Carabao Cup preview: Your guide to Colchester
Manchester United entertain lower league opposition for the second time this season on Wednesday, when we take on Colchester United in the Carabao Cup quarter-final.
The U’s, who currently sit ninth in League Two, have already defeated two Premier League sides on their way to the last eight, and will be keen to make it a hat-trick on their first-ever visit to Old Trafford.
Here’s everything you need to know about the League Two outfit ahead of kick-off…
Forward Courtney Senior is a doubt for the U's after being substituted with a quad injury at half-time during their 2-2 draw against Scunthorpe United on Saturday. The 22-year-old, who has scored three goals so far this season, including one in the Carabao Cup, was replaced by Callum Harriott, although manager John McGreal said he hoped the problem wasn’t as bad as first feared.
Colchester have developed something of a reputation as giant-killers in this year’s competition, seeing off Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur on penalties in the second and third round respectively. More comfortable victories over divisional rivals Swindon Town, in the first round, and Crawley Town last time out mean the U’s are in the quarter-finals of the League Cup for the first time in 45 years. The Essex club travel to Manchester in decent form, having not lost in League Two since 19 October. After a poor start which saw them fail to win any of their opening four games, Colchester have recovered recently and three wins and three draws in their last six outings mean McGreal’s side sit just three points off the play-offs with a game in hand on seventh-placed Northampton Town.
We’ve only played Colchester twice previously, with both meetings coming away from home in cup competitions. In February 1979, a late Jimmy Greenhoff strike at Layer Road helped Dave Sexton’s side through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in a tricky tie which saw the home side have a goal disallowed. Four years later, the Reds travelled down to Essex again, this time defeating the U’s 2-0 in the League Cup third round, courtesy of first-half efforts from Gordon McQueen and Remi Moses. This will be Colchester’s first-ever trip here, and only their second League Cup quarter-final appearance. Their first, in December 1974, ended in a narrow defeat to Aston Villa.
Despite only being in position since 2016, McGreal is currently the eighth longest-serving manager in the top four divisions of English football. A Premier League defender at Ipswich in the early 2000s, the 47-year-old started as a coach in the U’s Academy, before taking over the Under-21s and then graduating to the first team when Kevin Keen vacated his position after relegation to League Two. In three full seasons under McGreal, Colchester have finished eighth, 13th and eighth, and are in play-off contention as we approach the halfway stage of the campaign.
Colchester's run to the quarter-finals is largely thanks to a mean defence, which has conceded just one goal in 360 minutes of football. Goalkeeper Dean Gerken, formerly of Bristol City and Ipswich Town, should take huge credit for the spot-kick successes against Palace and Spurs, with the 34-year-old making decisive saves from Andros Townsend and Christian Eriksen to help the U’s progress. The stopper, who began his career at Colchester and returned in the summer after a decade away, is likely to be busy again at Old Trafford, with forwards Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood both in red-hot form for the home side.
Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.