Claudio Bravo will start for Manchester City in the EFL Cup final against Aston Villa, with manager Pep Guardiola showing faith in Ederson's Premier League understudy for the Wembley clash.

City boss Guardiola has used 36-year-old Bravo as his goalkeeper in domestic cup competitions this season.

And the former Barcelona boss vowed he would stand by that policy for the March 1 trophy match.

The confirmation from Guardiola is sure to be warmly welcomed by Chilean Bravo, whose Premier League opportunities have been minimal since Ederson arrived at the club ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Bravo spent almost 12 months out of action because of a ruptured Achilles sustained in August 2018, so the Wembley outing will emphasise his City re-emergence and Guardiola's trust in his ability.

The ex-Barca and Real Sociedad keeper was still sidelined when City reached last season's EFL Cup final, and on that occasion Guardiola picked Ederson ahead of young Aro Muric, who had played in the earlier rounds.

"Last season I changed Ederson from Aro because we played against Chelsea," Guardiola said. "Chelsea have incredible high pressing and we needed to play for the build-up a little bit quicker and faster and better.

"And Edy was better in that moment than the young keeper Aro. Aro helped us a lot, I spoke to him before the final. But if Claudio is fit, he is going to play."

Clashes between teams managed by Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have affected many a title race over the years, but pride might take precedence over Premier League points during Sunday's meeting between Tottenham and Manchester City.

Mourinho has lost more games in all competitions against teams coached by Guardiola than against any other manager, and he will be desperate to send City packing after Tottenham ended a torrid run of Premier League results with a 2-1 win over Norwich City.

But Spurs were far from convincing against the Canaries, Son Heung-min's 79th-minute winner sparing them the ignominy of a fifth consecutive winless league outing after a lacklustre performance at home to the division's bottom club.

City arrive at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in buoyant mood, meanwhile, having recovered from a disappointing December and put together a five-game unbeaten streak in the Premier League that included a 6-1 thrashing of Aston Villa.

The title looks beyond City given Liverpool's comfortable lead at the top of the table, but with third-placed Leicester City faltering, Guardiola will be keen for his men to tighten their grip on second and remain poised to close the gap at the summit should the Reds suffer an unlikely blip.

 

GUARDIOLA GUNNING FOR NORTH LONDON RECORD

No top-flight team have ever won six consecutive away matches against Arsenal and Tottenham, but if City claim three points against Spurs on Sunday, Guardiola's side will claim that record.

City have won on their past five trips to North London - enjoying as many victories as they claimed in their first 40 Premier League games at Arsenal and Spurs - and another happy day in the capital looks well within their reach.

Victory for the champions would see defender Aymeric Laporte break the record for most wins (43) in his first 50 Premier League appearances, currently shared by Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben and Ederson (all 42).

Kevin De Bruyne provided the assist as Sergio Aguero scored the winner in City's 1-0 win at Sheffield United last time out in the league, and the Belgium international has averaged an assist every 180 minutes in the Premier League - the best ratio in the competition's history.

But Tottenham also have a man in form in Dele Alli, who has had a hand in nine goals in 16 games in all competitions under Mourinho - three times as many as he had registered under Mauricio Pochettino this season (two goals, one assist in 10 appearances).

HEAD-TO-HEAD: PEP GUARDIOLA V JOSE MOURINHO

Spurs are the fifth team Mourinho has taken charge of against Guardiola as the two coaches prepare to do battle for the 23rd time in their managerial careers.

Mourinho has tasted victory in home games against Guardiola's teams just twice, getting one over his old nemesis when Inter beat Barcelona 3-1 in April 2010 and when Manchester United edged out City 1-0 in October 2016.

But Guardiola is unbeaten on the road in league fixtures against Mourinho, overseeing three victories and one draw against teams managed by the Spurs boss.

Only against Manuel Pellegrini (6) and Unai Emery (5) has Guardiola faced a manager more times on the road without losing a league game.

FORM GUIDE

City are yet to win three consecutive Premier League away games this season, but that will change if they claim maximum points in North London.

