Manchester United Preview: Predicting the Lineup vs. Manchester City
Of course, these teams met in this competition last year in the semi-final, where City triumphed 1-0 thanks to a Yaya Toure goal. Check out last year's highlights here.
United have lost twice on the bounce now, and have conceded six in their last two games. Ferguson will be looking for his side to build some momentum, and a win over City would be a great place to start.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The biggest question over the team sheet will probably come here. You're either Team DDG or Team Lindegaard.
Over the past couple of weeks there have been several articles on B/R and the rest of the Internet weighing up the pros and cons of each goalkeeper.
Lindegaard had kept five clean sheets in a row up until the embarrassment at St. James' Park (can't bring myself to calling it the SportsDirect Arena), whereas DDG has only racked up five all season, and has had the grace of of more appearances.
The key issue behind the goalkeeping "crisis" is that Ferguson needs to pick a goalkeeper and stick with them. Injuries have meant that the back line has been changing on a weekly basis and this has clearly affected the communication amongst the defence. Changing the goalkeeper every other week is only exacerbating the issue, and is a contributing factor which could be avoided by sticking to one 'keeper.
So why have I think DDG will face City? De Gea was signed to play in big matches like these, so there's no reason why Sir Alex should be shying him away from them, regardless of his age. This match is a chance for him to prove himself to his manager and the supporters and he is totally capable.
Ex-Man United 'keeper Mark Bosnich said the following to espnstar.com:
He [Sir Alex Ferguson] needs to make a decision and stick with one, you couldn't really fault Lindegaard against Newcastle but that misunderstanding with Phil Jones was because they haven't played together, week in and week out. I understand you have to rotate players but in the key positions, and being a goalkeeper is a really key position, that understanding must be second nature and that was the result of the third goal.
Extra reading: Why Sir Alex Ferguson Will Stick By David De Gea
Defence: Rafael Da Silva, Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra
Manutd.com reports that SAF's defensive headache shows no sign of relenting.
Chris Smalling (Tonsillitis), Jonny Evans (Calf), Nemanja Vidic (Knee) and Fabio (Hamstring) will all be unavailable for selection.
Rafael's return will probably signal the end of Antonio Valencia's run at right back. Ferguson will likely be pleased that he finally has and established right-back back in the team, although Jones, Smalling and Valencia have provided excellent cover during his absence.
Ferdinand and Jones are likely to reprise their role as the centre back partnership, and Jones will be looking to make up for his embarrassing error in midweek.
These two could have their work cut out against the likes of Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero. Jones may have to limit the amount of attacking runs which he usually makes, in order to keep the defence tight.
Evra's left back position seems pretty much unchallenged, with SAF unlikely to start rookie Ezekiel Fryers in a match like this.
Any injuries to the back line on Sunday could mean big trouble for United.
Extra reading: Should Manchester United Cash-In on Ryan Shawcross?
Midfield: Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Park Ji-Sung, Ryan Giggs, Nani
Tom Cleverley (ankle), Ashley Young (ankle) and Darren Fletcher (illness) are all still missing from action.
Valencia is likely to push back up to right midfield thanks to the return of Rafael at right back. The winger will most likely be pleased to get back to his favoured position and will hopefully cause the likes of Gael Clichy a nightmare.
Michael Carrick has made the central midfield slot his own this season with some quality performances. "Marmite" Carrick has been a rock in his defensive role in the United midfield and has really given the rest of midfield comfort in going forward during attacking plays. He will really be tested this weekend as he will be given the task of keeping the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero quiet.
Ryan Giggs is likely to partner him, but will an experienced United midfield be able to keep up with the speed of the City midfielders?
With Valencia on the right, Nani will most probably start on the left in the absence of Ashley Young. Nani's form seems to have dipped recently, but the challenge of City could really bring out the best in the Portuguese winger. He still has the ability to be a match winner and will no doubt be looking to emulate his performance against City in the Community Shield back in August.
Park will tuck in just behind a lone striker. His athletic ability could really put the City centre backs to the test and Rooney could really benefit from his selfless play.
Extra reading: Why Manchester United Won't Buy Wesley Sneijder
Attack: Wayne Rooney
During the 6-1 humiliation, Rooney looked extremely frustrated by the lack of supply and support which he was receiving. If the United midfield can get firing on all cylinders then Rooney can really cause problems for City.
While Rooney has been a little out of form of late, we all know that he relishes the big games so this could really be his time to produce the goods.
Rooney can produce moments of magic, and right now Man United need one of these moments more than anything.
For all of you non-believers, just watch this. I know we've all seen it a million times, but you need to appreciate how brilliant this moment was.
Rooney is United's talisman, and he will really need to be on top of his game on Sunday if he is to get one over on City.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Sunday 8th January
Kick-Off: 13:00 GMT
Venue: The Etihad Stadium
British Coverage: ITV1 from 12:30 GMT
Predicted Line Up (4-5-1):
Rafael Jones Ferdinand Evra
Valencia Carrick Giggs Nani
Substitutes: Lindegaard, Fryers, Anderson, Pogba, Hernandez, Welbeck, Berbatov