The two clubs are both looking to make up ground on their near rivals in the Premier League – United sit one point behind league leaders Chelsea, while Villa, assuming they can win their game in hand, will be just one point behind United’s rivals, Manchester City, for the important fourth and final UEFA Champion’s League qualification spot. The Carling Cup, in a former life referred to as the “Mickey Mouse Cup” by United fans, may offer a welcome break from the high pressure league at this stage of the season.
The Carling Cup offers a place in the UEFA Europa League, too, which, while they should be able to achieve it through league position, is the least Aston Villa will be hoping for from their season, so perhaps the men from Birmingham will be more intent on success today, as United will have their eyes on bigger prizes.
That being said, Villa are also in the quarter final of the FA Cup, as well as in a league battle of their own, so they cannot afford to commit too much energy to the second tier competition, can they?
Manchester United have hinted that they might rest the excellent Wayne Rooney, so, particularly against as tight a rearguard as Villa’s, they may struggle to score more than the odd goal today. Also, having lost Rio Ferdinand, and with Vidic only recently reinstated to the line-up, United’s recent defensive problems may yet resurface this afternoon, particularly against the speedy Agbonlahor – the tall Carew can do damage from the bench too.
United have the quality throughout their team to lift the trophy today, but, based on the likely lineups, this match could well finish at 1-1 at the end of normal time, and it seems unlikely that it will be won by more than one goal. Expect a close game today, with few clear-cut chances which is decided either by a defensive error, or a moment of brilliance from one of many who possess great skill on both teams.
As a final, it is a mouthwatering prospect, the result of which we will likely have to wait more than 90 minutes to be certain.
Mickey Mouse Cup? Try telling that to the 22 men who’s studs will be chattering the floor nervously in the changing rooms right now.