Football

Manchester United can win the League Cup: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ince likens Red Devils talisman Fernandes to club legend Cantona

Manchester United are playing confidently and should be able to win the League Cup, and there will be no excuses if they fail to beat Manchester City in tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) semi-final, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said yesterday.

United crashed out at the semi-final stage of the League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League last season, but Solskjaer believes that they have made big improvements in the current campaign.

   LEAGUE CUP SEMI-FINAL
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The club are second in the English Premier League after a 10-match unbeaten run and are level on 33 points with leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.

"We've developed in the last 12 months since the last semi-final in the League Cup, so it's not just learning to win semi-finals," Solskjaer told reporters.

"We've also earned the right to feel we can go all the way with our performances. We're confident, in good form, so there's no excuses.

"You play to win trophies - it gives you the hunger to win more. The squad is focused and ready to give it a go."

United were held to a goalless draw at home by City in their league game last month, and Solskjaer attributed that to City manager Pep Guardiola switching to a more counter-attacking formation, which he reverted to in their 3-1 win at Chelsea on Monday morning.

"You never know what system he's going to come up with but you've got to defend well. It's hard to keep the ball in their half - we have to be brave, compact, trust the players, play out of their press," Solskjaer said.

"We've found that balance."

Key to United's improvement has been the arrival of midfielder Bruno Fernandes last January.

Before his arrival, United won 38 per cent of their 24 English Premier League matches last season, averaging 1.4 points per game. In his 30 league games since, United have a 63 per cent winning record, averaging 2.2 points per game.

The statistics bear comparison to Red Devils legend Eric Cantona's first two seasons at the club. Before his arrival from Leeds United in the 1992/93 season, United won 41 per cent of their 17 league matches (1.6 points per game).

After he made his debut in Dec 1992 till the end of his second season, the win rate improved markedly to 66 per cent over 67 games (2.2 points per game).

That has led Cantona's former teammate Paul Ince to liken Fernandes to the Frenchman.

Ince told Sky Sports: "(Cantona) came in and knitted us all together. He was that missing piece in the jigsaw. The goals he created, he made everyone raise their game.

"I think that is what Fernandes has done." - REUTERS

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