Carling Cup holders Manchester United will be favourites to lift the trophy for the third time in five seasons when they face Aston Villa at Wembley in The Football League competition's 50th final on Sunday.

But in Villa, who like United will be contesting their eighth League Cup final, United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson knows that his team face tough opponents who this season have already taken four Premier League points off the Red Devils - including a deserved 1-0 win at Old Trafford in December.

Ferguson will therefore want to pick his strongest team, but that's a problem on the injury front - while Villa have had good news with captain Stiliyan Petrov available after recovering from a virus, United's problems have increased as England's new skipper Rio Ferdinand is set to miss out due to a back problem while Ryan Giggs and Anderson are also out injured and Nani is suspended.

The United boss is also concerned about the possibility of England striker Wayne Rooney facing a 'burn-out' situation due to the high number of games he has played.

But the country's outstanding forward - whose 27 goals this season include 11 in his last eight appearances - is "desperate to play," says Ferguson. "He's always desperate to play," emphasises the Manager. "He is hard to leave out because he's got the energy all the time - and he's on a great goal-scoring burst now."

So expect to see Rooney looking to increase his goal tally in what will be Ferguson's incredible managerial record stretched to 27 Cup finals. Sunday's will be United's fourth League Cup final in eight seasons, but the boss never tires of stepping out at Wembley to hopefully see his team collect yet another trophy - as they did in last year's Carling final against Tottenham Hotspur.

"It's the same buzz," says Ferguson, "and you can't help but be excited coming to a final - but the only way to enjoy Wembley is by winning. We've experienced both sides of it over the years and it's funny because it's the ones you lose where you ask yourself, 'Did I pick the right team?' So we have lots of experiences of Cup finals, but the best thing to experience is being at Wembley as it's a marvellous occasion."

A marvellous occasion Sunday's final will certainly be, but the omens do not favour United. They have never successfully defended a Cup title, while in four of their previous five League Cup meetings with Villa - including the 1994 Wembley final - they were beaten. "It's not a nice day when you lose," says Ferguson, "but on Sunday we have got an opportunity to win something."

Celebrating 50 years of the League Cup