This competition has been relatively bad to us in recent years. Whilst not enjoying the same success as in the League Cup, we always seem to do OK before going out in some stupid fashion, such as Barthez not trying against Di Canio, or losing to Dirty Leeds last season.
It would be nice to get back on track in this competition, and a win against Liverpool was a great way to start, wiping the smile of King Kenny’s face before it even had begun.
Our reward is a relatively easy trip to Southampton. It would appear that we’re taking the competition seriously, as Henry Winter has tweeted;
At Carrington #mufc… Fergie taking ‘strong squad’ to Southampton tho Evra/Van der Sar/Rafael won’t travel.
Some of the team prediction threads I have posted in on www.redcafe.net and friends are filled with reserve lineups. Mine included. I guess we were all wrong.
Probably for the best, as Southampton are currently a form team. Fourth in League One, and with the scalp of Blackpool claimed in the third round, they will surely feel that they have nothing to lose. A run of five straight victories came to an end on 15th January, however, and they lost their most recent game 2-0. They haven’t scored since 11th January, when they beat Oldham 6-0. So a mixed bag.
As usual, though, they’re likely to be up for this. This will be their biggest game for a few years, and the old cliche that teams save their best for United rings true.
They have two superb youngsters in Alex Chamberlain and Adam Lallana, who have attracted attention from Premiership teams, but the latter is struggling to be fit for the tie. In addition to those Henry Winter mentioned above, Rio Ferdinand is also reported to be out by the BBC. Carrick, who you would expect to get a game here, is also struggling.
As such, I expect to see the team below, although it’s a difficult one to call.
I retract my previous prediction that Lindegaard would make his debut; I think Ferguson saying he will take a strong team precludes that. Carrick, Owen and Obertan are due a game, whilst Fletcher needs games to get back to his best. With the absence of Evra, Rafael and Rio, the defence almost picks itself given the disaster that was playing Smalling and Evans together against West Ham.
Given Villa on Tuesday, I don’t think Giggs, Scholes, Berbatov or Rooney will go anywhere near this one, although this could be a handy game for Rooney to get his shooting boots back on.
Hopefully we can knock this one off with the minimum of fuss, and look forward both to the draw, which is presumably on Sunday, and Tuesdays game. We’re at that stage of the season now where every game is a big one, and I love it.