Tag Carling Cup

Tag Carling Cup

Fergie’s fringe takes up Carling challenge

Ed October 26, 2010 Tags: , Matches 141 comments

Michael Owen will start as Manchester United’s fringe players take up the challenge of winning a third Carling Cup in a row at Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side faces Wolverhampton Wanderers in the competition for the second year running. Danny Welbeck’s goal handed United victory in last year’s third round.

Owen has largely been ignored this season amid Javier Hernandez rise at the club and Dimitar Berbatov’s excellent goalscoring form. But the 30-year-old, who is out of contract in June, scored twice as Ferguson’s side beat Scunthorpe United in round two last month.

The former Liverpool player failed to make the bench for United’s victory over Stoke City at the weekend but has scored seven goals in his last nine appearances in the Carling Cup.

Although the temptation to retain two-goal Hernandez is strong, the in-form Mexican is more likely to feature against Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend.

Owen could partner Italian teenager Federico Macheda in attack, while Bébé is set for a first start for the club following a surprise £7.4 million summer transfer. The Portuguese Under-21 international has made just two substitute appearances for the club to date.

Meanwhile, French winger Gabriel Obertan, Anderson and Darron Gibson could all feature in the Reds’ midfield as United seek a third final in a row.

Perhaps the most exciting proposition among United’s younger players is Ravel Morrison, who has been handed a squad number a may play tonight. The 17-year-old, dubbed one of the most talented players of his generation in some media quarters, is able to perform in a variety of midfield and forward positions.

However, the player’s progress is threatened by off-the-field issues, including an arrest amid newspaper allegations of involvement with illegal drugs and firearms.

Although Ferguson will continue the now long-held policy of fielding principally fringe players until the semi-final, the Carling Cup represents a realistic chance of silverware this season with other leading clubs also fielding weaker sides. Indeed, with Chelsea favourites to retain the Premier League and United probably short of the quality to challenge in Europe, the Carling Cup is arguably more important to United than ever.

Meanwhile, Wolves manager Mick McCarthy may also rotate his resources, although not necessarily resorting to the 10 changes he made in last season’s Premier League fixture at Old Trafford. The Irishman made a calculated gamble on his squad’s freshness. It was a decision that helped the Midlanders retain a place in the Premier League last season. The ridiculous £25,000 fine handed out by the Premier League is now made a complete mockery by the 25-man squad system introduced this season.

McCarthey’s men, who lost to Chelsea at the weekend, face United twice, Manchester City and Arsenal in a daunting series of fixtures over the next fortnight. It makes a Carling Cup run all-the-more important, says McCarthy.

“At this moment in time, wouldn’t it be great for us to have a cup run?” said the affable McCarthy.

“Everyone knows about the games we’ve got. We’ve just been beaten by Chelsea, we’ve got Man United in the cup, (Manchester) City in the league, United in the league then Arsenal in the league.

“So wouldn’t it be great to have a victory of any sorts amongst all of those? And if it’s going to be in the Carling Cup, let’s have it.”

It will take a monumental effort, despite United’s fringe squad, as Wolves have not won at Old Trafford in 30 years.

Opposition
Wolves – 4-4-2 – Hennessey; Stearman, Mancienne, Mouyokolo, Elokobi; Foley, Jones, Milijaš, Hunt; Ebanks-Blake, Bent.

Subs from: Van Damme, Edwards, Craddock, Henry, Fletcher, Ward, Hunt, Jones, Berra, Jarvis, Zubar, Mujangi Bia, Doyle, Foley, Guedioura,

United squad
Kuszczak, Amos, Smalling, Evra, O’Shea, Rafael, Fábio, Brown, Anderson, Carrick, Gibson, Hernández, Macheda, Hargreaves, Owen, Park, Eikrem, Dudgeon, Gill, Morrison, Brady, Bébé, Obertan.

