Manchester United head into tonight’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg with a 2-1 deficit to overhaul against Sunderland, with the Old Trafford faithful expectant of progression against a side that has struggled domestically this term.

David Moyes’ men have had a bad run of form recently, with four defeats in the last five outings in all competitions playing their part in souring the season for the reigning champions. Having said that, United are still favourites with to progress to the final.

Gary Neville has been vocal in his belief that the cup competition has the ability to turn the tide for Moyes and United this season, as other tournaments are no longer options in the club’s search for silverware.

With a significant margin to overhaul in the Premier League, despite Moyes’ optimism that his side can still be title challengers a miracle of sorts is needed for Nemanja Vidic to hold the domestic crown above his head come May once more.

Swansea ended the side’s FA Cup chances at the first hurdle, while the Champions League continues to be the behemoth to win, with a settled side full of top players needed to claim glory on the continent in the future. United’s desperation in the January transfer window is proof that their focus is on qualifying for next season, not on winning this year.

This leaves the Capital One Cup – a competition that sometimes acts as more of a distraction than a priority, but a piece of silverware nonetheless.

Overcoming Sunderland’s lead is not an automatic right, and Moyes’ side will need to improve on their recent performances on home soil if a date at Wembley is to be etched into the diary.

The continued absence of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie takes a considerable amount of the bite out of United’s attack, with the likes of Adnan Januzaj, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez tasked with the responsibility of getting the goals.

At the other end, sterner defending is needed, as a Sunderland goal at Old Trafford would make the task even harder.

An added motivation to overcome Gus Poyet’s men and make the final is the potential opposition. Manchester City have been ruthless in their progression to Wembley, putting a sorry West Ham side to the sword in a 9-0 aggregate thumping in their semi-final.

A Manchester derby at Wembley would be quite the occasion, whether it is the final of the Capital One Cup or the Champions League. Victory for the Red Devils over Manuel Pellegrini’s charges to lift the trophy could well be the shot in the arm that gives Moyes and his side the belief and ability to turn the tide.

However, before thoughts of City emerge, beating Sunderland is the task, with Moyes surely urging his side to improve.