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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Carling Cup Preview: Leeds United vs Manchester United and Chelsea Match Review

Dumped out of the competition last season at the hands of West Ham by losing 4-0 at Upton Park, Manchester United prepare to regain the Carling Cup as they start their campaign on Tuesday at Elland Road, the home of fierce rivals Leeds United. Leeds might be currently lying a division below in the Championship, but Sir Alex Ferguson will know very well that Leeds are capable of raising their game when they play the Red Devils in front of their crowd.

Traditionally, Ferguson has utilised the tournament to give the youth & fringe players a chance to challenge for the first team spots, and this time should be no different. There are quite some players in the team who haven't been utilised till now, and it would be ideal for the manager to provide them with game time.

As Sir Alex told the press after last week's midweek Champions League draw at Benfica, Anders Lindegaard will don the keeper's gloves on account of his sparkling displays. Given the lack of quality defenders in the lineup due to injuries to Vidic, Ferdinand & Rafael, the back four will bear a similar look apart from the position of left-back, where Fabio Da Silva might start to give Patrice Evra some much needed rest. Michael Carrick, who didn't play in the game versus Chelsea, will probably start in the centre of the park. He will be possibly complemented by out-of-favour midfielder Darron Gibson, who hasn't played a single game for the first team this season. However, Gibson faces stiff competition in the form of highly-rated youth player Paul Pogba, who has been tipped to play by the gaffer himself -

"He's got a slight injury, it's not too bad, though. So he wasn't available for Sunday but he should be able to play on Tuesday and I intend to play him against Leeds United."

Will Pogba Start?
On the flanks, it is safe to say that Luis Antonio Valencia will start on the right while either of Ji-Sung Park or Ryan Giggs will play on the left. Given the nature of the fixture, Ferguson might go with Giggs as he provides the required calm & composure to a young United side, apart from invaluable experience.

Coming to the striking department, this is where Ferguson has a selection headache. Experience in the form of Dimitar Berbatov & Michael Owen, or the vivacity of youth in the form of Macheda & Diouf? The manager surely has some questions on his mind, but it will be sensible to rely on experience & hand rather rare starts to Berbatov & Owen. According to me, Manchester United's starting lineup tonight will look somewhat like this -

Scoreline Prediction: Leeds United 1 Manchester United 3

And now for some after-thoughts on the Chelsea game by our guest author Hanzla, which are as under:

Celebration to Match!
WOW! Almost two days after a scintillating 90 mins at Old Trafford, and I am yet to catch my breath. Arguably, it was the biggest game of the season so far for both of the sides involved but in Manchester United‘s case, it couldn’t have come at a much better time. Chelsea on the other hand had enjoyed a very decent start to the season themselves as well. However, not many could have expected how things would pan out at the Theatre of Dreams.

United started as favourites largely due to the start they‘ve had. It was even stevens in the opening exchanges. It was great to see Fletcher back in the heart of the midfield doing what he does best i.e. breaking up the play by putting the hard yards in. The first goal was a major error at the back for Chelsea. Smalling left unmarked with the goal at his mercy, - he just couldn’t afford to miss. Was it offside? Yes, it was marginally. But remember Drogba scored an offside goal at the opposite end, and that goal potentially decided the title? Judging that in real time was next to impossible. I really feel for the linesman because most of us would have got it wrong. And for those who could have called it right, it would have been a fluke - nothing more.

Chelsea were impressive throughout the game. Credit to them for taking the game to United but once again they were very poor in front of the goal. Fernando Torres should have buried his initial chance and Ramires, who was there to put it away in the back of the net, put it instead into De Gea’s gloves. United upped the ante after that and what a breathtaking goal it was by Nani. Almost ripped out the net! Believe me - you could’ve had 3 keepers guarding that net & none of them would have got a hand to stop that! It was that special. Chelsea’s centre backs were slow to close him down but none of them could have imagined being punished like the way they were. It was indeed, a very special strike. Rooney was on hand to score the 3rd one in a rather fortunate manner. The ball fell kindly to him after an attempted JT clearance bounced off Nani & fell in his way. Special mention for the part Phil Jones played in the goal. It was his ‘never give up’ attitude that created the opening.

United took their foot of the paddle in the second half and they were made to pay very early in the second period. Lovely disguised through ball by Anelka (I still don’t know what he was doing on the bench) which was exquisite. Torres made a very fine run behind Jones & compounded it with a cool and cheeky finish. Alarm bells started ringing for United. Chelsea dominated & had they put those chances away, we could have had a very different result on our hands.

The game will probably be remembered not for the enthralling football on display, but for its bloopers. There was Rooney’s bizarre JT-like penalty miss since he lost his footing. But the headlines will be dominated by Torres. No words really to describe his miss. He promised to do wonders for Chelsea, and I think he fulfilled it. How did he miss? It seems unbelievable! Berbatov wasn’t far behind. A very tame effort when it was easier to score than miss.

Miss of the Decade?
This certainly was United‘s worst performance of the season so far. Still, they were good enough to get the result. Quite incredible, isn’t it? I hope it’s an eye opener for them and the mistakes will be rectified. Most notably, the game should be put to bed as quickly as possible - something traditionally United are very good at. As for Chelsea, AVB will take lots of positives out of the game. Especially the way Chelsea played in the second half. Torres looked agile and hungry. He had a decent game minus the miss when he scuffed his effort wide.

Overall, a great game of football. A complete roller-coaster ride for every one who watched on from their TV sets. United got the three points and that’s the thing that will matter the most come May. This game may not have an enormous effect on the title race but it is definitely a boost for United, having already defeated Arsenal and Chelsea this early in the season.

You can follow Hanzla on Twitter @Busby_Babez.

You can follow the author on Twitter @AbhinavCJ.

The Traffordshire County mobile app is now available for your Nokia phone! Click here to download it for free from the Ovi Store.

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