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It's the League Cup, it's opposition from the league below, and so it's the perfect chance to give some of the younger, fringe members of the squad a bit of proper football. Which is why it's particularly maddening to note that neither James Wilson nor Jesse Lingard will play tonight: both played and scored for the U21s yesterday, and have been given the evening off.
Maybe Van Gaal is wary of another humiliation in this competition, following on from last season's 4-0 trouncing at MK Dons. If so, then he won't be enjoying the minor defensive injury crisis that's sprung up from nowhere. In addition to long-term absentee Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Paddy McNair will both miss tonight's game, and so either Ashley Young or Matteo Darmian will have to move to leftback. Phil Jones has recovered from whichever nineteenth century disease he contracted this time, but will only be fit enough for the bench.
One kid who might get a run out, however, is beetle-browed Brazilian Andreas Hoelgebaum Pereira, who has yet to make a first-team appearance this season and who has a glorious middle name. We'd like to see him start behind Anthony Martial, with Young on one side and Memphis Depay on the other. Give the lad some pace to work with. But we'd also like the moon on a stick and a pet hippopotamus, so no point listening to us.
Oh God, Sergio Romero's going to play, isn't he?
We'd be lying if we said we'd seen much (or, indeed, any) of Ipswich this season, but league tables never lie and Suffolk's finest are currently fifth in the Championship. So they can't be awful. Managed by Mick McCarthy, players to keep an eye out for include Freddie Sears, formerly of West Ham, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, on loan from Arsenal. Are those the two most West Ham and Arsenal names possible? Yes, they are.
Also worthy of note is Brett "The Part" Pitman, who rather endearingly plays his international football for Jersey, and midfielder Ryan Fraser, who's on loan from Bournemouth and is Ipswich's top scorer this season. Whether any of them play, however, is up in the air: the BBC expect McCarthy to rotate his squad. Apparently the league is more important, which is faintly irritating if you're trying to write a preview.
Ipswich's form has been fairly mixed this season. In the cup they've had minimal trouble, knocking out Stevenage in the first round then sticking four past Doncaster in the second. Encouragement for United comes from the fact that they've only managed two clean sheets so far, and when they've lost, they've lost big: a 3-2 home defeat to Brighton, and a 5-1 spanking away at Reading.
Ipswich haven't scored at Old Trafford since 1992, when Chris Kiwomya, who would later move to Arsenal, stuck one past Peter Schmeichel in a one-all draw. The last time the two sides met was in the Premiership in 2002, when United won 1-0 at Portman Road thanks to a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty. We miss Ruud van Nistelrooy. We miss him terribly.
A vaguely related historical video
Remember the 9-0? Good times, great days.
Over on ESPN FC, Miguel Delaney has written about the last time Van Gaal came up against McCarthy, when they were managing the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland respectively. Ireland and McCarthy won that day, and Delaney reckons that the defeat fundamentally changed the way Van Gaal treats footballers. Worth a look.