Manchester United get their League Cup campaign underway with a home tie against local minnows Rochdale on Wednesday evening in what will be only the second match played between these two sides, both at Old Trafford. The previous encounter was a third round FA Cup tie back in January 1986, a game in which the cup holders began their defence of the trophy won by Norman Whiteside’s curler the previous May. By all accounts the game in ‘86 was a routine 2 – 0 victory against spirited opponents who never really looked a threat, a repeat of which I’m sure Ole Gunnar Solskjær would receive gratefully given some of the recent results and performances.
On paper, even with the current injuries, this game should be something of a formality, however, those of us old enough to remember the York City debacle 24 years ago still refuse to take these games lightly. Of course, that season United went on to win the double, an event which unfortunately I don’t believe is likely to happen again any time soon. An event which will happen soon is the return of Paul Pogba to first team action, and not before time as the midfield has lacked dynamism and the ability to move the ball forward quickly while he has been sidelined. Love him or hate him, he’s the best we’ve got. Solskjær has suggested Pogba may be fit for this game, although with bigger fish to fry the gaffer may opt to keep his powder dry and trust some of the young guns who impressed against Astana last week.
Rochdale are coming into this game on a run of poor form themselves, with a 6 nil drubbing by Peterborough, a 1 – 1 home draw with Lincoln City and a 2 – 1 reverse at Fleetwood making up their last three results. Manager Brian Barry-Murphy has his work cut out, but with local pride at stake and nothing to lose I’m sure we can expect a spirited performance from the former League Cup finalists.