Second String Side Through To Next Round: Leeds 0 United 3

A second-string Manchester United side swept aside Leeds United at Elland Road to advance into the fourth round of the Carling Cup.  It was a comfortable win which was sealed before half time thanks to a brace from Michael Owen and a strike by Ryan Giggs.

Sir Alex Ferguson made 11 changes to the United team that beat Chelsea at the weekend with the most eye-catching of selections coming in the heart of defence which saw Michael Carrick (who has played the odd game there) partner debutant Ezekiel Fryers.  Ben Amos got the nod in goal making his first appearance for the club since his Champions League debut at home to Valencia last season.

Leeds inspired by their buoyant supporters started the game well and almost went ahead inside the fifth minute. An inswinging corner by Robert Snodgrass was headed goalwards by Tom Lees but Dimitar Berbatov blocked the ball. Amos in goal instantly blocked the defender’s shot on the rebound with Berbatov again having to clear inside the six-yard box from Ross McCormack’s follow-up. Who was it said that the languid Bulgarian didn’t bother with defending – more on that later.

Down the other end United were now beginning to pressure Leeds. A nice one-two with Berbatov saw Federico Macheda skip into the penalty area, but instead of passing the ball back across goal, he waited too long and was the ball was eased out of play for a goal-kick.  Not long after that United were ahead thanks to a lovely team move.

Picking up the ball in midfield Berbatov found Park Ji-Sung out wide. The Korean timed his run perfectly and slotted the ball into the box where Michael Owen after taking one touch scruffily shot the ball though  Lees’ feet and into the net. It was by no means a great finish from the former England striker, but they all count.

Leeds tried to respond but Adam Clayton on-loan from Manchester City could only fire a shot which Amos comfortably saved before Snodgrass curled a rather-speculative effort high and handsomely over the bar.  Despite Fabio and Mame Diouf getting booked seconds after each other, United were looking in complete control and doubled their lead just after the half-hour thanks to a stunning finish from Owen.

Good play by Antonio Valencia at right-back saw Diouf collect the ball down the right. After turning his marker Andy Keogh the Senegalese forward picked Owen out on the edge of the box who took one touch before hammering the ball into the top right-corner of the net. Leeds’ keeper Andy Lonergan stood no chance.

With the game now looking out of reach for Simon Grayson’s side, the last thing he would have wanted to see was his side concede a third on the stroke of half-time, which funnily enough was exactly what happened. A quick corner routine by Giggs and Park saw the Welshman nutmeg Snodgrass before dashing into the area where rifled home a shot that deflected in of Luicano Becchio. Again Lonergan was helpless and could only pick the ball out of the net in disappointment.

That was Giggs’ final contribution to the game as he was substituted for French starlet Paul Pogba during the interval, as the talented midfielder finally made his long-awaited first team debut. Leeds sadly for their fans failed to mount a challenge as United led by Carrick in the second-half saw out the second-half as if it was a charity game.

Danny Welbeck made a quick return to action after his hamstring against Arsenal and looked sharp for the final 20 minutes as he replaced Diouf with Larnell Cole making his debut coming on for Macheda. Due to Sir Alex making his three substitutions United had to see out the final 8 minutes with 10 men due to the impressive Fryers having to limp off with what looked like a suspected calf injury.

That forced someone to put their hand up and play centre-half alongside Carrick for the final passage of the game. Surprisingly Berbatov put his hand up and despite the game being over as a contest looked quite assured at the back. Leeds substitute Ramon Nunez had the last meaningful touch of the game but could only fire wide inside the penalty area as United held on for a clean sheet.

United: Amos, Fabio, Fryers, Carrick, Valencia, Macheda (Cole), Giggs (Pogba), Park, Diouf (Wellbeck), Berbatov, Owen

Star Man

Despite an impressive performance from Ezekiel Fryers on debut in the heart of the United defence, it’s hard to look past Michael Owen’s performance. Despite being written off as ‘past it’ despite being still only 31, the former England forward looked on top-form last night. Descpite scuffing in his first goal, he took both goals well, being in the right positions to finish on both occasion. His movement and work-rate last night was good and it seems there’s still life in the ‘old dog’ yet. 

By Adam Dennehey  @ADennehey87