Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bebe shows promise on Carling Cup night of surprises...

According to certain media pundits, the Carling Cup has regained some of its credibility (did it ever have any?) over the last few seasons, that maybe so, but nonetheless for the leading club's it is still a low priority.

Last night United travelled to Glanford Park, the home of Npower Championship outfit Scunthorpe United in the third round of the much maligned competition. It turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining game with United - the holders - running out 5-2 winners.

It was a night of surprises, the first being Ferguson's absence from the bench, but it transpired the United manager had opted to take a personal form-check on United's next Champions League opponents Valencia, who drew 1-1 with Athletico Madrid.

When Scunthorpe deservedly took the lead through Jos Wright early in the first-half, United fans will have been wondering about the manager's decision to leave Micky Phelan in charge for the night. However, a much changed United team from the one that won against Liverpool at the weekend were soon on level terms. Scunthorpe were only in front for just over three minutes and it was Darron Gibson who scored with a well executed lob from an excellent long ball by Chris Smalling.

To their credit, Scunthorpe didn't fold and they were having the better of the exchanges in terms of creating chances. Byrne should have given the home team the lead from a close-range header but the Scunthorpe skipper failed to hit the target.

United took control of the game before the break thanks to Chris Smalling who scored with a real poacher's goal from close range. Michael Owen added to the tally with a trademark goal after being put clear by Macheda on 49 minutes. The manner in which the former Newcastle striker took his goal will have delighted the player as well as United's backroom team because it was vintage Owen.

Ji-Sung Park added United's fourth, with a hammer blow from the edge of the Scunthorpe penalty area and then Michael Owen scored with a close-range tap-in to make it 199 career goals. Martyn scored a late consolation goal, his shot took a slight deflection before it beat Kuszczak in the United goal.

Bebe made his long awaited debut for United with 16 minutes remaining on the clock when he replaced Ji-Sung Park. The Portuguese winger, didn't take long to show his intent when he blasted a goal-bound long-range shot which took an unfortunate deflection.

Former United striker Gary Birtles was summarising for Sky Sports and he commented that Bebe is a well balanced runner with the ball at his feet. Indeed, first impressions of Bebe suggest he's a powerful no-nonsense winger who could well yet confound the critics, but it is still very early days. Birtles knows all about the expectations of playing for a big club like United. The former Notts Forest winger enjoyed a glittering career under Brian Clough at the City Ground, but Birtles failed miserably at United. However, with Atonio Valencia set to be sidelined for the next few months, you do wonder if Bebe will be given more opportunities to prove his worth.

United made eleven changes to the team that faced Liverpool on Sunday and to a degree it was a case of square-pegs in round-holes with Hernandez on the right and Macheda on the left, in a 4-3-3 formation. Owen had a decent game leading the attack, but his fellow strike partners didn't really get into the game. Hernandez and Macheda were expected to funnel back and defend when required and they didn't do it effectively and this led directly to Scunthorpe putting United's defence under pressure on several occasions from wide positions.

The final-score didn't really tell the story of this cup tie, because the home team had twice as many shots as United. Scunthorpe's defending let them down on the night, but they were at least the equal of United in midfield especially when attacking.

Anderson was paired alongside Gibson and Park, but the midfield trio didn't boss the game, as a result, the home team created a hatful of chances which kept Kuszczak busy all night long, so much so that the United's keeper was given man-of-the-match. Bizarrely, Ian Ladyman of the agenda setting Daily Mail gave the MOTM award to Darron Gibson.

United and Ferguson have been accused of under-mining the Carling Cup down the years, but of the so called top-four, it was the holders who fielded the strongest team in the third round; it was one that included Rio Ferdinand in the heart of the United defence alongside Chris Smalling.

Ferdinand has recently lost his captain's armband to Nemja Vidic because the manager cannot realistically give the armband to someone who is spending so much time on the treatment table. Against Scunthorpe, Ferdinand looked close to his best, he was given a serious test by Scunthorpe's Forte. However, the real test for the 'England captain' will be stringing a run of games together - hopefully the injuries are over, but only time will tell.

