Sir Alex Ferguson will field an experimental side as Newcastle United visit Old Trafford for the third round of the newly renamed Capital One Cup on Wednesday night. In common League Cup policy over many years, Ferguson will use the tournament to blood youngsters and offer minutes to squad played under-used so far this season. But the Scot’s team is likely to play in a half-empty stadium, with the club having sold just over 40,000 tickets for the match. Years of price rises having finally taken a serious toll on attendances.
News of Nemanja Vidić’s injury is a serious blow to United’s short-term ambitions, with the Serbian defender likely to miss at least two months of the campaign. Although the defender was never likely to feature in Wednesday’s match with Alan Pardew’s visiting Geordies, the match takes on even greater significance for Ferguson’s other defenders who must now get, or stay, fit.
To that end Irishman Jonny Evans is likely to start, with the 24-year-old Irishman needing minutes in his own road towards full fitness, while youngsters Scott Wooten and Michael Keane come into the frame.
Meanwhile, winger Antonio Valencia will definitely miss the match having left Anfield on crutches according to press reports. United is yet to release details about the wingers reported foot injury, although there is an outside chance Wayne Rooney could make United’s bench.
Far better news comes in the shape of Darren Fletcher who will start a first team game after more than 10 months out. The Scot, who suffers from a serious bowl problem, should line-up in central midfield. Anderson, Bébé, Federico Macheda, Nick Powell and Alexander Büttner should all feature as the Reds defend an outstanding record against Newcastle at Old Trafford. Newcastle has not won at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ since February 1972.
Büttner was outstanding on his debut against Wigan Athletic, while Cleverley may get some minutes after sitting out United’s win over Liverpool at the weekend.
But it is to United’s under-21 side that fans will direct a collective gaze in the hope Ferguson will hand senior caps to a swathe of talented kids. In addition to Wooten and Keane, Tyler Blackett, Angelo Henriquez, Davide Petrucci, Jesse Lingard, and Larnell Cole could all play some part in Wednesday’s fixture.
Powell scored a stunning 25-yard goal on his last outing for the Reds against Wigan a fortnight ago, while many fans have waited in eager anticipation of Chilean striker Henriquez – a £4 million summer capture.
“We have some really talented young players and I’m looking forward to seeing some of them,” Rio Ferdinand told United’s official website on Wednesday.
“I’m looking forward to maybe seeing our new signing from Chile, Angelo Henriquez. I’m sure Nick Powell will play and I’m looking forward to seeing him again too as he’s a very exciting prospect. I’m excited to perhaps see Jesse Lingard play and I think Larnell Cole as well. There is Michael Keane at the back too.
“There are loads of them and I could go on and on and be here all day. Hopefully they can stamp their authority on the cup this year. I just think it’s a natural progression for the senior players and it becomes your duty almost to not force it on the young players but to lead the way and lead by example.
“When you need to talk to players or give them a nudge in the right direction, you’re there to do that. That’s what comes with being a Manchester United player after a few years. We want it to be as comfortable and normal as possible for the young players coming into big stadiums, in front of big crowds with big expectations. It’s a new world they are entering and, as experienced players, we want to make that a much smoother ride if we can.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle arrive in mediocre form, having slipped to 10th in the Premier League table, although the Capital One Cup offers Pardew the opportunity to rotate, while easing Fabricio Coloccini and Cheick Tiote back into the side. However, Tim Krul and former Red Danny Simpson are definitely out.
Pardew is expected to make numerous changes to the side that beat Norwich City 1-0 at the weekend.
“In respect to this competition, the Capital One Cup, we’ve got to look to win it,” claimed Pardew on Tuesday.
“We have got a tough game right from the off, going to Old Trafford. But it’s a fantastic place to go and play football, and we are going to hopefully enjoy it and get a positive result.”
Certainly, United will want no repeat of the last fixture between these sides, when Pardew’s team came out 3-0 winners at St. James’ Park last January. It was the Magpies’ first victory over Ferguson’s team in more than a decade.
Yet, United boasts a strong record in the competition despite Ferguson’s patchwork selections. Victory at Wembley in February would represent a third League Cup gong in five years, although the Reds have lost to Southend, Coventry and Crystal Palace in recent years. The 40 thousand plus who shelled out full prices to attended Wednesday’s game expect better, of course.
Manchester United v Newcastle United – Capital One Cup, Old Trafford – Wednesday 26 September 2012, 7.45pm
United (4-3-3): Johnstone; Keane, Wootton, Evans, Büttner; Fletcher, Cleverley, Powell; Bébé, Hernández, Macheda. Subs from: De Gea, Anderson, Welbeck, Lingard, Vermijl, Petrucci, Tunnicliffe, Cole, Blackett, Brady, Henriquez.
Newcastle: (4-3-3): Elliot; Perch, Williamson, S Taylor, Santon; Gosling, Tiote, Bigirimana; Obertan, Sh Ameobi, Amalfitano. Subs from: Harper, Ferguson, Tavernier, Anita, Marveaux, Vuckic, Abeid, Ba, Campbell, Sa Ameobi
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Last 10: United 5, Newcastle 1, Draw 4
Overall: United 77, Newcastle 40, Draw 37