Manchester United claimed the club’s third Carling Cup win in just five seasons, with Patrice Evra lifting the trophy at a damp Wembley Stadium in North West London. With supporters decked in green and gold as the Glazer family watched on, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen scored the goals to win the cup for United.
Manchester United players were delighted with today’s 2-1 Carling Cup win over Aston Villa at Wembley. None more so that match winner Wayne Rooney, who came off the bench to head home. The 28-goal striker replaced Michael Owen in the 40th minute and headed home United’s winning goal with 15 minutes to go.
“It’s a great feeling to play in a final at Wembley and to score the winning goal,” said Rooney who started the match with a cold and ended it with a minor knee injury.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling but the lads did really well and we deserve the win. I wasn’t feeling too great and I should have scored another header. It hit the post, maybe I should have been another one?”
Serbian Nemanja Vidic, who Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neil felt should have seen red for a fourth minute challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor, said that United deserved a third Carling Cup win in five years.
“It’s nice to win the big games, it was a hard game today but we deserved to win,” said the former-Spartak Moscow defender, who escaped further sanction from referee Phil Dowd for the penalty challenge.
“I could have done better with the goal they scored. Agbonlahor did really well but I don’t think it was a sending off. I got in front of him and made the tackle, I wasn’t behind him.
“It’s always nice to win, now we have the confidence for the rest of the season. We’re happy.”
Owen, who will have an assessment on a tweaked hamstring tomorrow, was delighted despite being forced out of the match in the opening half. The striker made a rare start ahead of Rooney for the final.
“It’s great to win, great to score and great to play a part,” added the former-Liverpool forward, who scored his ninth United goal in just 11 starts this season.
“It’s just sad that I’ve picked up an hamstring injury. It’s my first injury since I’ve been at United. It was a real chance because it’s not every week I start a game.
“It’s been a fantastic season so far so I can’t grumble. Hopefully I won’t be out too long. Obviously Wayne’s played every week so it was good for him to rest today.”
But Owen wasn’t concerned with continued media speculation about his position with the England team, as manager Fabio Capello watched the Wembley final. The Italian is yet to pick Owen for an international squad.
“I didn’t think of who was watching. I don’t think about the World Cup. A lot of people have been getting their knickers in a twist about it,” added Owen.
“I just want to play for Man United and if that gets me recognition, then great. I’ve been to many World Cups and European Championships. If I don’t go, it gives someone else a chance.”
Manchester United defended the Carling Cup with a hard-fought victory over Aston Villa at Wembley. Coming from a goal behind, Wayne Rooney scored the winner for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men as the Scot picked up the 32nd major trophy of his Old Trafford tenure. It represented a calculated gamble by Ferguson who had left his top scorer on the bench.
The match began in controversy however, with Nemanja Vidic’s challenge on Gabriel Agbolahor earning the Midlanders a penalty in the third minute. Villa’s players complained bitterly that the giant Serbian defender was not shown a red card as United’s last defender.
Villa started the match positively against a United side missing Rooney, who has suffered a touch of flu in recent days.
Within minutes Martin O’Neil’s side was ahead with Agbonlahor beating Vidic for pace in the left channel. As the pair grappled, Vidic’s clumsy challenge took out the Villa forward, with Phil Dowd pointing to the spot. In-form James Milner stroked home the penalty, beating the recalled Tomasz Kuszczak in the United net.
Perhaps only Agbonlahor’s check, which allowed the Serbian to get goal side, saved the United defender from a fourth red of his Old Trafford career.
While Villa was much the brighter side in the opening minutes United equalised within ten as Dimitar Berbatov defied his critics to hassle Richard Dunne off the ball and enable starter Michael Owen to sweep home his ninth goal in 11 starts for United.
The goal brought more than 30,000 green and gold wearing United fans to their feet, with the Glazer family in attendance the subject of sustained abuse.
Ferguson’s revitalised side was now the dominant force, with Antonio Valencia and Ji-Sung Park repeatedly cutting through Villa’s midfield prior to Rooney’s introduction in the 40th minute. Owen, considered injury-prone before his arrival at Old Trafford, limped out of the match with yet another hamstring injury.
It only galvanised United, with the lively Valencia’s low right-wing cross finding Park whose firm shot struck the base of Brad Friedel’s post in the Villa goal.
United began the second period as they ended the first, with Rooney cutting across the ball to volley wide and Carrick drawing a high-class save from Friedel as Ferguson’s side push for the winner.
The Scouser’s introduction introduced pace to United’s attack and forced Villa’s defenders onto their heels. But it was Berbatov who produced the best moments, first backheeling to create a chance for Park and then taking the Korean’s pass to create another chance.
Indeed, Villa didn’t create another opportunity until the 70th minute when Ashley Young firmly struck a shot into the deck and wide following Stuart Downing’s corner.
