It's the stage of the League Cup when Sir Alex Ferguson would bring out the big guns.
Sensing a Wembley final, the time for youth team graduates and fringe players would be over. It would be time to get down to the serious business of winning trophies.
If League Cup semi-finals were big games for Ferguson even when he was winning Premier League titles and Champions League finals, it becomes even more important for David Moyes, currently struggling to step out of his predecessor's shadow.
A piece of silverware, however small, will add a bit of gloss to a season that looks like it might end in disappointment.
It's a League Cup semi-final. If you can't lift yourself for that then it's no good.
We have got a great opportunity, we are away to Sunderland and we've got to recover quickly and lift ourselves. That's a massive game now.
Moyes rested David De Gea, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick for the FA Cup defeat to Swansea on Sunday, but all four should come back into the team against Sunderland.
Jonny Evans is likely to continue at centre-half and with Phil Jones and Rafael injured, and Fabio suspended after his red card against Swansea, Chris Smalling should play at right-back in the absence of any other options.
Fletcher is unlikely to be fit enough to play two games in three days and will return to the bench meaning Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs will fight it out to partner Carrick in midfield.
Ashley Young and Nani are both nursing injuries so Adnan Januzaj, used as a substitute against Swansea, and Antonio Valencia should play in the wide positions.
Moyes' key decision is up front. Wayne Rooney is a doubt after missing the defeat to Swansea with a groin injury and if he misses out again, the United manager is left with just Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez.
They played as a pair against Swansea but it left Moyes short of options on the bench when he needed a goal in the second half.
In the last round of the Capital One Cup at Stoke, Moyes was without Rooney and Robin van Persie and started with Welbeck up front, a five-man midfield and Hernandez on the bench.
With a second leg against Sunderland to come at Old Trafford on January 22, Moyes could do the same on Tuesday with Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa in line to be the extra midfielder.
United v Sunderland (possible line-up): De Gea, Smalling, Evra, Evans, Vidic, Carrick, Giggs, Cleverley, Januzaj, Valencia and Welbeck.