Officials
Referee: L S Mason
Assistant referees: A I Halliday & S Burt
Fourth official: P T Crossley

Form
United – WWDWDW
Wolves – LWLLDL

Phelan in charge as United cruise to Carling win

Ed September 23, 2010 Tags: , Matches 12 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson was absent – the official cover a scouting trip to watch Valencia, Manchester United’s next Champions League opponents – but it mattered little to the shadow side at Glandford Park. United’s fringe players overcame a shaky start and a Scunthorpe United goal, to score five and progress in the Carling Cup, thanks to a Michael Owen brace.

Assistant manager Mike Phelan oversaw the squad in Ferguson’s absence, only the third game the United manager has ever missed while in charge at Old Trafford. But Ferguson had little cause for concern with United eventually running out comfortable winners in Lincolnshire.

Owen’s double, a first goal in professional football for Chris Smalling, Darron Gibson’s classy finish and Park Ji-Sung ensured a positive result for Phelan on his big night. With Rio Ferdinand completing 90 minutes, Smalling outstanding at the back and Bébé performing brightly in a 15 minute cameo, the assistant has many positives to report back when Ferguson returns to Manchester.

“Rio’s done well, but I thought also Michael Owen did exceptionally well. He showed what a top, top player he is and he contributed to everything tonight – he covered the ground really well,” said Phelan, who spent much of the night gazing into space while looking pensive.

“We have a young player in Chris Smalling who did well, then there were Kiko Macheda and Chicharito, and we introduced Bébé as well. The keeper (Tomasz Kuszczak) did exceptionally well. He dealt with everything that came his way.”

But United’s shadow team began on the back foot, with Championship minnows Scunthorpe taking the game to its more illustrious opponents in the compact Glandford Park. Indeed, Kuszczak was called into action early with Josh Wright and Martyn Woolford going close, and Tomasz Kuszczak forced to save from Eddie Nolan’s long-range shot.

United’s 4-3-3 system, which pushed Javier Hernández and Federico Macheda into unfamiliar wide positions, played into the home side’s hands, with Scunthorpe exploiting space on United’s flanks during the first period. The unthinkable, a home goal, was in fact much deserved as Wright lashed home from 25 yards after Woolford’s run on 19 minutes.

The lead and any thoughts of a cup upset lasted barely five minutes when Gibson lobbed the Scunthorpe ‘keeper after Smalling’s raking long pass. The Irishman, who’d begun the game in sloppy fashion by losing possession more than once, scored his second goal of the season.

With Scunthorpe playing attractive attacking football United was able to open up the home side almost at will, with Park finding Smalling and the defender smartly finishing on the volley ten minutes before the break.

Goals three, four and five followed shortly after the interval with Owen released by Macheda to score his fourth Carling Cup goal in as many starts for United in the tournament. The striker, largely ignored for anything but the least important matches, is quickly falling down the ranks at United.

Park lashed home United’s fourth from the edge of the area before Owen tapped home the South Korean’s drive to complete the scoring. Woolford’s late consolation for the home side was little more than Scunthorpe deserved for a spirited display.

Although United’s shape crammed more square pegs into round holes than is usual, with Rafael da Silva joining Hernandez and Macheda out of position, width finally came in the form of late substitutes Gabriel Obertan and Bébé. The £7.4 million Portuguese forward looked bright running with the ball, beating two men and striking a blocked goal-bound shot with his first taste of action.

“The scoreline gave us the opportunity to give Bébé a little look at what Manchester United’s all about. I thought he responded very well,” Phelan told MUTV.

“There were fleeting moments of pace and power, and he got a little bit excited now and again. But it’s important that players like him get these opportunities.”

Even better than Bébé, Smalling showed some of the talent that prompted United to seal a £10 million deal for the defender in January. The 6’ 4″ centre-back looked composed on the ball and dominant in the air against the Championship side, in a man-of-the-match performance.

Incredibly the official award went to Kuszczak, who made 19 saves on the night but flapped at several crosses and spilled more than one shot. That, Tomasz, is why you don’t play every week.

“Since he’s come in, he’s become sharper every day,” said Smalling of Bébé’s début.

