Furious Fergie faces City
After Manchester United's shocking loss at home to Leeds in the FA Cup, manager Alex Ferguson is out to avoid another embarrassing defeat when his side meets neighbour Manchester City in a League Cup semi-final. He is likely to drop some of his underperforming stars.
Ferguson was angry that his team did not match the work rate or fighting spirit of third-tier Leeds at Old Trafford on Sunday when United lost 0-1.
"You have to bounce back, get it out of your system," said Ferguson, who now comes up against new City manager Roberto Mancini at the City of Manchester Stadium tomorrow in the first leg of the semi-final.
"We have a semi-final on Wednesday now and a lot of these players won't be playing. I had the team in mind but there may be changes now. I was shocked by the performance."
It was the first time since 1984 - two years before Ferguson arrived at the club - that United had gone out of the competition so early. Ferguson will be able to recall the likes of Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes to the starting line-up. But City have a chance to take advantage of its neighbour's defensive frailties to open up a healthy lead in the first leg before they meet again at Old Trafford January 19.
City had a routine 1-0 victory at League Championship club Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Saturday with one of the back-up strikers, Benjani Mwaruwari, scoring the goal. Benjani may only just make the bench tomorrow with Mancini likely to field Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz or Craig Bellamy in attack.
"We have two games and, for this, we must stay more concentrated in the first game because it's important we play well, score goals and don't concede," Mancini said. "But it will be decided in the second match, which will be the harder game."
In today's other semi-final, Blackburn host Aston Villa in a repeat of Saturday's FA Cup meeting which Villa won 3-1.
In Premier League action, Stoke host Fulham today and Arsenal aim to leapfrog Manchester United and move within a point of leader Chelsea by beating Bolton tomorrow.