The champions are in a rich vein of form, winning six and drawing one of their past eight league games. Although they lost to Manchester United in the EFL Cup on Wednesday, City still advanced into the final on aggregate.

Guardiola will be relishing the prospect of a chance to condemn Spurs to a third defeat in seven home league games under Mourinho, who is struggling to shore up a leaky defence.

Tottenham have kept just two clean sheets in their past 19 Premier League matches, during which time they have scored 27 goals and conceded 26, but they will aim to make home advantage count against City.

Only Norwich (71 per cent) and Everton (70 per cent) have claimed a higher percentage of league points from home games this term than Spurs (68 per cent), who have not earned back-to-back top-flight wins since they beat Burnley and then Wolves in early December.

HISTORY SAYS…

There was a time when Tottenham looked forward to Premier League clashes with Manchester City, who they have beaten 23 times in the competition.

But none of the past six league meetings between the two sides have resulted in a Spurs victory, the Lilywhites claiming two draws and suffering four defeats since beating City 2-0 in October 2016.

That defeat was the only game in City's most recent 18 clashes with Tottenham in which they have failed to score.

Spurs twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Etihad Stadium when these sides last met in the league, and if the points are shared again on Sunday, it will be the first season since 2003-04 to produce two top-flight draws between them.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joined Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola in condemning the supporters who misbehaved during Wednesday's derby.

Nemanja Matic's strike earned United a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium, but it was not enough to prevent City advancing to the EFL Cup final with a 3-2 aggregate victory.

The game was somewhat marred by events in the stands as videos circulated on social media of City fans appearing to make aeroplane gestures in reference to the Munich air disaster.

Tempers frayed at full-time and a number of seats were allegedly ripped out and thrown from the away end.

Guardiola criticised the actions of those involved, a day after United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward's house was attacked, and Solskjaer echoed the Catalan's views.

"Yeah, I've just got to stand behind Pep there," he said at his post-match news conference. 

"You know, football is a game, it's a game we should all enjoy, spectators, the ones who watch it on telly, the ones who're playing. 

"I keep telling the players every time, go out with a big smile and enjoy yourselves. Work hard, yes, and fans should always try to enjoy the games. 

"We want rivalry, but let's keep it at a sane level. And let's make sure we eradicate that. I stand behind Pep there and I think all of us do. We want to make this a nice game."

City will face Aston Villa, 3-2 aggregate winners against Leicester City, in the Wembley final on March 1.

Pep Guardiola praised Ed Woodward's work at Manchester United and criticised the fans who misbehaved during Wednesday's derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester City lost 1-0 to their bitter rivals but still advanced to the EFL Cup final thanks a 3-2 aggregate victory.

Videos circulated on social media during the game appeared to show City fans making plane gestures - in reference to the Munich air disaster - towards the United supporters, who reportedly ripped out and threw seats.

City boss Guardiola condemned the actions along with the individuals involved in Tuesday's attack on the home of United executive vice-chairman Woodward.

"I don't like it," Guardiola said. "I don't like what happened with Ed Woodward at home. You see the squad for United, it's really good. Honestly, it's really good.

"So that is not the way to do that. When you talk about what happened [City fans making plane gestures], I didn't know it. If it would happen, that is not nice. Absolutely not."

Nemanja Matic's first-half goal split the teams in the second leg of their semi-final tie, though a wasteful City always appeared destined to go through after securing a 3-1 advantage in the first encounter.

United's win was their second in as many months at the Etihad Stadium and Guardiola suggested opposite number Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the Red Devils headed in the right direction.

"I like a lot the way they played. I said when we lost here [in December], they don't need much. The quality of the players up front is incredible," the Catalan said.

"When we lost at home against them, I had the feeling they are trying to do what the manager Ole wants and I think it works. Maybe they are not consistent in all the games, maybe at home they are struggling a little bit against teams that defend deep. But I like the way they play, their qualities.

"[Victor] Lindelof, I saw it in Benfica, is an incredible player, [Harry] Maguire is one of the best central defenders in the world. The people up front, they are so fast. Matic and Fred, they're incredible players. Matic is an outstanding player.

