Fergie loses 2-year grip on Carling Cup


‘It’s only the Carling Cup’, they’ll tell you. This is the great fallback fans have after being dumped out of the League Cup. Belittling the competition and treating it as a second-rate reserve run-out cup is what fans will have you believe if they’re no longer involved in the competition.

But they’re wrong. As stated in a previous article regarding the Carling Cup (, the competition is a valuable vessel to blood youngsters and give them a taste of winning major honours.

Over 40,000 Manchester United fans were celebrating at Wembley less than a year ago when Patrice Evra lifted the Carling Cup and it turned out to be their only piece of silverware last season after falling short in the league and in Europe. United fans found solace in the Carling Cup as it spared them from a trophyless season.

United followed Saturday’s 7-1 Barclays Premier League hammering of Blackburn Rovers with a disjointed 4-0 Carling Cup quarter-final defeat away to West Ham, surrendering the Reds’ two-year grip on the trophy and ending a 29-game unbeaten run in all competitions for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.

The trophy dubbed the ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ lit the touch-paper to United’s recent success after their 2006 triumph in the competition, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men went on to land three consecutive league titles along with a Champions League win and two other Carling Cup wins.

The 50-year-old, triple-handled trophy has also taught Fergie a few lessons about his young players over the years with the likes of Gerard Pique, Danny Simpson, Danny Welbeck and Giueseppe Rossi being given their fair share of opportunities in the cup.

The last time United lost a tie in the cup was in 2007, which goes to show how strong their recent record in the competition was. That defeat to Coventry City worked as a wake-up call to Ferguson as his side went on to dominate at home and regain the European Cup in Moscow against Chelsea.

United’s team that night was as follows: Kuzszcak, Bardsley, J. Evans, Pique, Simpson, Nani, O’Shea, Anderson, Eagles, Martin, Dong.

A few underlying lessons learnt this night were some players were not good enough and eventually moved on (Bardsley, Eagles, Martin, Dong) whereas others took notice and improved their game to prove they had a future at Old Trafford (Evans, Nani, Anderson). Recurring players from both defeats are Tomasz Kuszczak, Anderson, John O’Shea and Jonny Evans. The latter two who were undoubtedly United’s worst performers of the night.

Ferguson will be particularly upset with O’Shea, 29, a senior member of the squad who has seemed to have regressed this season after enjoying a long run in the side last term. The Irishman who was reportedly offered a new deal at the club may see that offer retracted if his performances do not recover swiftly.

Evans has also fell victim to this. He enjoyed a lengthy spell in United’s starting XI last season with injuries to Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown but has looked a shadow of his former self in recent weeks.

Tomasz Kuszak will be especially disappointed with his performance as it has been rumoured that first choice goal keeper Edwin Van der sar will hang up his gloves at the end of the current season and with new signing Anders Lindegaard coming in, it may spell the end for the Pole in goal.

Sir Alex Ferguson expects his fledglings to use the embarrassing elimination as a learning curve. He said: “They’re all young players.”

“We’ve invested in youth, we’ve done that well over the years, and they will come on from this. They will remember tonight. It’s unfortunate that it was a quarter-final of the cup and we had a good opportunity of winning it again this year.”

The heavy defeat to the side bottom of the Premier League reaffirms the sheer unpredictability of English football’s top-flight. The volatility keeps fans across the country gripped as this season, more than others, has shown how there is no such thing as favourites.

United’s struggles away from Old Trafford continue as they still hold just one away victory in the league this season and with a tricky trip to Stamford Bridge on the horizon, United will hope to bounce back from this defeat with a resounding victory over Premier League new boys Blackpool on Saturday.

The Red Devils may want to turn their attentions back to the FA Cup, one they deserted for its younger and more attractive counterpart. It has been seven years since United won the cup and losing their long grip on the Carling cup may force Fergie’s hand to regain the holy grail of cup competitions.

The last time United were knocked out of the Carling Cup in 2008, they finished up with a league and Champions League double. I’m sure United fans and players alike would like a repeat performance.

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