Manchester United face Middlesbrough in the fourth round of the League Cup at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.
United beat Ipswich Town 3-0 at Old Trafford in the third round of the competition last month to earn their place against Middlesbrough. United have done well recently with a 3-0 victory over Everton in the Barclays Premier League, followed by a 1-1 draw away to CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League, then a 0-0 draw against Manchester City in the league. It turned around United’s form at the start of the month, losing 3-0 to Arsenal in the worst match United have played this season. United have four more matches before the final international break of the year; the league including a visit to London to face Crystal Palace, the return fixture at Old Trafford against CSKA Moscow then the return to Darren Fletcher, Jonny Evans and Anders Lindegaard with United entertaining West Bromwich Albion.
Manchester United have a good record at home against Middlesbrough, winning 35 of the 56 competitive matches played, drawing 11 and losing 10. The last time the two sides met, back in 2008, United won 1-0, Boro last beat United back in 2004 at Old Trafford, in a 3-2 victory. Louis van Gaal has gotten over his blip in the League Cup last season, losing in their first match in the second round, so he will be looking to earn a pass into the fifth round of the competition, where it will start to get tougher. I would like to see the likes of Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira utilised in the match, which will help both bed themselves into the first team, benefiting them for their future careers. Pereira scored in his last League Cup outing and could be given another chance to do so again.
Louis van Gaal Will be without three of his stars; with Luke Shaw the long-term absence, Paddy McNair and Antonio Valencia are the two short-term injuries, meaning the Dutchman has the majority of his squad to choose from for this match. Keeping an eye on the match away to Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon will be something the manager will be doing, aiming to keep most of his players fit for the crucial match, with United out to put the 0-0 stalemate against City to bed, earning three points on the road. Middlesbrough will put up a fight in the League Cup, aiming to book their place in the fifth round, but I believe United will be too strong for them, earning the place instead.