"I think if you give them time, they will come back to what United was for many, many years."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer slammed referee Kevin Friend's "joke" decision to send off Nemanja Matic but was impressed with Manchester United's display in Wednesday's EFL Cup win at Manchester City.

Matic scored the only goal of the game in the first half, though the 1-0 victory for United was insufficient to book their passage through to the final, with City's 3-1 first-leg win ultimately proving decisive.

With United chasing a second goal towards the end, Matic was shown a second yellow card for a cynical trip on Ilkay Gundogan, adding to the earlier booking he received for catching Riyad Mahrez.

Solskjaer fumed at the dismissal and questioned why referee Friend was so harsh on Matic yet seemingly allowed several City players to escape punishment for infringements, with Pep Guardiola's men regularly criticised before for an apparent reliance on so-called tactical fouls.

"Of course, it's hard to come here [to the Etihad Stadium] and score a goal with 11 [men] never mind 10 [men], and it was never a sending off," Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"It was an absolute joke, for me. It was ironic really that he gets a yellow on his first foul, almost gets a yellow on his second foul - which wasn't even a foul - and then the last one wasn't a yellow.

"How many times did they foul us? How many times was Daniel James fouled? How many times in the first half did they foul Jesse [Lingard]?

"That's the first question asked, and it shouldn't be like this because I'm so proud of these players.

"They've beaten City now twice in six weeks, at their place. We've come so far with these boys, they've given absolutely everything."

Despite the second-leg defeat, City will face Aston Villa in the final on March 1.

Wednesday in Manchester, and as one institution reaches the end of the line, another was supposedly hurtling towards the buffers.

After years of letting down customers, providing pathetic value for money, laughable reliability and plummeting towards national laughing stock status, Manchester United and the humiliated rail franchisee Northern should probably compare notes.

As the UK government effectively brought Northern's journey to an end, a thought came to mind: there's another faltering institution that might benefit from nationalisation.

The Glazer family's ownership of United reached a nadir - its latest nadir - on Tuesday when the unpopular executive-vice chairman Ed Woodward saw his home apparently attacked by thugs, who through some perverse logic felt they were doing the right thing for their favourite football club.

If he won't go willingly, so their theory probably went, we'll drive him out through force. The theory is absurd, as Gary Neville reasoned before the latest Manchester derby, telling Sky Sports the images of violence at Woodward's home were "unfortunate", stressing: "People's families shouldn't be attacked through sport or through football."

But Neville is also fed up: fed up of waiting, fearful the old express train is being shunted towards the scrap yard by owners who care about only one thing.

The former United captain warned the protests are "going to get worse", said supporters are "absolutely disgusted" with the regression of the team, and spoke of simmering tensions coming to the boil.

The mayors of Liverpool and Manchester spoke earlier in the day of "almost two years of misery and mayhem" for train passengers, but United supporters, such as Neville, would tell you their suffering has gone on for longer.

United, so everyone says, would be better off in someone else's hands. Almost anyone but the Glazers and Woodward would appease supporters who have had to put up with ... only winning eight Premier League titles this century.

This sob story has to be put into some sort of added context though, and in the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final at the Etihad Stadium an embattled United side showed they are not resigned to rotting in the sidings while Manchester City have the run of things.

United in January 2020 are not yet a lost cause. They sit fifth in the Premier League, have Europa League knockout football to come, and Bruno Fernandes is arriving: hailed as a saviour before he has kicked a ball or even signed his contract. No pressure then.

Fifteen miles from Old Trafford stands Gigg Lane, Bury, a stadium which used to stage lower-league football and United's reserve games but this season is staging nothing, the local team having been expelled from the English Football League in August amid a financial crisis. Fans there are bereft. Never mind nationalising a club, how about rationalising the crumbling of such a totem of that town to faultless supporters who, according to local MP James Daly, are now experiencing "increased social isolation".

Bury fans have been silenced, but United's thousands found their voice when, after 35 minutes of withstanding almost incessant City pressure at the Etihad Stadium, they snatched the lead with a swish of Nemanja Matic's left boot as the ball whistled past Claudio Bravo.

