Manchester United will face last season’s beaten finalists Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup quarter-final. The match, played Tuesday 1 or Wednesday 2 December, is a repeat of last season’s final, which United won on penalty kicks.
The tie offers another opportunity for United’s reserve and fringe players to take the stage at Old Trafford, with a place in the two-legged semi final at stake.
In other ties United’s cross-town rivals City will face Arsenal at Eastlands, Chelsea travel to Blackburn Rovers and Portsmouth take on Aston Villa.
The final, to be played Sunday 28 February 2010, will take place at Wembley.
Blackburn Rovers v Chelsea
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur
Portsmouth v Aston Villa
Manchester City v Arsenal
Manchester United go into the weekend’s fixture against Blackburn Rovers with a quintet of missing players threatening to derail Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League progress. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, together with Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung and the suspended Gary Neville will likely miss the Old Trafford match.
“We have some doubts for tomorrow,” Ferguson said Friday at Carrington, United’s training complex.
“Ryan Giggs is a doubt but we hope he’ll be OK. Ferdinand and Vidic are both doubts – we’ll see what they’re like today. Gary Neville is suspended of course. Hopefully we can get one or two fit for tomorrow but we’re facing an uphill fight.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s first choice centre-backs each have calf injuries. While Vidic’s problem is an ongoing concern, Ferdinand has spent almost as much time in the treatment room as on the pitch over the past year. If neither makes the match Jonny Evans is likely to partner Wes Brown at the heart of the United back-four.
“Vidic has had a calf problem for a few weeks now. We’ve seen a specialist about it so we’ll see what he’s like today. Rio and Vida both want to play after the disappointment of last Sunday,” Ferguson added.
Park, Ferguson added, returned from South Korea with a swollen knee and is likely to miss at least another fortnight. Meanwhile midweek goalscorer Wellbeck, substituted against Barnsley on Tuesday with a knee problem, is out for a similar time. Ryan Giggs, unlikely to be risked, has a tight hamstring.
But Ferguson, impressed with the young and fringe players’ victory over Barnsley on Tuesday, will be able to call Gabriel Obertan for the match. The Frenchman, highly impressive on début, is likely to find a place on the bench for his first taste of the Premier League.
“You have to get on with life,” Ferguson said.
“[The Carling Cup] was good for the young players to go away. Last year the ties were mostly at home. It is a different thing altogether and they acquitted themselves quite well.”
Ferguson must also choose between Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen for the striking partnership. While Rooney is likely to partner the Bulgarian, Owen staked his claim for a place with a high quality goal against Barnsley on Tuesday.
“It was a fantastic goal, real quality. It was a good finish, he showed how quick he is. He did well,” Ferguson said of Owen’s strike.
Blackburn meanwhile, hit with swine flu this week, will also be missing key players for the match. While Sam Allardyce’s team is likely to ‘park the bus’ at Old Trafford, the Lancashire club has tended to collapse in recent games against Chelsea and Arsenal. But a thumping 6-2 Carling Cup victory over Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough side midweek has increased the confidence at Ewood Park
“I spoke to Sam before the Chelsea game and he had concerns about the flu,” Ferguson said.
“He had players missing but David Dunn was back during the week and maybe others will be fit. Flu does happen but so far we are okay.”
But Ferguson, determined to put United’s Premier League challenge back on course after heartbreaking defeat against Liverpool, is wary of the threat from another local neighbour. Injuries to three key players hardly helps.
“I am not sure what kind of team Sam will be able to pick but it will be a hard game as it is a local derby. While I am told they have a poor away record, I think Sam has had to build a different team,” Ferguson added.
Former Manchester United midfielder Gordon Strachan wants youngster Federico Macheda on loan, according to the Scot’s transfer target list. Strachan’s list, exposed in the media this week, includes the 17-year-old Italian alongside several other Premier League strikers. The former-United right-winger, appointed Middlesbrough manager on Tuesday, refused to comment.
Macheda hit the headlines following goals against Aston Villa and Sunderland in successive matches last season. The teenager striker is yet to appear in the Premier League this season following reports of a bust-up with Anderson and a poor attitude at training. However, the former Lazio player started United’s Carling Cup match with Barnsley, Tuesday.
