn’t the first time they have met at this stage of the EFL Cup, now branded as the Carabao Cup. The local rivals have locked horns in the final four of the competition on two previous occasions, with one victory apiece. It was United who emerged triumphant from the most recent, with a 4-3 aggregate win en route to claiming the prize in 2009-10.
Things have changed a lot in the subsequent decade. At the end of that season, it had been 34 years since City had lifted a major domestic trophy. Man Utd had won three of the previous four league titles alongside a pair of EFL Cup successes.
Since then, it is City who have been the primary accumulators of silverware in Manchester. They have won four league titles to United’s two, two FA Cups to United’s one, and four EFL Cups to United’s one. Huge financial support from their Abu Dhabi owners in addition to United’s lack of direction since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 have made them the city’s predominant force.
This season has generally followed the same course. Man City have suffered more than their usual quota of slip-ups and are highly likely to surrender the Premier League title they have won in each of the last two seasons to an impeccable Liverpool side. However their current standing of third is still two places and a full 13 points better than that of United.
It was, though, Man Utd who came out on the top when these sides met in the league last month. First-half goals from Marcus Rashford (from the penalty spot) and Anthony Martial gave them an advantage they were able to successfully defend thereafter, despite City getting a late goal back through Nicolas Otamendi.
That victory continued an evident pattern in United’s results so far this season. While they have often struggled when required to take control of matches against primarily defensive minded teams from the lower reaches of the league, losing to nil to four of the bottom eight, they have performed well as a counter-attacking side against higher ranked teams.
In addition to City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have also defeated second-placed Leicester, fourth-placed Chelsea and sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. The 1-1 draw they achieved at home to Liverpool in October still represents the only points the league leaders have dropped to date. They appear to be far more adept at breaking forward at pace against proactive opponents than they are in trying to work their way through the set defences of passive ones.
Neither was that defeat at home to United the only time City have been sucker punched this season. Man City’s total of five league losses so far is only one less than they suffered through the previous two campaigns combined. They just seem to be a bit easier to play through in transition this time around. Their chances of making up the 14-point deficit to Liverpool seem slim at best.
The Champions League is sure to be the primary focus for Pep Guardiola and his side during the second half of the season, but they also have the necessary resources to try and defend the two domestic cup competitions they won last season. Progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup was achieved with a comfortable 4-1 win over Port Vale on Saturday.
Our Preview’s Man Utd vs Man City Predictions, Picks & Betting Tips Verdict
Man City should have enough quality to come out on top over the two legs of this EFL Cup semi-final. That doesn’t mean that United aren’t capable of at least getting some sort of positive result from Tuesday’s match at Old Trafford, even with injuries making their lack of quality and depth in midfield ever more clear. Backing them to get a draw or better seems a solid play.
- Bet Manchester United on the “draw no bet” market @ +250 (5/2) with Intertops.