Never mind that they managed just one shot to City's nine, United led at half-time and were back to 3-2 behind on aggregate. Waiting on the platform for the late arrival of any sort of footballing gratification, of course those in United's ranks relished the moment.

Normal service would surely be restored in the second half, yet City wanted to walk it in. Raheem Sterling was ponderous when he should have been punishing, and goodness knows how City failed to score when Harry Maguire gave the ball away on the edge of the six-yard box.

United then lost a key component of their midfield rolling stock, Matic seeing a second yellow and a red for a reckless shove, and yet Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team still pushed for a goal to level the tie.

It was unsurprisingly beyond them, Pep Guardiola's City earning a ticket to Wembley to face Aston Villa on March 1.

Still, the United fans applauded and the players in red returned the compliment.

Solskjaer smiled, and Woodward, the unpopular station master, shook hands and exchanged well wishes with City counterparts in the directors' box.

Another chance of a trophy slipped by, on one of those nights when you paused to wonder if United might be back on track sooner than we thought.

There have been plenty of those before though, red herrings for Red Devils.

Kevin De Bruyne could not comprehend how Manchester City lost to Manchester United in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

City went down 1-0 at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, but the holders still progressed with a 3-2 aggregate victory to set up a final against Aston Villa.

Pep Guardiola's side - who are in the hunt for a third straight EFL Cup title - wasted a glut of glaring chances, with Raheem Sterling missing two notable opportunities while David De Gea was also in good form for United.

But with goalscorer Nemanja Matic sent off, United failed to make City pay for their profligacy, and De Bruyne knows his side must take heed from their mistakes.

"I think so," De Bruyne told Sky Sports when asked if it was a relief to hear the final whistle. 

"I can't even comprehend how we lost this game. For me, United didn't even have one chance. We were way too wasteful. We have to learn from this but at least it's good we got into the final.

"I think we got sloppy. The goal, we didn't clear the lines well and they scored. After, I don't think United had one more chance but they only needed one to score.

"In the end, we fought for what we had and we need to learn from the mistakes."

However, De Bruyne dismissed the suggestion City's defeat would tarnish their progression to a third consecutive final in the competition. 

"Of course not. If we win the final, nobody will talk about this game," he added. "It's not nice and we should have done better but it's just the way it goes sometimes.

"It's beautiful. I've been lucky in the five years I've been here to go [to Wembley] seven or eight times now.

"It means we're doing really well. It's always a nice day and now we're going to fight to win the cup."

Meanwhile, Ilkay Gundogan echoed De Bruyne's sentiments, but he believes City displayed the resilience they will need when they meet Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League.

"I totally agree, we should have scored early in the first half. We started well but, after United scored, we were a bit sloppy," he said.

"We should have scored at least one or two goals today but it was not meant to be.

"It was a great test for the Real Madrid games. The manager said before the game it was an experience we had to survive and to overcome.

"I think we can improve - it's a learning process. We will analyse and try to make it better."

Manchester City will get the chance to defend their EFL Cup title in the final against Aston Villa after beating Manchester United 3-2 on aggregate, despite Nemanja Matic – who was also sent off – inflicting a 1-0 defeat in Wednesday's second leg.

City produced a wonderful display in the first meeting at Old Trafford and were arguably unlucky to only win 3-1, though it proved to be enough to send Pep Guardiola's men to Wembley even though they failed to meet expectations at home.

Despite finding themselves under extreme pressure at times in the first half, United managed to go into the break ahead thanks to Matic's satisfying strike in the 35th minute, casting some uncertainty over City's command of the tie.

But United were unable to use that goal as a launchpad, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men failed to craft further meaningful chances and Matic's late dismissal for a second booking effectively ended their hopes.

City looked eager to kill off United's chances as early as possible, with Sergio Aguero and Riyad Mahrez forcing David de Gea into fine saves in the first seven minutes.

United weathered that storm and took the lead just past the half-hour mark – Matic slamming a crisp half-volley into the bottom-right corner after Fred's delivery was only partially cleared.