“He’s really improving and working on his fitness. Tonight he really caused their full-back problems, coming in from the wing, and hopefully we’ll see him produce that kind of form in many games to come.”

United fans will concur.

Match facts

United – 433 – Kuszczak; Ferdinand, Brown, Smalling, Rafael Da Silva; Anderson, Park Ji-Sung (Bebe 74), Gibson; Owen, Hernandez (Obertan 68), Macheda

Attendance: 9,077
Man-of-the-Match: Chris Smalling

Possession: Scunthorpe 51% – 49% United
Attempts: 29 – 13
On target: 19 – 12
Corners: 9 – 5
Fouls: 5 – 8

Bébé’s big chance to impress

Ed September 22, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 11 comments

Bébé will play tonight against Scunthorpe United in the Carling Cup second round, with supporters wondering if the £7.4 million Portuguese winger has what it takes to be a Manchester United player. The 20-year-old has featured in just two Under-21 fixtures and a reserve game since his surprise transfer from Vitória de Guimarães in August.

While it is nothing new for Sir Alex Ferguson to spend millions on a player there is perhaps more interest in Bébé’s début than any other in recent times. The intrigue about the financial aspect of the deal, together with the rags-to-riches story of the player’s rise to professional football, have ensured as much.

Indeed, so little is known about the player that he has garnered far more press interest than similarly priced acquisitions at United in recent seasons. The handful of games United supporters have witnessed Bébé play to date have offered little conclusive proof of the player’s ability to make it at Old Trafford or otherwise.

In the three fixtures since the 11 August transfer United supporters have seen Bébé look somewhat uncomfortable in a lone-striker’s role against England Under-21, score against Macedonia Under-21 and impress with his pace – if not crossing accuracy – against Aston Villa reserves. Not that the player has any doubts about his future with the club.

“After a couple more games I will be better,” the player told the Manchester Evening News last week.

“I have to be fitter because it’s a different type of football in England. I am going to be a brilliant player for Manchester United.

“I don’t know when I will be ready for the first team. I need to work hard and a lot depends on the boss whether he calls me into the team or not.

“Sir Alex has told me he is very happy with me and he wants me to train more and get into the first team.”

But Bébé’s confidence hasn’t stopped the spotlight falling firmly on the deal, with the Daily Mail printing a series of negative articles about the Agualva-Cacém-born forward.

In many ways the deal for Bébé is achronistic of our times, with global scouting networks now so advanced boys as young as eight are transported across continents to sign for the world’s biggest clubs. That United failed to sign the player for a reported fee of €150,000 last January is matched in its wastefulness only by the knowledge Bebé was available for free earlier this summer.

Vitória’s financial gain is United’s loss of course, but if the failure of the club’s scouts to spot Bébé’s talent earlier has cost United financially, then the game’s money-men are probably at the root of the matter. After all the very late injection into the deal of Jorge Mendes, the Portuguese agent who has represented some of the leading lights in the nation including Jose Mourinho,  almost certainly increased the cost.

Mendes’ appointment as Bébé’s agent, it is said, precipitated the sacking of the player’s original representative just days before United bought out the €9 million release clause. That Vitória offered Bébé a new contract in the week before United pounced, increasing the release clause fee, only adds to the aura of suspicion around the deal.

After all, it’s not the first time United has overpaid for a Portuguese player, with Cristiano Ronaldo available for at least £7 million less than his eventual fee  just weeks earlier than his 2003 transfer to Old Trafford. Anderson and to a lesser extent Nani also commanded higher fees than their status suggested when they transferred to United in summer 2007.

Moreover, some of the club’s transfer dealings at the lower end of the market can be called into question over the past five years. The site of a palpably under-qualified Dong Fangzou in a United shirt brought fewer questions than it should have. Manucho Gonçalves, another Portuguese-influenced import, was hardly qualified to play for the club either. He now plays for newly promoted Turkish Süper Lig outfit Burcaspor.

Similar questions will rightly be asked of the deals for Gabriel Obertan and Mame Biram Diouf if, as many suspect, neither makes it at United. Just as they have been of the Serbian winger Zoran Tošić and Diego Forlan before.

