The first leg of a Carabao Cup semi-final, aka League Cup semi-final, is always tough because it comes at such a busy point in the season. When it was confirmed that Manchester City and Manchester United would be going toe to toe in one of the two semi-finals, we all knew there were going to be fireworks.
Men against boys
Three goals in the first half did the job for the champions who could’ve easily had more if they hadn’t taken their foot off the gas in the second. Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and an Andreas Pereira own goal wound up sealing the fate of the Red Devils.
Marcus Rashford pulled one back with 20 minutes remaining to give them hope as they head to the Etihad, but it’s going to take a huge effort for them to reach the final now.
Pep Guardiola, as you can probably imagine, was pleased with the result.
“The last game against United [a 2-1 loss in December] we could not control when we lost the ball, and tonight we did it better.
“We lost the ball in a position which is so dangerous [for the United goal]. We cannot forget which team we play. Tonight we can be more than satisfied to come here to Old Trafford and win.
“It is not over. We have one more game and we’ll see what happens.
“Of course Manchester United can come back. Last year here they lost to Paris St-Germain [in the Champions League] and qualified. They have the shirt which means history and pride.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on the other hand, recognized that there are still issues to be resolved before the second leg.
“From their first goal, and especially the second, we struggled to get to grips with them. A good reaction second half, but first half until they scored it is was back and forth. We didn’t cope with the setback well enough.
“We didn’t deal with their system well enough, we know they can play that way. They played that way last season and beat Chelsea 5-0.
“First goal there is nothing we can do, second is sloppy and the third we just didn’t recover.
“With Matic and his experience [coming on in the second half] he had more presence. It was more about wanting the ball and believing, passing the ball. Someone needed to take responsibility. We’ve shown before we have been down from a home tie and turned it around. PSG is the latest example and we have to believe that we can put on a performance.”
Both teams have a few weeks to prepare for the second leg, whereas in the other semi-final, the tie between Leicester City and Aston Villa is tied at 1-1 heading into the second leg at Villa Park – with the Foxes being unable to capitalize on their home advantage.