Almost inevitably Rooney won the game for United, brilliantly heading home man-of-the-match Valencia’s right-wring cross. The inch perfect finish matched Bebatov’s high-class layoff prior to the Ecuadorian’s involvement.
Within minutes Rooney almost added a third as the England striker hit the post with yet another header. It mattered little as United ran out the clock to claim a fourth league cup trophy that began in controversy but ended with only one side deserving the spoils.
Ferguson, who previously said the only good Wembley outing is a winning one, delighted in the win despite the early penalty setback
“I think it was the right decision, but we recovered,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.
“It was a bad start to the game really, we got caught on the hop. Michael Owen got a big goal and had a great first half, unfortunately he got a hamstring injury and he had to come off.
“Wayne comes on and scores the winning goal, the form he has been in we expect that.
“We’ve got a lot of big games coming up now – that’s why we didn’t play him today but he’s had 45 minutes.
“It gives everyone a boost, no question of that.”
With just 10 games to go in the Premier League season United will now benefit from the huge boost in morale that silverware brings. Tougher tests will follow of course but with Chelsea losing on Saturday it is now United that holds the momentum in a roller-coaster season.
Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed newspaper speculation that Michael Owen will head a summer clearout at Manchester United. The former-Liverpool striker, who scored against West Ham United at Old Trafford last Tuesday, has started just 10 times for United this season despite a strong fitness record, scoring eight goals for the club.
“He has done well here, he has been a success,” said Ferguson yesterday.
“He’s a great professional, he’s never missed a training session, his performances in training have been very good, and I think he has improved as a footballer in his time here.
“His general knowledge of the game is better, so is his linking play, and for the first time in his career he is getting used to coming on as a sub. I think he’s enjoying being a part of it here and he’ll definitely be here next season because I have absolutely no intention of letting him go.
“The only problem Owen has got at the moment is Wayne Rooney. We’re getting incredible performances from Rooney at the moment, and Michael has come here at a time when another striker, and sometimes the only one we use, is on the rise.”
Owen, who may start the Carling Cup final Sunday afternoon, has a two year contract at Old Trafford that rewards the England international goalscorer based on performances. Owen joined United on a free transfer last summer after an injury-hit four years with Newcastle United.
Sir Alex Ferguson says that Wayne Rooney is now the player he always hoped for after the Merseysider’s £30 million move from Everton. Rooney has 27 goals in all competitions this season, with eight headed strikes a new record for the England international. The forward has 124 goals in 244 starts for Manchester United.
“Wayne has turned into the player we all hoped he would,” Ferguson said.
“He’s improving in front of our eyes, scoring the kind of goals he has never scored before. Goals inside the box, reacting to things, headers, getting the right angles. He never used to score that many goals with his head, but he has added anticipation to his game.
“If you look at all the headed goals he’s scored in the last few weeks he’s been free every time, and that tells you something.”
Rumours persist that Rooney will begin today’s Carling Cup final at Wembley on the bench, with Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov starting the game.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Martin O’Neil have each switched between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 this season, although the Manchester United manager is likely to field two strikers on Sunday. The big question surrounds in-form Wayne Rooney. Although the scouser needs a break sooner rather than later it could come a week from today.
Ferguson must also choose between Ben Foster, Edwin van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszack in goal. While Foster played against West Ham United in midweek experience may win the day tomorrow.
The Scot will choose from Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Darron Gibson in central midfield and two of Antonio Valencia, Park Ji-Sung and Gabriel Obertan in wide areas.
O’Neil, seeking his first trophy as Villa manager, welcomes Stilian Petrov back into the fold after injury and will choose between the perennially injured John Carew and wayward Emile Heskey in attack. The Norther Irishman’s other major decision revolves around the right-back position, with Carlos Cuellar edging out Luke Young in recent weeks.
Each team will play with significant amounts of width, although United’s attacking full-backs Patrice Evra and Rafael da Silva will offer greater attacking options. Perhaps the key battle, however, is Darren Fletcher versus Villa’s in-form James Milner in midfield.
If Manchester United is to beat Aston Villa at Wembley and defend the Carling Cup then it’ll be won in the details. Villa, who beat United 1-0 at Old Trafford in December, is unbeaten in six matches and running into form at the right time. But in Wayne Rooney, United has the world’s hottest striker with 27 goals this campaign. If he plays!
Nemanja Vidic v Gabriel Agbonlahor
The giant Serbian defender has returned to the United fold just in time for the Carling Cup final after missing 11 matches with a nerve problem in his thigh. While many believe the former-Spartak Moscow player is winding down the clock on his United career, the defender’s strength and aerial presence is vital against 14-goal Agbonlahor. The Villa striker, who out-jumped Wes Brown to score at Old Trafford in December, has fail to progress to the international set-up as many in the game expected. But the Birmingham-born striker has the pace to stretch United’s defence on Sunday.