It is doubtful that manager Sir Alex Ferguson will allow Macheda to leave on loan, with no senior cover for strikers Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen.
Strachan, 52, played nearly 200 games for Untied after signing in 1984 from Aberdeen for £500,000. The ginger midfielder also played in the 1985 FA Cup final win over Everton and took Scotland to the 1986 World Cup, before being sold to Leeds in 1989.
It’s Dimitar. You know me because I play for your Manchester club in the best position of football attack. Also, I am Bulgaria’s national hero and a sport model of great admiration for everyone.
I made this position of success by not only being great, but also by having seven important habits of great people like me. I will tell you about my secrets, Manchester fans, because you deserve it for supporting me with love and cash.
Now, I will tell you about the first of my seven habits that have made me into perfection. I will tell you about the other ones later when I feel like it so you can also become like me, and improve yourself better than you are now.
My most important habit is habit number 1: Resting.
“If you can rest while others are not, then the world is yours my son.” That is what my father, Berbatar Dimitov used to say to me everyday before his eight hour lunchtime siesta.
My father understood that life pressure can be bad on health. But he also understood that bad things cannot attack you when you are resting, it is scientifically impossible. My father was a great man like my mother.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to rest professionally like my father, and many people are not good enough to do it. My substitute Carlos Tevez failed and said goodbye to Manchester because he could not rest as much as me. I beat him.
I also beat Tottenham president Mr Levy because I told him: “I will rest until you let me leave, I will be Gandhi! I will sleep to get my justice!” Tottenham quickly surrendered to me: “OK, go to Manchester now! You win again Berbatov.”
For me Resting is not only a habit, but an important part of my success and my life. It is easy because I trained many hours at becoming perfect. Now I can do it anywhere and anytime. I am like a bear resting in a field and then being magnificent when I see a fish.
Now enough of this, we must all leave this and return to doing relaxation.
I will be back when I feel like it with more from my ‘Seven habits of successful people like me’.
Good bye and good restings.
Find more Berbatov musings at Dirty Tackle.
Sir Alex Ferguson has hit out at international friendlies designed to ‘create good revenue,’ labelling fixtures – such as England’s upcoming trip to Qatar – as a ‘thorn in everyone’s flesh.’ The Manchester United manager has long fought against international matches during the season, with players often withdrawing through injury.
“You know it’s always a grey area between coaches of the Premier League teams and the England manager, the Sweden manager or the Italy manager,” Ferguson told Sirus XM radio.
“International managers have a situation they find themselves in and I think some of them actually could do without the friendly games themselves.
“But the football associations from every country warn them that sometimes it’s a nice day for them, a nice trip for them, a sunny day, and in some cases it creates good revenue.”
Ferguson, hardly a friend of the Football Association, which is being paid around £400,000 to play Brazil in Qatar next month, is likely to lose Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand and possibly Michael Owen to the 6,500 mile round trip.
Ferguson will also lose John O’Shea and Patrice Evra to World Cup play-offs, while Scotland, Bulgaria, Serbia and South Korea are also playing friendly matches in min-November.
“It’s the friendly matches that are the problem. It’s a coach’s nightmare, especially if you are in a European campaign and going for cups and titles,” said Ferguson.
“You have all these fixtures and you have the intrusion of a friendly international game in some unknown country, so that is a definite thorn in everyone’s flesh. Unfortunately you can’t do anything about it.
“All the international managers have their jobs to do and we support that, particularly when it comes to the issue of competitive games like the European Championships or the World Cup. It’s very important that these players play for their countries.
“But friendly games are a different matter. I don’t think that anyone agrees with them if you’re a league coach.
“Many years ago, when I first came to United, I used to worry about the players all going away but now I accept it as part of the international scene. There are so many players all over the world so I no longer get myself in a twist about it.”
Sir Alex Ferguson has defended his policy of using younger players in the Carling Cup. The United manager, who has deployed young and fringe players in the competition for more than a decade, is often criticised for not taking the competition seriously. United has won the competition twice in the last four seasons using the policy in earlier rounds.
“It’s always being said that the Carling Cup is not my first priority. But that’s misleading,” said Ferguson.
“While obviously you don’t quite rank it alongside the Premier League or Champions League, I certainly regard it as an extremely valuable tool in our club’s strategy.
