All the odds point to the Premier League Championship being surrendered on Sunday afternoon despite the certainty that Manchester United will fight until the bitter end to retain it for a record breaking fourth successive season. Unfortunately reality shows that the outcome is not in their hands with Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti just as desperate to snatch it away in his first season in English football.
While one title may be lost however, another has already found its way to Old Trafford with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserves defeating Aston Villa 3-2 in a penalty shootout following a nail biting 3-3 stalemate in the Premier Reserve League Play-Off final.
Mindful of the fixture’s prestige, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Warren Joyce named a side featuring several players with first team experience. Most surprisingly, Rafael came in for his first Reserves appearance of 2010 at right-back. Villa can consider themselves unfortunate to taste defeat after putting in an excellent shift, but United’s never say die mantra ultimately won the day.
United edged an enthralling game thrice recovering from falling behind before eventually taking the title in a nerve shredding penalty shootout. Mame Biram Diouf’s double and a Kiko Macheda penalty kept United in the contest during normal time but goalkeeper Ben Foster was the shootout hero making two saves and scoring what proved to be the winning kick.
Foster’s tormented season thus ended in triumph in another bizarre twist in the keeper’s incredible tale. The one time England World Cup hopeful would have been counting the days to Fabio Capello naming his squad for South Africa at the end of this month had he not blown his golden chance with the Reds seniors earlier in the campaign
The 27 year old who had wrecked his United opportunities through a series of first team gaffes, made another with eight minutes to go as he failed to deal with a corner and southern title winners Aston Villa’s captain Ciaran Clark made him pay as he headed in Villa into a late 3-2 lead.
Clark’s goal added to a pair by Villa’s Brummie teenager Nathan Delfouneso but they were cancelled out by a brace from Diouf and a penalty by Macheda. So the entertaining showpiece came down to a penalty shoot out.
Foster is no stranger to spot kick drama having won United the 2009 Carling Cup against Spurs at Wembley with his nerveless heroics. That was in front of 80,000 and a worldwide audience while this was played out in front of a near empty Stretford End stand. But Foster stood up to the challenge in sensational fashion.
The big keeper put United ahead in the shoot out 3-2 when he swapped his gloves for his boots to thunder in a brilliant kick from 12 yards. He then immediately took his place between the sticks to save from Delfouneso and then repeated the trick from James Collins to secure the Reds second string their second title of the season as they became national champions
These are the lads who could soon become regulars in the Premier League for United.
Foster, Rafael, De Laet, Gill, Dudgeon, Stewart (Obertan 55, W Keane 76), C Evans, Possebon, Norwood (Pogba 87), Diouf, Macheda. Subs not used: Zieler, Wootton.
Who is the most likely reserve team player to establish himself in the first team?