Manchester United v Sunderland – the key battles

The Black Cats stunned Manchester United at the Stadium of Light in the first leg, but it’s still only a one-goal advantage they take into the second leg at Old Trafford.

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet however, will be pleased to see his side improve results in recent weeks and will be confident he can mastermind a famous trip to Wembley for the Mackems.

David Moyes is becoming more and more under pressure by the game and a lot will be riding on his success in this competition this season. Failure to reach the Final could perhaps prove a disaster for the new United boss, while a victory and potential Wembley date with arch rivals City could help him get the United fans back on side.

Here’s where this game could be won or lost…

Adnan Januzaj v Adam Johnson

Januzaj has been a breath of fresh air at United this season, regularly putting in match-winning performances, despite still only being 18-years-old.

His rapid rise to United’s first team has been incredible and a lot of their play now goes through him. The key to keeping United quiet is to keep Januzaj quiet, which is what Adam Johnson may have the task of doing.

Johnson’s hat-trick in Sunderland’s 3-1 Premier League victory over Fulham gave us all a hint of the old flying Englishman we were all so used to seeing. If he can recreate a similar performance in the second leg then he has the ability to take Sunderland to Wembley singlehandedly.

Michael Carrick v Lee Cattermole

Michael Carrick has been a regular and consistent fixture in David Moyes’ team this season and has arguably been playing his best football to date.

His ability to slow the game down and dictate the tempo will allow United to contain Sunderland’s style of play, but he will also provide another form of attack if needs be.

Cattermole, on the other hand, is the no-nonsese, box-to-box midfielder United haven’t had for a long time. Cattermole’s boisterous presence in midfield got the better of United at the Stadium of Light and Poyet will be asking him for more of the same.

Danny Welbeck v John O’Shea

Welbeck has six goals in his last six games for United and is fast becoming the perfect stand-in while Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney remain sidelined. His ability to create chances, as well as score them, will provide United with added bite in their attacking threat as they attempt to regain control in this tie.

John O’Shea is having one of his best seasons at Sunderland so far and has built up a good understanding with fellow centre-half Wes Brown.

His aerial threat at set pieces will be a big worry for United, but he’s just as effective defending them as well. If the former United defender can keep Welbeck quiet and then add some danger to Sunderland’s attack at corners, his performance could have a lot to do with who makes the Final.

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