Darron Gibson’s brace was enough to put Manchester United into the Carling Cup semi-finals last night as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Old Trafford . Following United’s loss to Besiktas in the Champions League, the pressure was on the current crop of Old Trafford youngsters to perform against a Spurs side now third in the Premier League.
The result was scant reward for Spurs, who started the match brightly and created several chances in the opening period. However, it was Gibson who twice scored against the run of play to take the game for the home side. The 22-year-old Irish international’s first goal, a low drive past Heurelho Gomes, left the Spurs ‘keeper helpless on the quarter hour. And Gibson’s second, following neat work by Dimitar Berbatov and a smart layoff from Danny Welbeck, was an explosive finish into the top corner on 34 minutes.
Harry Redknapp’s side tested United on a number of occasions in a first half dominated by the away team, despite the Reds’. Both the in-form Jermaine Defoe and recalled David Bentley forced saves from Tomasz Kuszczak, preferred to Ben Foster, in the United goal.
Nemanja Vidic, showing signs of returning to his imperious best with a solid performance at the back, then stopped Robbie Keane with a great challenge to deny the livewire Irish international.
On the home side, Gabriel Obertan continued to impress with some good running from the right-wing. The Frenchman’s rapid progress has already eclipsed the Portuguese misfit Nani, who was left out of the match squad once again. Anderson, pulling the strings from the centre of midfield, put in his finest performance of the season to date.
Meanwhile in defence, 20-year-old Belgian full-back Ritchie De Laet put in a convincing performance, comfortably containing David Bentley on Spurs’ right. If Ferguson was concerned about lack of cover for Patrice Evra, he need not be.
In the end the second half was little more than a training session for United, with Spurs lacking the creative edge – or apparently the drive – to force the away side back into the match. A point made somewhat bitterly by disappointed Spurs manager Harry Redknapp after the match.
By contrast, Sir Alex was full of praise for the central midfield, calling out Gibson and Anderson as the “two stars” of the match.
“Once Anderson imposed himself on the game, he was able to attack players in the middle of the park and we finished up comfortable winners,” Ferguson said.
“And Darron Gibson is the one player in our club who can score great goals from outside the box. He has such tremendous power in his shot.”
“That second goal was excellent, there was so much movement involved, on and off the ball, and the finish itself was absolutely terrific.
“We have to look upon this as a really good win for us.”
Gary Neville, club captain, praised the younger players while insisting that the time has come to integrate Gibson and others into the first team.
“In the first half today we didn’t play the best football, but Gibbo scored two goals and that makes it routine for you,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“I don’t think they’re younger players, they’re playing for their countries. They deserve to be there by right.”
“They are Premier League players of that quality, they are obviously developing. It’s going to be difficult but we’re in the semi final and we want to continue to do well this year.”
With Irishman Gibson fast developing a reputation for excellent long-range shooting, many pundits feel the Derry-born midfielder could he be a ready-made replacement for Paul Scholes.
The semi-final draw takes place this evening at 21.55 following the two remaining quarter finals, which include Arsenal, Manchester City, Blackburn and Chelsea.
Team: Kuszczak, Neville, Brown, Vidic, De Laet, Anderson (Tosic 82), Park, Gibson, Berbatov (Macheda 62), Welbeck, Obertan (Carrick 62).