Darren Fletcher v James Milner
England-international Milner is one of the most improved creative players in the Premier League this season and a spot in Fabio Capello’s South Africa bound England squad seems inevitable. But Fletcher, who has faced and bettered the world’s top central midfielders in recent seasons, is vital to United’s dominance of the midfield, especially if Ferguson deploys a 4-4-2 as expected. Should United win the key midfield battles then the trophy will head back up the M6 to Manchester.
Wayne Rooney v Richard Dunne
There is a real possibility that Ferguson will offer Rooney, the world’s most in-form striker, a rest for Sunday’s final. With a midweek England international, Rooney will need to take a break at some point but it’s unlikely that the irrepressible forward will countenance a rest for the first final of the season. In Dunne, Villa picked up a real bargain from Manchester City last summer. The Irish international reads the game as well as anyone but exposed to Rooney’s pace and direct running there is surely only one winner.
Antonio Valencia v Steven Warnock
The Ecuadorian, who turned United’s trip to Milan in his side’s favour 10 days ago with a destructive 30 minute cameo, can boast an excellent first season at Old Trafford. The former-Wigan Athletic player’s old-fashioned direct wing play has produced seven goals and a similar amount of assists this season. United will look to use the width of the Wembley pitch with Valencia the principal outlet. In-form former-Liverpool left-back Warnock is in line for an England call following Ashley Cole’s broken ankle and Wayne Bridge’s withdrawal from the international game.
Sir Alex Ferguson v Martin O’Neil
Many see Northern Irishman O’Neil as a natural successor to Ferguson. Indeed, O’Neil’s intelligence, charisma and love of the game make him a popular figure outside Villa Park. The Villa manager has tinkered his side’s formation this season but with Stuart Downing fit, Ashley Young coming into form and Milner running the Midlander’s midfield, O’Neil will probably deploy a 4-4-2. Ferguson, however, seems to rarely use two strikers in the biggest games. Sunday is different with both Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen undercooked. Could the Scot spring the biggest surprise and play both?
Defending champions Manchester United begin the 50th League Cup final as hot favourites to take home the trophy for the fourth time. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, upbeat after the midweek victory over West Ham United at Old Trafford, aim to defend the silverware won on penalties against Tottenham Hotspur one year ago.
Make no mistake, the Carling Cup represents United’s strongest shot at silverware this season with the club lying a point behind Chelsea in the Premier League and the Champions League only likely to get tougher should the club progress next week. In a season of inconsistency United’s fourth ranked trophy remains important to both club and fans.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s selection, coloured both by absentees and considerations at home and abroad, may er on the side of rotation. The United manager is without the injured Anderson, Owen Hargreaves, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs. Additionally, winger Nani sits out the game following his red card against the same opponents last month.
Ferguson must also consider which, if any, of his leading players requires a rest. The biggest question surrounds Wayne Rooney, who is in wonderful form but has also played a lot of football in recent weeks. Should Rooney start on the bench, then Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen are likely to come into the side.
The manager, who rested Edwin van der Sar against West Ham, must also choose between the great Dutchman, his midweek replacement Ben Foster and the Pole Tomasz Kuszczak between the sticks.
“I have three good goalkeepers and I need to choose the right one,” Ferguson said on Thursday.
“I gave Edwin the rest on Tuesday because he has come through quite a tough period with his injury and also his family situation.
“He has not missed a game, including all the midweek ones, so this week was an opportunity to give him a rest. Now I have to consider what is the right thing to do on Sunday.”
In midfield Michael Carrick will start, with suspension against Milan looming. Ferguson will pair the England international with Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes or Darron Gibson. With Nani suspended, Ferguson will pick two from three of Ji-Sung Park, Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan on the wings.
It’s a difficult question of balance, with Villa in good form but United facing more important priorities in the coming weeks.
“I’m thinking about the younger ones,” added Ferguson.
“There’s two or three that come into that category like Darron Gibson, Jonny Evans and Rafa Da Silva. They have to be considered. But we want to win the cup. It would be nice to win the cup having got there.
“Being at Wembley is an occasion and we have got this opportunity of winning something. The only way you can enjoy Wembley is by winning — it’s not a nice day if you lose.”
Ferguson, of course, has respect both for Villa’s progress and their manager Martin O’Neil, who is often seen as a potential replacement for the Scot on retirement.
The Irishman is in touching distance of taking Villa into the Champions League, with the Midlanders just a point off Manchester City in fourth place. It should make for an attractive and keenly fought final.
“We recognise very seriously the challenge from Aston Villa,” added Ferguson.
“When you think of the team Martin O’Neill inherited and compare it with the team he has got now it’s completely different in every department.
“He has brought consistency to them. He doesn’t make many changes and it could be a successful season.”
United fans hope that the success begins on Monday.