Raheem Sterling seemingly erased United's lead just before half-time when he turned Bernardo Silva's pass home, but the England international had strayed offside.

Sterling had another opportunity in the 58th minute when he was played through on goal, but after checking back to evade Victor Lindelof and then De Gea, he blazed his effort over from 12 yards.

United were reduced to 10 men 14 minutes from time when Matic cynically tripped Ilkay Gundogan to halt a counter-attack, and City had little difficulty seeing out their aggregate win from there despite Aguero's late strike being disallowed for offside.

 

What does it mean? Bruno Fernandes arrival a necessity

Although United's midfield had plenty of bite from Fred and neat touches from Matic, creativity was sorely lacking – hence their difficulty to create opportunities.

Following Wednesday's news United have agreed a deal with Sporting CP for Fernandes worth €80million, it does at least seem as though the club's hierarchy is trying to solve their midfield issues.

De Gea gives United a chance

It is fair to say De Gea has come in for plenty of criticism over the past 18 months, and rightly so. But on Wednesday he showed just how important he can be for United, making several vital saves. His efforts proved irrelevant in the end as his team lacked quality in attack, but he at least gave them a chance.

Sterling fails to shine

Sterling certainly gave Aaron Wan-Bissaka plenty to think about, but he made an unnecessarily early run for his goal that was chalked off and then spurned a wonderful chance to make it 1-1.

What's next?

City go to Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday, as Guardiola renews his rivalry with Jose Mourinho. United host Wolves the day before.

Pep Guardiola has accepted he made a "mistake" when questioning why Manchester City fans did not fill the Etihad Stadium for their last home game.

City's treble-winning boss faced a rare backlash from his own club's supporters following Sunday's FA Cup tie against Fulham, having spoken of his surprise at the 39,223 attendance.

The clash with Manchester United in Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg is expected to be much closer to the 55,000 capacity.

Speaking about City fans after the 4-0 win over Fulham, Guardiola said that "hopefully they will support us more" in the United game.

However, some responded by quickly pointing to a recent heavy load of fixtures, and the cost of attending every game, and their stance has prompted Guardiola to reflect on his comments.

The former Barcelona head coach said he had not realised the match was televised live by the BBC, with the terrestrial coverage a likely factor in the below-average crowd figure.

"Never was it my intention to offend them, they are part of us," he told a news conference on Tuesday when discussing the fans' reaction.

"Since I arrived here from day one until the last day, what I want is to fight and play as well as possible to see the Etihad full every single day, every single day.

"So it belongs to us to play well, to seduce them to come. The only reason why we do our job is not for the titles, it's to go to the Etihad Stadium and see it absolutely full and the people together, enjoying the games together."

A number of City fans have stressed it is not the team's performance level, but instead the expense involved in buying tickets and getting to games, that means they may sometimes stay away.

Guardiola stressed he understood their situation, saying: "It's not necessary to tell me because I was part of that when I was a little boy with mum and dad. I know exactly what happens."

And he looked to explain his weekend remarks by pointing to how significant a game he considered the Fulham fixture - saying he felt the FA Cup held more appeal to City than European glory.

"Since I've arrived here, I learned from English football how important the Premier League and the FA Cup are - more important to this club than the Champions League... much, much more," Guardiola said.

"We knew it through the club and I experienced it.

"It was my mistake: I thought it's Sunday, one o'clock, today it will be full. I didn't know it was on BBC One, not Sky."

Guardiola still wants to see City's home full for every game.

He said: "We tried to do our best to let them be proud for our team, and I will try it again to push them to be with us as much as possible.

"If it's possible to be every game full, full, full, it would be better."

Pep Guardiola has urged his Manchester City players to keep their cool in the heat of Wednesday's derby against Manchester United as they bid to seal a place in the EFL Cup final.

Armed with a 3-1 lead from the first leg at Old Trafford, City approach the return fixture in the semi-final as firm favourites to reach the March 1 showpiece at Wembley.

However, City know all too well how potent United can be on their day, having suffered a home league defeat to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men in December.

Guardiola vowed he and his team have never been complacent, and he is optimistic that attitude will be enough to deliver an aggregate success.

