On a night of shock results all around the country, Manchester United stormed into the next round of the League Cup with a 5-2 win away to Scunthorpe. Sir Alex did not attend the match being away on a scouting mission to watch Valencia in Spain. Mike Phelan took charge of the side and made eleven changes from the side that faced Liverpool on the weekend. Kuszczak, Ferdinand, Smalling, Rafael and Brown formed the defensive unit of the team, behind a midfield of Gibson, Anderson, Hernandez and Park. Owen and Macheda started up front. The away fans were in full voice and set up an interesting ninety minutes of football.
As lower league teams generally do at home, Scunthorpe went at it straight from the kick-off. The main attacking threat from the home side came from the quartet of Forte, O’Connor, Woolford and Wright. Indeed, it wasn’t long before Kuszczak was called into action after left-back Eddie Nolan hit a rocket from outside the box, though Kuszczak did well to parry it to safety. If a goal was to come then it would be for the hosts — and it did. After some neat build-up, Woolford found Wright 25-yards from goal, and the latter drove home with a tremendous effort, sending the fans into raptures.
This served as a wake-up call to United however, and wasted no time in getting back to level terms. Chris Smalling played a long ball forward, and Gibson, who timed his run to perfection coolly lobbed the Scunthorpe goalkeeper from a tight angle. United are looking to become probably the first side to win the League Cup for a third year running, and this quick response went some way in stabilising a previously callous start. Indeed, thirteen minutes later normal service was resumed. After a partially cleared freekick, Wes Brown played in Park, and the South Korea captain’s cross into the 6-yard box was finished with aplomb by Smalling, who scored his first goal for the club. There was a heart-in-mouth moment for Kuszczak a few minutes later after he found a rasping drive from Forte too hot to handle, but the loose ball just spun away from the goal line. But that’s how it finished in the first half, and despite being on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline, the home fans had a lot to cheer about their team’s valiant performance.
The second half began in much the same way, in that Scunthorpe came out with nothing to lose, and all guns blazing. On more than one occasion, Kuszczak was called into action, and the Pole did well to keep out a constant barrage of Scunthorpe shots on goal. But United caught them out on the break after 49 minutes, Macheda feeding an unmarked Michael Owen, and the striker burst into the box and finished with class around Joe Murphy in goal. With some breathing space, United fans could relax a bit more. Five minutes later, Park made it four, after he smashed home the loose ball from a poorly defended corner. The fifth United goal came after 71 minutes, when Park ran from inside his own half to shoot, but it was Owen who got his second from the rebound.
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There was a United debut too for Bébé who came on for the last fifteen minutes or so. He looked sharp and confident on the ball, and showed good pace, strength and balance to cause the home side defence some problems in his brief appearance. Despite this, Scunthorpe got a consolation second goal, Woolford this time scoring from about thirteen yards out. But that’s where it ended, and despite the initial scare, United were comfortably through to the next round. Positives can be taken from the performances of Smalling, Kuszczak and Anderson, who started after being out for a long time since his injury. Owen will be glad to get his two goals, and was quite instrumental in the build-up play for United’s other attacks as well.
The draw for the next round of the League Cup is on Saturday, and with teams like City, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool already out, the main teams to avoid will be Arsenal and Villa. Let’s hope for (another) kind draw then!
Best Moment: Gibbo’s equaliser/ Owen’s first
Worst Moment: Scunthorpe’s opener
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Man of the Match: Chris Smalling
Written by Sownak27