None of that is Bébé’s fault of course but the pressure of scrutiny is already bearing down on a player, who by all accounts, is on the very raw side.

As such Bébé cannot succeed against Scunthorpe. A strong performance is mitigated by the quality of opposition; failure and the finger of blame will search for those whom sanctioned the deal.

Reds begin Carling Cup defence

Ed September 21, 2010 Tags: , Matches 112 comments

Manchester United’s attempt to win a third straight Carling Cup begins on Wednesday night with a visit to the Google-unfriendly Scunthorpe United. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson will take a shadow squad to Glanford Park that could include Bebé and Gabriel Obertan in the party, alongside fringe, youth and star names returning to peak fitness.

Managed by 39-year-old caretaker Ian Baraclough in the wake of Nigel Adkins’ departure to Southampton, Championship side Scunthorpe remained in the division by just five points last season. It’s a notable achievement though, especially for a club in just its third campaign ever fought in the second tier of English football. Perhaps more so because with average gates a little over 5,000 The Iron boasts the smallest budget in the division.

Following a fight to save the club from relegation to League Two six years ago, Scunthorpe has enjoyed three promotions and a Johnstones Paint Trophy final appearance in 2009. But despite residing at the relatively new, although admittedly very basic Glandford Park, Scunthorpe remains favourites for the drop into League One this season.

Indeed, there is ample contrast to be made on United’s visit, albeit with Ferguson’s shadow squad in town, with the Reds likely to field up to seven full internationals in the starting team.

Of the senior players in United’s 18-man squad for the trip to Lincolnshire, Michael Owen will definitely play, while it will be no surprise if Park Ji-Sung, Anderson, Javer Hernández, Tomasz Kuszczak, Darron Gibson, Gary Neville, Chris Smalling, Obertan and the da Silva brothers also start.

Ferguson could use Rio Ferdinand at some point. The defender sat out United’s 3-2 victory over Liverpool with a stomach bug but is short of first team minutes this season.

“We played a lot of young players last season and they all acquitted themselves well,” Sir Alex told ManUtd.com.

“We’ll do the same tomorrow at Scunthorpe. A lot of my young players will play. Bebé is training very well. He’ll be involved tomorrow night. Federico Macheda will as well.

“The Carling Cup’s served us well over the last few seasons – it allows me to keep everybody happy in terms of giving people games and we’ve reached the last two finals, which has its obvious advantages. Playing at Wembley and competing for medals on the big stage is terrific for players’ development.”

Perhaps most exciting though is the prospect of Bebé in a first team shirt. The £7.4 million Portuguese winger has played just one reserve game and a brace of Under-21 fixtures since a surprise transfer from Vitória de Guimarães in August. But with a month of conditioning work behind him, many believe Bebé is ready for his début, after being left out of the reserves’ 5-1 victory over Bury last night.

“I am going to be a brilliant player for Manchester United,” the 20-year-old told the Manchester Evening News last week.

“After a couple more games I will be better. I have to be fitter because it’s a different type of football in England.

“I don’t know when I will be ready for the first team. I need to work hard and a lot depends on the boss whether he calls me into the team or not.

“Sir Alex has told me he is very happy with me and he wants me to train more and get into the first team.”

Chalkboard v ScunthorpeOwen, meanwhile, will start for the first time this season, having been force to wait in line behind Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney and new signing Hernández this season. It has been a period of frustration for the former Liverpool striker, who papers have linked with a January move to Gerard Houlier’s Aston Villa.

“I understand Michael’s frustration – he’s exactly right – but it’s because Berbatov started the season so well, then the international break came. It’s difficult,” Ferguson adds.

“We’ve got this Carling Cup game and he’ll start that. He’ll get enough football.”

Owen has made just 12 starts and 23 substitute appearances for United, scoring nine goals since the free transfer move from Newcastle United last summer. The 31-year-old former England striker scored in last season’s final against Aston Villa as United took the trophy for the second season in a row. Indeed, outside of the Carling Cup Owen has made just six starts for the club.

