Carlo Ancelotti described the prospect of ending the longest trophy drought in Everton’s history as “a great motivation” rather than an obsession.
Everton’s last silverware came in 1995 but Ancelotti, who has won 16 major trophies himself in the subsequent period, believes that long wait does not confer added pressure on them.
Ancelotti’s side host Manchester United, the club Joe Royle’s team beat in the FA Cup final a quarter of a century ago, in the League Cup on Wednesday.
“There is not a lot of pressure on the fact this club did not win for a long time. It is not an obsession, it is only a great motivation,” the Italian said. “It is an important game, a quarter-final of an important competition that Everton never won in its history.”
As he noted, Everton are three games from glory. They have won their last three matches, with an impressive collection of scalps, in Chelsea, Leicester and Arsenal.
“We prepare for this game in a good momentum,” Ancelotti added. “It is a really important competition, also because we are not so far to the end. In three games it is finished. It is two games to the final so it will be fantastic to us to play a final if it is possible.”
When Ancelotti was appointed a year ago, Everton were 15th in the Premier League. They are now fourth and a manager who has stressed the importance of qualifying for Europe now has two routes into continental competition.
If Ancelotti faces decisions about rotating, he added: “We give a lot of importance to this competition.”
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He will alternate between his goalkeepers for the next two games, guaranteeing that Jordan Pickford and Robin Olsen will each start either against Manchester or Sheffield United, but is yet to decide which.
Everton will be without the injured James Rodriguez, though Ancelotti hopes he will be available after Christmas. Lucas Digne is still sidelined but his manager is confident the French left-back has a long future at Goodison Park.
Digne has been linked with Manchester City but Ancelotti thinks Everton will soon extend his deal.
“We are pleased to renew the contract of Digne,” he said. “I think it will not be a problem. He is happy to be here and we are happy with him. He is an important player for us, for the present and the future. The club is going to talk to him.”
This is United’s second visit to Goodison this season after a 3-1 victory in November. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have a 100 per cent record on the road in England, winning all eight games and scoring 25 goals. “Manchester United is a fantastic team,” Ancelotti added. “They won a lot of games away and have players with top quality.”
One in particular troubled Everton with Bruno Fernandes scoring a swift brace on his last trip to Merseyside. Ancelotti hopes Everton will not make the same mistakes again.
“I learned that if you leave space to him we are bad so we have to avoid to leave space,” he said. “He is a fantastic player, the key point of United and we have to take care of this.”
Ancelotti has managed many of the world’s major clubs and could have been at Old Trafford. He was sounded out by Sir Alex Ferguson when the Scot was retiring in 2013.
“I keep a fantastic relationship with Sir Alex and we met when he decided to stop but I was close to [joining] Real Madrid,” Ancelotti said. “I appreciate that at the time he talked to me.”