Mourinho's men should stay on track for Wembley double
United to outclass Rovers
FA Cup fifth round
BT Sport 2, 4.15pm Sunday
Manchester United have one trip to Wembley already booked for next week’s EFL Cup final and they can stay on course for a domestic knockout double with a comfortable success at Blackburn in the FA Cup fifth round.
The Premier League title is surely gone for sixth-placed United, who are 12 points behind leaders Chelsea, but their strength in depth is perfect for the cup competitions as Jose Mourinho can rotate his squad without greatly damaging their chances of progressing.
Changes are sure to be made again but Thursday’s 3-0 win over St-Etienne in the Europa League means the second leg should be a formality in France and the fact that fixture has been brought forward to Wednesday will allow Mourinho more time to prepare for next Sunday’s cup final against Southampton.
It also means Mourinho could be more aggressive than normal in terms of his FA Cup team selection and it would not be a huge surprise if Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic make their first appearances in this season’s competition.
Even if they are rested there is plenty of depth with Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan fighting for spots. Seven different players have scored for United in their 4-0 wins over Sky Bet Championship opponents in the FA Cup this term.
Those romps over Reading and Wigan were at Old Trafford but with so many Red Devils supporters at Ewood Park this could feel like a home game for them and backing United to cover the 1.5-goal handicap looks a smart bet.
Nine of United’s last ten victories have come by at least two goals and Blackburn, in the Championship relegation zone, should be outclassed whatever team Mourinho chooses.
While the United boss may have trouble deciding which of his talented players to leave out of his 18-man matchday selection, his opposite number Owen Coyle must be having sleepless nights wondering how his decimated squad can stay competitive.
Injury and suspension robs Rovers of several key men with Sam Gallagher the latest to be crocked during Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.
Eleven-goal Gallagher is the only player other than his forward partner Danny Graham to have scored more than three league goals this season and the absence of the on-loan Southampton striker is a hammer blow.
He isn’t the only one sidelined either following a costly night at Hillsborough when Hope Akpan was dismissed during the game and Elliott Bennett was sent off after the final whistle.
Including Gallagher, five players are injured, Lucas Joao is cup-tied and Anthony Stokes was ordered by a court this week to pay €230,000 to an Elvis impersonator he assaulted in Dublin.
Rovers could certainly be all shook up after this visit of United.
Man Utd -1.5 on Asian handicap
2pts 21-25 bet365, 188Bet
Hope Akpan and Elliott Bennett are suspended, while Sam Gallagher is injured. Adam Henley, Elliott Ward, Tommie Hoban and Corry Evans are also sidelined and Lucas Joao is cup-tied. Gordon Greer could return.
Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are doubtful.
Manchester United have kept five straight clean sheets