'Sensational' Bristol a banana skin for holders Red Devils

LONDON • Juan Mata has warned Manchester United not to take Bristol City lightly ahead of today's League Cup quarter-final, following the Championship side's "sensational" season thus far.

Bristol are third in England's second tier after picking up 43 points from 22 matches. But what is more impressive is that they have upset Premier League teams Watford, Stoke and Crystal Palace en route to becoming the only non top-flight side left in the competition.

"They are having a sensational season in the Championship so far and, with a few consecutive wins lately, they have proved to be one of the candidates to get promoted," the Spaniard said on his personal blog. "It won't be an easy game."

United are the defending champions and today's away trip to Ashton Gate will be an unfamiliar one, as the last meeting between the two sides was back in 1980.

However, despite Bristol being on a run of four straight league wins and Mata's word of caution, it is still likely to be a lopsided battle.

Jose Mourinho's men are the favourites to make it five semi-final appearances in seven seasons.

As it is, Mourinho, with four triumphs, has already won the Cup more times than any manager - with the Portuguese lifting the trophy with Chelsea in 2005, 2007 and 2015 prior to last season's triumph with United.

Marcus Rashford (two goals) and Jesse Lingard (three goals) have been instrumental in getting them this far, with the duo scoring 83 per cent of United's six goals in two matches.

Lingard, placed in the No. 10 position in recent games by his boss Mourinho, is relishing his new role.

"Obviously playing further forward, you are going to get more goals and create chances also," the 25-year-old, who has scored four goals in his last five games, said on the club website.

"I'm hungry for more goals and any way I can help the team - assists, goals - and to win the game is the most important thing."

Mourinho has hinted that out-of-favour Henrikh Mkhitaryan could return to the starting line-up as he rotates his squad, while Paul Pogba is also back following his three-match ban.

Following the match, the Red Devils visit Leicester in the league on Saturday. They are in good league form, having won six out of seven matches after Sunday's 2-1 success at West Bromwich Albion.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline ''Sensational' Bristol a banana skin for holders Red Devils'. Print Edition | Subscribe