Once again the Carling Cup will offer a refuge for United’s younger and fringe players this season, with few having been used by manager Ferguson, despite the Scot’s professed faith in youth.

Indeed, with striker Federico Macheda unlikely to start for United at Owen’s expense the Italian is facing up to a third staight season of reserve team football and occasional substitute appearances.

Meanwhile, Iron manager Baraclough has no new injury worries ahead of United’s visit. Centre-back Rob Jones is fit again after a knee injury but may settle for a place on the bench with Niall Canavan starting. Garry Thompson remains sidelined with a groin injury and on-loan Brighton left-back Jim McNulty is out with an ankle problem.

“We’ve got this absolutely massive occasion with Manchester United coming to town, and there should be an incredible atmosphere in the stadium. But there will be no pressure on us to win the game except the pressure we put on ourselves,” said Baraclough, who is likely to be named as Scunthorpe’s permanent manager.

“Whatever team United put out it will be full of internationals, and if they’re at their best then our chances of winning will be minimal. But if we’re at our best and they have an off-night, there’s no reason why we can’t win the game.”

Scunthorpe has beaten Sheffield Wednesday and Oldham on route to the Carling Cup second round this season.

Opposition
Scunthorpe – 442 – Murphy; Byrne, Mirfin, Canavan, Nolan; J Wright, O’Connor, Togwell, Collins; Forte, Dagnall. Subs from: A Wright, Jones, Woolford, Thompson, Raynes, Slocombe, Grant, Boyes, Milne, Nolan, Coleman, Godden, Williams, McClenahan, Turner.

Officials
Referee: M L DEAN
Assistands: W D Smallwood & S J Long
Fourth Official: L S Mason

Form
United – WDWDDW
Scunthorpe – WLWWDW

Fergie – Carling Cup is just the start

Ed March 1, 2010 Tags: , Shorts No comments

Sir Alex Ferguson says that Manchester United will show the same determination that won the club the Carling Cup yesterday for the rest of the season. Ferguson, who picked up the 32nd trophy of his tenure at Old Trafford, praised Aston Villa’s performance in pushing United close and admitted that luck played some part.

“Hopefully there will be another one this season,” said Ferguson, as his side mounts an assault on the Premier and Champions League trophies.

“It still feels as good to win trophies. I appreciate all the things we have achieved as a club and I appreciate the luck we have carried. I’ve lost finals and that’s not easy. The only way you can enjoy Wembley is by winning.

“I think in the main we were probably the better team but credit for Aston Villa’s performance. Towards the last 10 minutes, where they started to shove up that big brigade of theirs, it was like the bloody Alamo.”

United faces just 10 further fixtures in the Premier League and a second leg tie against AC Milan in the Champions League on 10 March.

“We don’t give in and it’s a good quality to have. I think you’ll see that in the remainder of the season,” Ferguson added.

“There are a lot of hard games [to come]. It was a good result for us with Chelsea losing. Arsenal are bang in the frame now. They have the easiest programme on paper and it will be an interesting run-in.”

United play an away fixture with Wolverhampton Wanderers next Saturday, followed by home ties against AC Milan, Fulham and Liverpool.

Carling Cup gallery

Ed February 28, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 1 comment

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.

Nemanja Vidic

Nemanja Vidic brings down Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor for the opening goal.

Michael Owen

Michael Owen scores United's equaliser in the 10th minute, sweeping home Dimitar Berbatov's pass

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney turns away in celebration after heading home Manchester United's winning goal at Wembley

Patrice Evra

Manchester United captain Patrice Evra lifts the Carling Cup at Wembley

United against Glazer

Many of United's 30,000 supporters donned the green and gold of Newton Heath in protest against the Glazer family's ownership

Rooney – It’s an unbelievable feeling

Ed February 28, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion No comments

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.”

Rooney heads United to Cup glory

Ed February 28, 2010 Tags: , Opinion No comments

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.