While United were enjoying a goal fest on the East coast, it was an altogether different story for Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea: the big three were dumped out of the competition. City are desperate to win ANY trophy, so the they will be genuinely gutted about losing away at West Brom. Liverpool are in complete turmoil and so they too will be hurting today having lost at Anfield to Northampton. As for Chelsea, apparently on the eve of their clash with Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, Drogba was talking about the quadruple, so are we to assume the Blues wanted to win this trophy?

All in all, it was a great night for United, but despite the win and the excitement it was a performance which left a few question marks about certain aspects of the current squad.

The fact that neither Anderson or Gibson were able to stamp their authority on the game should be a concern for United, because after all, Scunthorpe are a Championship side. What we saw last night was United changing the whole team and it was a strong side, but there's much room for improvement in the engine room.

How they rated:
Kuszczak (6) Did quite well, but doubts persist about his suitability to be Long-term successor to Van der Sar

Ferdinand (6) Didn't really put a foot wrong.

Brown (6) Did ok, but needed support at times

Smalling (7) Looked at home alongside Rio

Rafael Da Silva (5) Played out of position, partly responsible for Scunthorpe's opening goal having lost the ball on the left

Anderson (5) Didn't do enough to boss the game

Park Ji-Sung (Tiago Bebe 74) (6) Worked hard and was rewarded with a good goal

Gibson (6) Scored a good goal, but like Anderson we expect more control especially against lower division opponents

Owen (6) took his chances well, was the star man in attack

Hernandez (Obertan 68) (4) Fish out of water on the flank

Macheda (5) Did ok at times, but being out of position didn't suit his game


Van der Sar
De Laet
Corry Evans
Obertan (5) Didn't really have time to impress
Tiago Bebe (5) Showed promise


  1. I read something on the Manchester Evening News website about Kuszczak perhaps moving on as he wants regular first team football due to his country hosting Euro 2012. The comments were full of praise for him and how he is better than VDS and capable for being the long term successor to VDS and to me thats mental. We went through something like 11 keepers post-Schmeichel before finally getting to VDS, we need a top quality keeper at all times and whilst I do rate Kuszczak and think with a year or 2 of solid first team football that he could be up there, we dont have the luxury of 2 years bedding in a keeper who may well wont be up to the task.

    I look at Hart and Foster in much the same way. Hart got regular first team football at Birmingham and look at the player he has become. Foster got the same thing at Stoke and became a very good goalkeeper - It was unfortunate for Foster that following that he was plagued by injurys and didnt come back the same. It was almost like it reset him to the place he was before the loan move.
    Then look at Tim Howard. Now he is a very good keeper but it took him a couple seasons to reach the level he is now and United didnt have the luxury of being able to play a dodgy keeper until he reached that point.

    It just got me thinking really that whilst we are wondering who will replace Giggs/Scholes the bigger issue could well be replacing a 40 year old VDS. Who knows we may spend another 6 years trying out multiple keepers before finding a worthy successor. I do like the looks of Lloris tho :p

    Sorry about that James, back to the article at hand.
    I was hoping we would see Bebe at half time. Perhaps had Fergie been there then he would have given him a little more time. We seemed to want to cram as many strikers onto the pitch as we could and as a result played Macheda and Hernandez out of position and they played quite poorly because of it.
    Smalling impressed me. I've felt he looked very shaky in other matches so was nice to see him show some promise. I completely forgot Anderson was playing and seeing Rafael on the left was odd - you think Phelan brought the wrong Da Silva with him? :p

  2. Dave,

    I have to agree with you, I'm not convinced that Kuszczak is good enough to make the step up and replace Edwin.

    However, to me, Joe Hart is head and shoulders above anything I've seen in the last few seasons, he is the English equivalent of Iker Casillas and I can pay him no bigger complement.


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