"It's Man United. They can do it and have done it," Guardiola said. "In this kind of game, against this kind of team, with this incredible history, they have pride and I know, I know how difficult it would be to reach the final."

Speaking about the need to concentrate against neighbours who have endured a difficult Premier League campaign so far, Guardiola indicated he trusted his players to bring the right application.

"Never was my team complacent during four years - never," he said. "We have to be careful about their skills, we have to be careful about the counter-attack, we have to be careful about the set-pieces, we have to be careful about how good they can play if we let them play.

"We will have to defend. They don't have anything to lose so they are going to attack. We will have to control our emotions. We have to try to score goals."

Asked about possible squad rotation, a fired-up Guardiola stressed managers should be allowed to select their teams as they feel appropriate.

That issue has picked up traction in the wake of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp saying it would be the club's under-23 side that face Shrewsbury in their FA Cup fourth-round replay at Anfield, given the first team will be taking their mid-season break.

"Listen," Guardiola began. "We accept the schedules, the competitions, the games every two or three days, but don't tell the managers which selections you have to choose, please. It's our job."

City have a doubt over centre-back Aymeric Laporte but are expected to field a strong side, being eager to give United no hint of weakness.

They could have won by a greater margin at Old Trafford in the first leg, when Red Devils boss Solskjaer said City's strong line-up was a sign of their "respect" for United.

Guardiola said in Tuesday's news conference: "I show respect for my opponents from day one, from when I started with the second team at Barcelona to today, sat in front of you here.

"I took that selection (at Old Trafford) and tomorrow I will take another selection."

Fernandinho will not be leaving Manchester City at the end of the season after the Brazilian secured a one-year contract extension.

The 34-year-old was seemingly set to depart in July, with his previous deal approaching its conclusion, but City have ensured he will be around for at least another season.

An intelligent combative midfielder, Fernandinho joined City from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013 and has been a revelation, appearing in at least 29 Premier League matches in every campaign.

He has remained a key figure this term, playing 20 of the champions' 24 top-flight games, filling in at centre-back for many of those due to City's defensive injury crisis.

And choosing to remain at the club for another season was a straightforward decision.

"It was easy," he told City's official website.

"There is a time in your life when you don't think just about yourself, but especially about your family and your kids. They were one of the reasons I decided to sign another contract.

"I am happy, my family is happy, so I hope the City fans are happy as well."

City are already set to lose David Silva this year, with the Spaniard previously confirming his plan to return to Spain to be closer to his family.

Fernandinho has won three Premier League titles at City, though he looks unlikely to add to that tally this season with Liverpool 16 points clear of Pep Guardiola's men at the summit.

Fernandinho will not be leaving Manchester City at the end of the season after the Brazilian secured a one-year contract extension.

The 34-year-old was seemingly set to depart in July, with his previous deal approaching its conclusion, but City have ensured he will be around for at least another season.

An intelligent combative midfielder, Fernandinho joined City from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013 and has been a revelation, appearing in at least 29 Premier League matches in every campaign.

He has remained a key figure this term, playing 20 of the champions' 24 top-flight games, filling in at centre-back for many of those due to City's defensive injury crisis.

City are already set to lose David Silva this year, with the Spaniard previously confirming his plan to return to Spain to be closer to his family.

Fernandinho has won three Premier League titles at City, though he looks unlikely to add to that tally this season with Liverpool 16 points clear of Pep Guardiola's men at the summit.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to use Manchester United's famous Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain as inspiration when his side take on Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

United go into Wednesday's semi-final, second leg at the Etihad Stadium trailing 3-1.

That is a similar predicament to the one they found themselves in against PSG in March, when they overturned a 2-0 first-leg loss at home to progress in the Champions League.

Solskjaer knows United need a flawless display if they are to repeat the feat, but draws hope from that PSG encounter as well as United's 2-1 Premier League derby win in December.

"It looked like it was over at half-time," Solskjaer said of the first leg. "I have to say the second part of that first half they outplayed us for a while and it's hard, but then we got the goal, back in it.

