While Manchester United were cruising to a 5-2 defeat of Scunthorpe with an entirely different starting line up to that used against Liverpool on Sunday, ten other Premier League clubs were dropping out of the Carling Cup. Manchester City were knocked out by West Brom to miss out on their best chance of winning some sort of desperately desired silverware, Liverpool were determined to get to a Wembley final but could not even make it into the fourth round after going out to League Two Northampton at a half empty Anfield while Chelsea, Tottenham, Blackburn, Everton, Bolton, Fulham, Sunderland and Blackpool have all been eliminated.
Trophies can obviously never be won on paper with plenty of tricky ties lying ahead but with so many big guns eliminated, a third successive Final for United looks decidedly feasible. Despite a torrid opening 20 minutes in which Scunthorpe took a deserved lead, United kept their composure with some clinical finishing from Michael Owen twice, Chris Smalling, Ji Sung Park and Darron Gibson to ease into the fourth round.
Assistant Mike Phelan took charge of the side while Sir Alex Ferguson was in Spain checking next weeks Champions League opponent Valencia in their La Liga clash with Athletico Madrid. It may be pure coincidence but keeper David De Gea, who Ferguson has been tracking, was in goal for Athletico. Is that pure speculation? Certainly is, but also food for thought with Thomas Kuszczak admitting this week that he could be looking for a move away from Old Trafford.
Despite conceding twice Kuszczak had a solid game thwarting Scunthorpe with a number of instinctive saves on numerous occasions. Recent signing Bebe made a brief, 15 minute debut during which he had few opportunities to shine but looked confident on the ball. This is how the local Scunthorpe Telegraph reported the game.
Scunthorpe United 2 vs Manchester United 5
Scunthorpe Telegraph – Midfielder Josh Wright scored a fantastic goal to put the Iron in front of Premier League giants Manchester United, and score his first ever goal for the club in incredible style but the joy proved to be short lived for the home side in front of a record attendance at Glanford Park. A spirited opening from Scunthorpe saw Wright take over a mazy run from Martyn Woolford in the 19th minute to blast a great shot into the top left-hand corner from the edge of the box.
But just four minutes later Darron Gibson scored a great goal of his own to equalise for the Carling Cup holders and the home crowd was completely silenced in the 36th minute when defender Chris Smalling turned home from close range to put the visitors 2-1 in front. Three goals within the first 26 minutes of the second half then sent the three time European champions into an unassailable lead, with a brace from former England hero Michael Owen.
But the game at least ended on a high for the Iron, Woolford turning home a Wright cross to make it 5-2 in injury time. Winger Woolford, so often the man for the big occasion for the Iron, was brought back into the Scunthorpe starting line up for the historic first ever clash with one of the biggest clubs in the world.
The visitors arrived for the Carling Cup third round clash with a reasonably strong line up made up nearly entirely of international players. England centre back Rio Ferdinand started for the visitors as he stepped up his recovery from the knee injury that ruled him out of this summer’s World Cup while Owen and Mexico’s World Cup star Javier Hernandez started up front.
The Iron were otherwise unchanged from their 2-0 defeat at Swansea on Saturday, with Niall Canavan keeping his place ahead of the fit again Rob Jones who took his place on the substitutes’ bench. Wes Brown, Anderson and Park Ji-Sung were also included in the Red Devils’ line-up although they traveled to Glanford Park without manager Sir Alex Ferguson who was watching Champions League opponents Valencia in La Liga action.
Woolford had twice tested Tomasz Kuszczak in the opening stages, as did a low effort from Eddie Nolan in the 10th minute. And man of the match Woolford was involved in the opening goal that sent a packed out Glanford Park into delerium for a short while. Good work from Dagnall played him in on the left, the former York man dodged a couple of tackles on the edge of the United box and saw the ball roll into Wright’s path.
The young midfielder blasted a great rising shot into the top left hand corner leaving Kuszczak with no chance and sending Scunthorpe into raptures. But the joy did not last long. Just four minutes later Gibson ran on to a long ball out of the United defence and side footed a lovely floated shot over Iron keeper Joe Murphy to level the score. Then in the 36th minute the Red Devils took the lead, Brown playing a cleared corner down the right of the box to Park who played a great low cross in for Smalling to turn home from close range.
There was still hope that the Iron could get back into the game as they emerged to the adulation of the biggest ever crowd of 9,077 for the second half. But those hopes were soon extinguished in clinical fashion. Michael Owen raced through the centre of the Scunthorpe defence and toe poked a low effort past the on rushing Murphy and into the bottom corner to make it 3-1. And five minutes later Park Ji-Sung rifled home a low effort after a corner wasn’t cleared properly to wrap up progression for the holders. Owen bundled home his second after good work from Park Ji-Sung in the 71st minute and that was well and truly good night for Scunthorpe.
A male streaker from the Doncaster Road End livened up proceedings as the game trundled to a close, evading the stewards for a while to the entertainment of the home crowd. Woolford popped up in the first minute of injury-time to bring some late smiles at Glanford Park, sliding in to divert a low cross from Wright into the bottom corner despite an outstretched glove from Kuszczak. But in the end the class of Manchester United had told, their winning mentality seeing them safely through after being rocked in the first half by the Iron.
Manchester United – Kuszczak, Brown, Ferdinand, Smalling (36m), Rafael, Gibson (23m), Anderson, Park (53m, sub Bebe 74m), Macheda, Owen (49m, 71m), Hernandez (sub Obertan 68)
Scunthorpe – Murphy, Byrne, Mirfin, Canavan, Nolan, O’Connor (sub Grant 61), J Wright (19m), Togwell (sub Collins 72), Woolford (90m) Dagnall (sub Godden 80), Forte.
Do you expect United to complete a Carling Cup hat trick?