If anybody was wondering which of the two managers placed the most importance on this game then it became obvious as soon as the teams were announced.

José Mourinho went with a strong line up which was only really missing Eric Bailly from what would be considered a first-choice eleven.

Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, went with a team which could best be described as mainly second choice.

There was a start for Luke Shaw who came in at left back so that Daley Blind could move back into the centre of defence to partner Marcos Rojo, and the fact that David De Gea played rather than Sergio Romero indicated that this was a game Mourinho wanted to win.

In fairness, United are unlikely to win the Premier League and are not even contenders in the Champion’s League so the EFL Cup would be seen as a triumph and a trophy which is certainly better than nothing.

City see themselves as realistic contenders for both the previously mentioned competitions and, providing they are correct in their assessment of themselves, could afford to rest players for this game as the result was not as important as giving younger players some game time.

The first half was pretty dour stuff and neither team really created anything. The worry for United is that Zlatan Ibrahimović is turning into Angel Di Maria. He started his Old Trafford career in excellent fashion but has now tailed off alarmingly and looks well out of sorts.

I did warn against signing Di Maria and Ibrahimović but was really hoping that Zlatan was well on the way to proving me wrong. We shall see.

Anyway, with nothing to report the first half ended goalless.

The beginning of the second half saw Aleks Kolarov come on in place of Vincent Kompany who will be auite pleased to have left the field without an injury for a change.

United started as though José Mourinho had convinced them that they could actually win this game and took the lead through Juan Mata in the 54th minute when a decent move involving Ibrahimovic and Herrera was ended by the Spaniard picking his spot inside the near post.

City didn’t really respond and the game settled down once again. In the 63rd minute Raheem Sterling entered the fray, replacing Leroy Sané and again little changed.

By this time Ibrahimovic had already fluffed a great chance to increase the lead when he completely missed a near perfect pass from Rashford. He is definitely in need of a goal!

In the 70th minute it was time for Sir Joe! Agüero came on to replace Nolito who, along with most of the City players, had done little to impress.

Two minutes later and Juan Mata made his usual early exit. In his place came a complete stranger who turned out to be Morgan Schneiderlin. Most people in Manchester had, by now, forgotten what he looks like!

Again, nothing different was served up and the substitutions had just provided a “spot the famous player” interlude. The famous players in question having no impact on the game whatsoever.

There was still time for Jesse “the tongue” Lingard to come on for the last ten minutes and try to convince everybody that he can play football. He replaced Marcus Rashford who had a decent game without being brilliant. The worry with him is that he will be picked too often simply because United don’t have a quality replacement.

All that now remained was for United to see out the last ten minutes without conceding and they would be through to the last eight.

And that, loyal followers, is exactly what happened.


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