April may be upon us but Manchester United still have a sizeable chunk of their marathon season left to tackle.
By defeating Fulham in the FA Cup quarter-final, United are guaranteed to play more than 60 competitive games in the same season for just the fifth time in the club’s history. Erik ten Hag’s side already have this year’s Carabao Cup in their trophy cabinet and remain in three other competitions.
The Red Devils will grace all three tournaments in the next six matches as they wearily steel themselves for an exhausting conclusion.
Memories of Brentford’s 4-0 romp against Manchester United in the sweltering summer heat may still be fresh, but their won’t be many west Londoners that can clearly recall the club’s last victory at Old Trafford.
Three British monarchs have been coronated and United have twice been relegated from the top flight since Brentford’s most recent triumph at the Theatre of Dreams (a 3-1 win in February 1937).
Ten Hag was oddly tentative about introducing Casemiro to Manchester United’s starting lineup after the Brazilian joined in August for a fee of up to €70m. It wasn’t until an October meeting with Everton that Casemiro earned his first Premier League start, giving the ball away for the opening goal but recovering to ultimately set up Cristiano Ronaldo for the winner.
Casemiro has scarcely been absent from a teamsheet since but the 31-year-old will miss Everton’s trip to Old Trafford as he serves the final game of his suspension. Casemiro’s cunning and physicality will surely be missed against Sean Dyche’s battling outfit.
Sevilla somehow find themselves in the final eight of Europe’s secondary club competition without winning a single game outside of Spain this season. The Europa League specialists dropped into their favourite tournament after finishing third in a Champions League group containing Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Copenhagen despite winning just one match – at home to the Danish giants.
The Seville outfit have managed to sneak past PSV Eindhoven and Fenerbahce based solely on the strength of their first-leg result in Spain, losing both away ties. It will be a tough task for Sevilla to get anything at Old Trafford, a ground at which United are unbeaten since September.
Manchester United had not played Nottingham Forest in the 21st century before the current campaign. However, the two clubs met three times in the space of 36 days on either side of the new year.
United comfortably won all three matches by an aggregate score of 8-0. The last time the Red Devils played a league game at the City Ground, Forest lost 8-1. Steve Cooper’s side are unlikely to be on the end of another mauling of such magnitude, but the odds of a win appear slim.
Since Manchester United were drawn against Sevilla in the Europa League quarter-finals, the struggling Spanish outfit have parted company with manager Jorge Sampaoli.
The experienced Jose Luis Mendilibar won his first match in charge of Sevilla, beating Cadiz 2-0 as his chief task is avoiding relegation – a feat he could not achieve with either of his previous two clubs, Eibar and Alaves. The forthright Basque coach has only ever overseen two matches in European competition; bowing out to CFR Cluj in the second round of the Intertoto Cup while at the helm of Athletic Club in 2005.
Brighton are aiming to reach their first FA Cup final since meeting Manchester United in the 1983 showpiece. The game was level at 2-2 when Gordon Smith was presented with a glorious chance to win the cup for Brighton in the dying seconds, only to take a heavy touch in an unguarded penalty box and dribble his effort into Gary Bailey’s chest.
Ten Hag’s side can hardly afford to gift the current Brighton vintage any chances of such quality when they meet at Wembley in the impending semi-final given the riotous form of Roberto De Zerbi’s free-scoring outfit.