The return of the League Cup gives Sir Alex Ferguson another opportunity to showcase the club’s exciting young talent. The competition can sometimes be seen by fans as a hindrance in an already packed fixture list, but this season there seems to be a sense of real excitement about the players we could see under the Old Trafford floodlights.
It will be interesting to see who Sir Alex goes with in goal after switching between Anders Lindegaard and David De Gea in recent games. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to give 19-year-old Sam Johnstone his first-team debut. The tall and agile keeper has been capped at a number of levels for England and went on loan at Scunthorpe last season. Playing against Barclays Premier League opposition in Newcastle United is the next logical test for him. If Johnstone does start I imagine De Gea will be on the bench given the young Spaniard didn’t feature against Liverpool at the weekend.
With Nemanja Vidic ruled out for eight weeks and Phil Jones and Chris Smalling also injured, tonight’s fixture will surely be a good platform for young defenders like Michael Keane and Scott Wootton to gain first-team experience. While Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra will probably be rested, I believe Jonny Evans will feature as he has only recently returned from injury and the game time can only help. He will also bring some experienced stability to what we expect to be a young-looking back line. I feel Alexander Büttner will start at left back after a fantastic display against Wigan on his debut, capped by a stunning individual goal. It will also be important for him to get some further first-team action for United against good quality opposition as he looks to push Evra all the way for the left-back position.
There are suggestions Nick Powell and Darren Fletcher will start together in midfield. It will be great to see Fletcher continue his recovery after a long absence on the sidelines and Powell looks a very exciting young player who, like Tom Cleverley, could be a huge part of the club’s future in central midfield. The former Crewe favourite scored a superb goal as a substitute on his debut.