Manchester United’s young players take up the mantle tonight when the club takes on Barnsley in the Carling Cup. With the first team still reeling from defeat at Anfield Sunday, United’s kids will provide some light relief to United’s downcast supporters. On the opposite bench will be former United striker, Mark Robins.
On the menu tonight will be a course of United’s exciting young talent including, we presume, Danny Wellbeck, Federico Macheda, Darron Gibson, Ritche de Laet, the da Silva brothers and Joshua King. With Wellbeck, Macheda, and the da Silva brothers closest to the first team significant focus will be on the quartet.
Wellbeck, called out as a potential inclusion in the England World Cup squad by Sir Alex Ferguson, is disappointed with the level of involvement in this season’s campaign. Prior to the disastrous draw with Sunderland, where the England under-21 international started on the left-wing, Wellbeck had made just one bench (outside of the Carling Cup) all season.
It’s a similar place for Macheda, whose season has been a major anti-climax after the 17-year-old’s impact towards the end of the last campaign. Indeed, the Italian, hauled off in the last Carling Cup round following Fabio da Silva’s red card, has seen his attitude questioned by senior staff.
The da Silva brothers each have reasons to make an impact in tonight’s match. Rafael has missed the season to date with a shoulder injury, after the major impact the teenage Brazilian made last campaign. Fabio, who suffered a similar injury last season, is yet to make the same impact on the team. Ferguson described the youngster as “outstanding” after the left-sided defender’s performance in United’s Champions League match at CSKA Moscow.
But as much attention is focused on the opposite bench as Sir Alex Ferguson’s team selection. Former Old Trafford alumni Mark Robins, appointed manager of Barnsley this summer, spent six years at United.
Robins is best remember at Old Trafford for his goal against Nottingham Forrest in the Third Round of the 1990 FA Cup. Dubbed the ‘goal that saved Fergie’s job’, Robin’s header from Mark Hughes cross was the first step on the way to victory in the final that season.
The Ashton-under-Lyne born striker burst on the United scene as a callow 18-year-old, scoring 17 goals in 69 appearances for United, although many of those games were from the bench. Sold to Norwich City in 1992 for £800,000, Robins also went on to play for Leicester, Copenhagen, Reading, Ourense, Panionios, Manchester City, Walsall, Rotherham United, Bristol City, Sheffield Wednesday and Burton Albion in a journeyman career.
In addition to the 1990 FA Cup Robins was also victorious with United in the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup, the 1991 European Super Cup and 1990 Charity Shield.
Robins joined Rotherham in 2000 first as a player, then coach and finally becoming manager in March 2007. He replaced the popular Simon Davey as manager of Barnsley this summer.
Not that Sir Alex holds any sentimental value in former United players coming face-to-face with the old team. If Robins challenged Ferguson to a game of tiddlywinks, the Scot would give everything to win.
To which end Ferguson will also draft some senior players into the team tonight, with both Wes Brown and Jonny Evans likely to start in central defence and Michael Owen, Nani, Anderson and Ben Foster playing some part.
Gabriel Obertan, United’s £3 million signing from Bordeaux this summer, has played three reserve games in succession and could start.