"We hoped for another one but we have got to go into the memory bank and think PSG. 

"We have done it against good teams before and that gives us hope and the game in December [against City] gives us hope.

"We can't just defend, we have to try to keep the ball and make them run after the ball. 

"It has to be a perfect performance but we've done amazing things before at this club and the PSG game is, for me, a very, very good example of how you can make a two-goal deficit work in your favour. We need the first goal."

Solskjaer did acknowledge United's Etihad win over City came under different circumstances.

He added: "They are getting players back as well, we hit them last time when they were struggling a bit and since then they have played really well.

"We have lost Scott [McTominay] and Marcus [Rashford] since that game, a little bit lighter in the playing department.

"It has to be a perfect performance to win with two goals against such a good team away from home. For us it's not about away goals, we just need to score two more than them.

"It would be good not to concede first, because that makes it less difficult."

Paul Pogba has had his ankle cast removed as he steps up his attempt to return from injury for Manchester United.

The France international has only started one Premier League match since August in a campaign heavily interrupted by his fitness woes.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unable to put a timescale on Pogba's return to action ahead of Wednesday's derby against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

But Solskjaer reported Pogba has made a key step in his recovery following surgery, as has fellow midfielder Scott McTominay, who is no longer wearing a knee brace.

"It's hard to put timescales on long-term injuries because they also need the training before [being] injury-free and need to be fitter," Solskjaer told reporters.

"Paul's had his cast off and Scott took his brace off so at least they can now start doing some work on the grass."

Reports have suggested Pogba and McTominay are both targeting injury returns after the mid-season break, with United to play Chelsea on February 17 after a 16-day stint without a game.

After suffering a small issue in United's 6-0 FA Cup win over Tranmere Rovers on Sunday, Nemanja Matic is in a race to be fit for the EFL clash with rivals City, who lead the tie 3-1 after a win at Old Trafford this month.

Solskjaer added: "Just Nemanja got a slight problem, so he had to come off at half-time. He has played loads of football so hopefully we can get him back on the pitch, but I haven't seen him. 

"Let's see how he is in training. To make sure we give him the best possible chance for Wednesday night we took him off. I think he should be all right but let's see."

Eric Bailly is pushing for a return to the line-up, while David de Gea and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be back after getting a rest against Tranmere.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed the much-maligned Alexis Sanchez to return to Manchester United at the end of the season after his loan at Inter and "prove us all wrong".

Sanchez was sent to Inter at the start of the season after a woeful first 18 months at Old Trafford, as he scored just three Premier League goals in 32 matches.

The Chile international had arrived to much fanfare from Arsenal in a swap deal involving Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January 2018, but he failed to meet expectations.

He is yet to make much of an impact at Inter either, making just five Serie A appearances – though injuries have played a part.

Reports had suggested Inter players were keen on Sanchez staying regardless, but Solskjaer is seemingly expecting the forward to return to Old Trafford at the end of the season, as he appeared resigned to not bringing in any reinforcements this month.

After being asked about United's hopes of signing reported target Bruno Fernandes, Solskjaer – who was speaking ahead of the EFL Cup semi-final second leg with Manchester City – said: "I haven't got any updates for you on transfers, I think it was a waste [of a question].

"I gave you the option. I haven't got anything to say now, my mind is on the game.

"We've got players here that we're working hard to get back as well, and if there is something out there, then the club is pursuing that and it's difficult.

"I can't remember how many good ones [signings] we've brought in with good deals in January.

"Henrik [Larsson] was good, Nemanja [Vidic] and Patrice [Evra], I'm talking about it's hard, very hard, the clubs don't want to lose their best players.

"And then Alexis will come back in the summer and will prove us all wrong."

One player heavily linked with leaving the club is Marcos Rojo, who had emerged as a target for his former team Estudiantes in Argentina – their sporting director and one-time United midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron previously confirming the interest.

But Solskjaer has no plans to part with the Argentina international.

"I wouldn't think so," was Solskjaer's response when asked if Rojo could leave this month. "Marcos has been injured and is working to get back and get fit again."

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