Manchester United resume their quest for a third League Cup in four years when they take on Aldershot at the The Recreation Ground in the fourth round on Tuesday night. The League Two side were rewarded for their 2-1 win over Rochdale in the previous round with a tie against the Premier League Champions who convincingly dispatched of their fierce rivals Leeds United 3-0. It is a glamour tie for Town and an opportunity for their young manager, former Wimbledon and Bolton striker, Dean Holdsworth to pit his wits against the most successful manager in English football history.
The game comes at the perfect time for both United and Aldershot but for differing reasons. Aldershot halted a 5 game losing streak at the weekend with an excellent 5-2 away win at Dagenham and Redbridge. They will go in to this tie high on confidence after that result. Contrastingly, the Reds will be happy to have a game so quickly after an utterly humiliating defeat at the hands of their noisy neighbours on Sunday. A cup game against a lower league side should present the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways and to put in a good performance to appease the fans.
Aldershot Town – The Rising Phoenix. Formed in 1992 after the demise of Aldershot FC, who were the first football team to fold during a season since Accrington Stanley in 1962, they regained their Football League status when they were promoted from the Conference in 2008. They made the play offs in their second season in League Two but lost out in the semi finals. The following season they were at risk of relegation which prompted a change of management. This saw Holdsworth take the reigns and he guided them to the safety of 14th place.
This season has been more a struggle for The Shots. They currently languish in 15th place having lost half of their 14 league games. More than half of these defeats have come at home which must be a concern for them as the might of Manchester United come to visit. They have fared better in the Carling Cup at home though, having beat League One opposition in the last two rounds at The Recreation Ground. These followed a giant killing at Upton Park when they beat the Hammers 2-1 with a last minute winner.
Those results will pale in to insignificance if they can get a result against the Reds. They will look to last year’s Player of the Year, Luke Guttridge, to inspire them in midfield and hope Danny Hylton can continue his decent goal scoring form this season which has seen him bag 10 goals already. Two of those ten came in the Carling Cup; winners against West Ham and Rochdale.
The Reds propensity to blood youngsters in this competition continued in the last round with Zeki Fryers making an impressive debut at centre back. There were also debuts for Paul Pogba and Larnell Cole as second half substitutes but the importance of the game in terms of who the opposition were probably restricted Ferguson from giving more full debuts to a few other youngsters. For this game there is no excuse to not introduce more promising Reserve team players to first team football. With the utmost respect to Aldershot, they arguably face sterner opposition in the Reserve league than they will against a mid table League Two side. However, first team squad players need minutes on the pitch and Ferguson might also treat this game as a punishment for some players after the woeful display on Sunday.
Macheda ruled himself out of the game on Twitter due to an elbow injury and Rafael is also unlikely to feature as there has been no update on his shoulder injury. Unconfirmed rumours suggest Giggs is injured and that is why he missed the last two games so will possibly miss this one too. One player who could make his return is Tom Cleverley. Ferguson had hoped he would be ready for Liverpool which suggests he has been training. He might have made his return at the weekend had the opposition not been City so this match could provide the perfect opportunity for him to get match fit. Vidic is also likely to feature after being left out of the squad on Sunday due to concerns over his fitness and ability to play three games in a short space of time. Other first team players who could be doing with a game are Antonia Valencia, who has been awful since his return from injury, and Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen who have only featured once since the last round of the Cup.
The only reason the above named players should feature is because they need minutes. We shouldn’t need their experience against Aldershot. Instead this game should be used to showcase the talents of Pogba, Morrison, Cole et al. I will be surprised and extremely disappointed if there are not more youngsters involved than there was against Leeds. Zeki Fryers, if fit after suffering whiplash in a recent Reserve outing, deserves to take his place in defence again after an outstanding performance against Leeds. Pogba should get his first start in the centre of the park which could prove exciting if his partner is indeed Tom Cleverley. Tom Thorpe or Michael Keane should get the nod to play at centre back. There probably isn’t a better chance to play Ravel Morrison but I doubt he will start. Hopefully he’ll be on the bench and at least get 45 minutes. Larnell Cole and Jesse Lingard have made timely returns from injury and could feature in the squad after Ferguson name checked them before the third round draw was made. Davide Petrucci may also be a contender after finding his form for the Reserves in the last few weeks.
Once again though, the team will be impossible to correctly predict. We’ll most likely go with a 4-4-2 formation but the player’s to fill those positions is anybody’s guess. Here’s mine:
Bench: Lindegaard, Thorpe, Brown, Morrison, Cole, Petrucci, W.Keane
I expect nothing less than a victory. It should be convincing but knowing United in recent weeks, it won’t be that. Nevertheless, I’ll go with a 4-0 win with Owen bagging a hat trick and Morrison coming off the bench to seal the win.
By Mick Higgins (Follow me on Twitter)