Sir Alex Ferguson will deploy a strong side against Aldershot Town in the Carling Cup fourth round on Tuesday night, as Manchester United takes its first steps towards recovery. With Ferguson’s team and supporters in a cloud since Manchester City’s 6-1 win at Old Trafford on Sunday, anything bar healthy victory over the lower division outfit is unthinkable.
While the renaissance begins in Hampshire, Ferguson also remains keen to use his full squad in the Carling Cup. It means the Scot is likely to field some major names alongside youngsters at the 7,000-capacity Recreation Ground. Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov and Antonio Valencia could all start against Dean Holdsworth’s League Two strugglers.
“At the moment, I’ve got a really strong squad,” Ferguson told MUTV.
“We took 23 players to Romania with us and left Rio [Ferdinand] behind because we weren’t planning to use him in that game. So, with a squad of 24 players, some of them have to have games. Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov must have games. It’ll be similar to what we did at Leeds, really. All [the youngsters involved at Elland Road] will be travelling with us.
“Young players emerge and take someone’s position. It’s happened time and time again at this club and I’ve experienced it over my 25 years. You see a young emerging star coming through the youth team, and then comes the Reserves and, before you know it, you say why don’t you put this boy in the first team. It’s down to temperament. That’s important, and ability, courage and determination. They’re all the factors we need for top players at United.”
In addition to Owen, Barbatov and Valencia, Ferguson could also deploy first-team regulars Fabio da Silva, Phil Jones and Park Ji-Sung against a team 81 places behind in the football league ladder. Captain Nemanja Vidic could play after missing Sunday’s defeat at Old Trafford.
Youngsters Will Keane, Ezikiel Fyers, Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba are also included in Ferguson’s squad, while Tom Cleverley could make his very long-awaited return in central midfield after travelling south. Indeed, the latter pair could well start in what would be the French youngsters full United début.
Owen, who scored twice in the previous round away at Leeds United, says the match is essential to a host of fringe United players who have seen very little game time this season. The former-Liverpool striker is yet to start a Premier League game, while Berbatov has begun only one.
“It’s obviously going to be a massive game for Aldershot with Manchester United coming into town,” Owen told MUTV.
“I’m sure it’ll be a full house and we’re treating it as an important game as well. There’s players who weren’t involved against City, me being one of them, and a lot of the lads need games so it’ll be quite a strong Manchester United playing against them. It’s a competition we want to do well in. We’ve done quite well in the Carling Cup over the years and we want to progress and win a trophy. That’s the end game.”
Meanwhile, Aldershot manager Holdsworth says that the fixture is the biggest in the club’s history. Former Wimbledon striker Holdsworth runs the club on a shoestring, with the Hampshire-based outfit struggling in 15th place in League Two. In 1992 Aldershot became the first League club to fold since Acrington Stanly 30 years previously. Reforming that spring, Aldershot began the very long ascent up the football pyramid from Isthmian League Division Three, the ninth run on the ladder.
“On Tuesday night, we’ve probably got the biggest game in the club’s history. It could mean financial security for a long, long time”, said Holdsworth, who scored more than 260 goals in a decade-long professional career.
United and Aldershot have only met once, with the Reds winning 3-1 in September 1970. George Best, Brian Kidd and Denis Law scored United’s goals in the win, and while the Reds will not field two former European Players of the Year tonight, there is no doubt that a win is essential.
Aldershot Town v Manchester United, Carling Cup, Recreation Ground, 7.45pm, 25 October 2011.
Aldershot (4-4-2): Warner;Herd, Straker, Jones, Rodman; Morris, Vincenti, Guttridge, Collins; Rankine, Hylton. Subs from: Brown, McGlashan, Pulis, Brown, Smith, Bubb, Panther, Young
United (4-4-2): Fabio, Jones, Vidic, Fryers; Valencia, Cleverley, Pogba, Park; Berbatov, Owen. Subs from: Lindegaard, Amos, de Gea, Evra, Carrick, Diouf, Giggs, Welbeck, Anderson, Fletcher, Young, Nani, W Keane, Morrison.
Referee: Lee Probert
Assistants: S Burt S Long
Fourth Official: S Attwell