“I won’t have it lightly dismissed, because over the years the Carling Cup has served United as an important component in the development of our playing squad.
“It enables me to put some of the younger players into the team alongside more established stars, to see how they react and blend.
“The competition is a stepping stone that has helped groom so many of our emerging players for the serious business of Premier League football.”
Or to translate… “The Carling Cup is not my first priority.”
Henrik Larsson appeared in just 13 matches for Manchester United but on the day of the Swedish forward’s retirement, aged 38, his impact at Old Trafford is still felt. In a glittering career spanning more than 700 games and 400 goals, Larsson drew his footballing days to a close at Helsingborg last night.
Larsson, signed on loan from Helsingborg in January 2007, scored on his Old Trafford début against Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round. The Swede then scored in United’s 4–0 Premier League win over Watford and again on his final appearance against Lille at Old Trafford.
Following the striker’s final game – a 2-0 defeat to Djurgardens IF – United manager Sir Alex Ferguson sent a video message to Larsson, which was played on the stadium screen. For a player dubbed the ‘Ice Man’, Larsson was overcome with emotion.
“It really hits you when meet all this love,” said Larsson.
“I’m normally quite a cool character but right now I feel like I could cry.
“It’s huge to be able to end it on our home ground and it has to end some time. It’s rubbish to end things this way (with a defeat) but you can’t have everything in life.”
Larsson, who is likely to complete his UEFA badges before moving into management, has already been linked with a number of coaching jobs, including at former club Celtic.
“I don’t know if I have to go down to the employment agency and do certain things, but I have the luck and luxury to be able to say no to jobs which are offered to me,” added Larsson.
“But obviously there is an emptiness at present, and I need to fill that emptiness with something.
“I’m fortunate enough to have earned enough money to be able to sit back and not panic, but I have to do something. I can’t just glide through the rest of life.”
Larsson is remembered fondly at Old Trafford, not just for the key role the former-Barcelona forward played in two months at the club, but his honest approach to the game.
Enjoy your retirement, Henke.
Goals for Manchester United
Versus Aston Villa
Damn! We’re in a tight spot. At least referee Chris Foy was on Tuesday night when the Merseyside-born official booked the wrong da Silva brother in United’s Carling Cup victory over Barnsley. Foy showed Fabio a yellow card for an 83rd minute tackle on Jamal Campbell-Ryce, when his twin Rafael should have received the caution.
Sir Alex Ferguson has long said that he cannot tell the brothers apart. Off the pitch Fabio wears a wedding ring, having married his school sweetheart, Barbara, last year.
United has contacted the FA to point out the case of mistaken identity. Fabio, sent off in the previous Carling Cup round against Wolverhampton Wanderers, will likely see the caution removed from his record.
As the song goes … Viva Da Silva, Viva Da Silva, running up the pitch, don’t know which is which, Viva Da Silva.
The worrying increase crowd violence continued during Manchester United’s 2-0 Carling Cup victory at Oakwell last night. South Yorkshire Police, who arrested four United supporters, today released details of last night’s incidents. The police held two for public order offences, one for theft and another for throwing a missile on the pitch.
Three Barnsley fans ran onto the pitch during the match. Two supporters confronted Ben Foster, the recalled United goalkeeper, as he took a goal kick in the second half.
During the violence, where supporters raided shelves and tills, eight Barnsley catering staff locked themselves in a cupboard seeking protection, police claimed. Jan Framp, area manager for Lindley Catering, said the attack happened after police told catering staff not to sell alcohol at half-time.
“That’s what upset them,” said Framp.
“They kicked the doors in and then ransacked the beer bar. They have ripped the water boilers off the counters, they have trashed everything.”
The FA, who will liaise with both clubs and the police to gather evidence, said that there is no place for anti-social or violent behavior in football.
“Any culprit found to be involved in these disturbances and identified as such by either the police or clubs should be subject to a lengthy ban from attending football matches,” said a spokesperson.
While the violence was disturbing, more troubling still was the pitch invasion by Barnsley supporters that placed players’ safety in jeopardy.
The FA surely must take action – and quickly – before English football witnesses an attack on a player ahead of a 2018 World Cup bid.
United is already under UEFA investigation after a fan invaded the pitch during the club’s Champions League tie with Wolfsburg at Old Trafford last month.