Manchester Untied play Leeds United tonight in the third round of the Carling Cup at Elland Road, in what no doubt be a fierce hard-fought match between the two sides, who have had many great battles in the past.
League form goes right out of the window in this match with this being a Cup match and there’s no doubt that both sets of fans will be ‘up’ for the game tonight. It’s been almost 8 long years since United have played Leeds at Elland Road when Eric Djemba-Djemba struck a winner in a Carling Cup tie, which given the history between the two teams has been far too long.
Much has changed during that time: Leeds have suffered two relegations and one promotion whilst United have risen out of a transitional period winning 4 of the last 5 Premier League titles, 3 Carling Cups, 1 FA Cup and 1 Champions League.
The last time the two teams fared off was in the FA Cup two seasons ago when Simon Grayson’s side pulled of one of the great FA Cup shocks in recent time, defeating a decent yet weakened United side 1-0 at Old Trafford thanks to a first-half strike from Jermaine Beckford.
It was arguably one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s darkest days in football and an embarrassing defeat to a team who were then in League One (the third tier of English football). It was a result that inspired Leeds to get promoted back to the Championship and gave them another taste of life back in the ‘big time’ where many fans across the country believe they truly belong.
Sir Alex is likely to field a second-string side tonight, but our young and fringe players in our squad will not be taking the game lightly. They have a great opportunity to impress tonight and show that our young squad contains even more stars in it than most football fans across the country will have known about,
Despite coming of a good pre-season Leeds have had a difficult start to the season losing three out of their opening seven games in the Championship. Grayson’s side have though won their last two league games. On Saturday they beat Bristol City 2-1 thanks to a late goal from Ross McCormack. The former Cardiff City forward only scored two goals last season but already has seven to his name this season and is leading the line well up front.
They will be under pressure this season to challenge for promotion and after missing out on a play-off place last season
So what can we expect from tonight’s game. What will be the key battles on the pitch?
Jonny Evans v Luciano Becchio
There are not too many Argentine strikers who would move from the Spain’s second division to England’s third-tier. Luciano Becchio is probably the only player in living memory who has done that. The former Barcelona forward has impressed for Leeds, becoming a firm fan-favourite.
Due to injury-problems it’s uncertain whether Sir Alex will use Jonny Evans tonight. If selected though, it will be a good test for Evans who has certainly started the season well. He has looked alot more confident in his own ability recently and with the belief of Sir Alex Ferguson behind him should have enough steel to be able to deal with Becchio tonight.
Park Ji-Sung v Jonny Howson
Jonny Howson was touted as an outstanding talent before he made his debut for Leeds in September 2006 and there’s no doubt that the England U21 midfielder has impressed over the past six seasons. The midfielder was appointed as Leeds’ captain this season and has started the year well.
United fans know what to expect from Park Ji-Sung and if he is selected tonight from the start, he will no doubt give the side experience and a work-ethic that should cause Leeds trouble. Aside from his creative skills, he has an excellent work-rate and will want to make sure Howson never is allowed time to get comfortable in the game.
Michael Owen v Darren O’Dea
Despite signing a new one-year deal in the summer, Michael Owen would have known again that the majority of his first-team starts this year would be coming in the domestic Cup competitions. Tonight he will be leading the line for United, being an old head on a young team’s
His marker tonight will be Darren O’Dea. The Irish international is on loan at Elland Road from Celtic and at 24 is looking to play regularly rather than sit on the bench in the SPL. He has the pace to deal with Owen and there’s no doubt if he continues to impress for Leeds this season that he may make the move permanent in January.
In terms of a prediction for the game tonight, as I stated earlier on in a predictions article, I can see United winning the game 2-1. I don’t think that it will be an easy game and expect the tie to be decided in extra time. Who knows it might even go to penalties which would certainly be an exciting and nerve-wracking moment for our fans this early into the season.
The atmosphere at Elland Road will be ‘electric’ tonight and there’s no doubt Leeds will try to make it as tough as possible and if they take the lead, they no doubt will grow in confidence. If they do, it’s vital that the older lads in the side grind out all their experience to help the younger lads settle and if they do that then there’s every chance one of the young stars could grab a goal or two. This will certainly be an interesting encounter to say the least!
By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87