United to find a way to Wembley
Ben Coley previews Wednesday's Capital One Cup clash between Manchester United and Sunderland.
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Sunday's defeat to Chelsea confirms that Manchester United are out of the Premier League title race and as a consequence this game takes on extra significance. Defeat would leave United truly clutching at straws - it's hard to imagine them embarking upon a charge towards Champions League glory - but victory could yet turn around David Moyes' first season at the helm. With Manchester City awaiting in the final, qualification here would give the much-maligned manager an opportunity to right many wrongs and in that sense he'll be pleased that the most daunting of opponents lie in wait. First, though, he needs to rally the troops after another morale-sapping loss, one which also leaves United without the suspended Nemanja Vidic. However, there were in fact some positives to take from Sunday's game at Stamford Bridge and with Sunderland still looking like a side who will struggle to stay alive in the Premier League, there's no doubt that United should qualify. Gus Poyet has managed to get some results on the road since taking over - Sunderland are unbeaten in five away from the Stadium Of Light - and is likely to try to make things hard for a United side whose chief problem has been creating opportunities, but I'm not sure they've enough about them to keep United at bay. With all this in mind, it could be worth looking at options like 0-0 at half-time - a 5/2 chance - and draw/United in the half-time/full-time betting at 7/2. United haven't led at the break since they beat West Ham a month and seven games ago and if Sunderland are disciplined they could cause some problems for a time at least. However, part of the reason for United's first-half issues is that they've been too tentative and that isn't an option here, so the dynamics are very different. As such I'm instead going to chance Javier Hernandez scoring the first goal at 9/2. With Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie still sidelined and United's need very much clear, the Mexican should start and he has a proven cup pedigree. Hernandez has scored first in both Capital One Cup games at Old Trafford this season and his strike-rate in the competition is better than for the FA Cup or Premier League. His goal on Sunday further underlined his attacking instincts and any chance created is likely to be taken. Sunderland's chief threat of late has come from the in-form Adam Johnson, who isn't the worst price in the world at 13/2 to find the net once more. However, it's now or never for United and I believe they'll produce a performance good enough to keep Sunderland at bay and see them set up an all-Manchester final.
Verdict: Manchester United 3 Sunderland 0
- This game is being televised live on the UK on Sky Sports.