We should all know by now that Sir Alex Ferguson is a perfectionist. His 25-year legacy at Old Trafford was not built on anything less.So when his side falls short, in whatever competition, it is something he takes very personally and won't rest until it is set right.
So make no mistake, when he leads his side out at Wembley in the Carling Cup final on Sunday he will be sending out a team to win, and wreak revenge for a defeat 16 years ago.Back in 1994, his United side came to the stadium keen to win the first trophy of what could have been a glorious domestic treble. The side, inspired by Eric Cantona, were head and shoulders above the rest that season as Ferguson built a dynasty that still exists today.They only lost twice in the league all year as a team containing the likes of Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce romped to a second consecutive Premier League title and collected the FA Cup with a 4-0 thumping of Chelsea.
But it was only to be a double and not a treble that was achieved as Ron Atkinson's Villa shocked the Red Devils with a 3-1 win.
That result will no doubt rankle with Fergie even today, and will be determined to set the record straight.The direction of the match is likely to be determined by Fergie's team selection. With the Premier League and Champions League taking greater priority, it could be a chance to rest key players. Although don't expect wholesale changes, veterans like Paul Scholes and Edwin Van Der Sar will probably be given a breather.A lot will depend on whether Wayne Rooney starts. Such is the former Everton player's form he is virtually un-droppable and is capable of winning the game on his own. However, his fitness is crucial to United's hopes for the rest of the season and an injury picked up at Wembley would leave Fergie kicking himself.
I think he will choose to start Rooney from the bench, ready to unleash him if things go wrong. The Carling Cup odds make United favourites, and I feel they will justify this tag.
The England man has been in superb form this season adding a guile and consistency to his game this season. He will be at the heart of all Villa's attacks. He will also be looking to impress England manager Fabio Capello ahead of the 2010 football World Cup.
Villa's lightening quick striker has struggled to cope with the attention of heavy handed defenders this season - a victim of his own success. But if he is allowed to break loose he has the pace and skill to gave United's defence problems.
Who else? 27 goals already this season he has been head and shoulders above the United players. If he plays United’s chances increase significantly.
If Rooney is the scorer, Valencia is the provider. With Giggs and Nani unavailable it will be the former Wigan man’s responsibility to supply the United forward line. And given his recent form I wouldn’t bet against him doing so.
Great win today. After the worst of starts, I was fearing a drubbing. Ronaldinho seemed to be on a mission to prove Dunga wrong. There were the usual full bag of tricks, backheels and step overs and leaving Rafael on his ass a few times in the process. Milan could've bagged a 2nd and possibly a 3rd to kill the tie off but didn't. Instead it was Fletcher and Scholes who combined to give United the equalizer. Scholes won't be able to repeat that goal even if he tried - missed the volley and the ball hit his standing leg and went wide off Dida, off the post and into the back of the net almost in slow motion!
Although United grew as the half went on and had a lot of possession and passes, it was still the home team carving out the clearest of chances. 1-1 at the half was clearly what Fergie must've hoped. He was clearly not happy with the performance and ripped into Evans in particular - a public rollicking that would've not helped the nerves for Evans.
Milan started the 2nd half brightly but soon United started stringing good passes together. Valencia came in for Nani and it worked immediately. His cross from the right found Rooney and he sent in a looping header past Dida. 2-1 United. Soon after, it was Fletcher's precise ball that found Rooney in space between the two centre halves and another header, this time from point blank range, that zoomed passed Dida. From then on, United had a spell where they could have killed off the tie. Instead, it was the other substitute's (Seedorf for Beckham) turn to make an impact. His cheeky finish made it 3-2 and kept the tie alive. United firm favorites as you always fancy them to score at home.
In the process, United have now set the record for the longest stretch of unbeaten away games in Europe. The run now stretches to 16 games. Quite remarkable given the level of competition in CL in recent years. Holding the Barca "dream team" to a clean sheet, beating Arsenal comprehensively at the Emirates, Owen's hat trick against Wolfsburg and now this win over Milan at San Siro are clearly the highlights of that run.
Despite United hitting five against hapless Portsmouth on Saturday the most significant result of the weekend didn't come from Old Trafford.
For me the key result came at Stamford Bridge on Sunday where Chelsea swept aside third placed Arsenal. A brace from the ever dangerous Didier Drogba gave Carlo Ancelotti's men the points and knocked United of the top of the table, confirming Chelsea as the biggest threat to United's crown this year and ending Arsenal's title challenge.
The Gunners recovered well from a heavy defeat by Chelsea back in November, but their past two games, against United and Chelsea, have seen their deficiencies laid bare. They are capable of stringing a few more wins together but the four defeats against their main title rivals this season show how far they have to go to seriously challenge.
That means it is now a two horse race for the Premier League title heading into the final third of the season.
Back with United and Sir Alex Ferguson's men didn't have to get out of second gear to beat Pompey on Saturday. The south coast club have had more off-field problems this season than most teams have in a decade and you could tell their confidence was fragile. This perhaps explains why, after a bright start, they capitulated following Wayne Rooney's headed goal.
True, lady luck wasn't on their side either with three own goals giving United's goal difference a welcome boost, but in truth they were well beaten and could have conceded more.
The bonus for United was a bright performance from Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian striker is one of United's most frustrating players. He has bags of talent but all too often his body language suggests he can't be bothered to use it. Hopefully this performance, which included a clinical strike from the edge of the box, is a sign he will soon be back to his best.
Coming up is a tough match away at Champions League chasing Aston Villa, while Chelsea travel to Goodison to play Everton. It is these kinds of matches that dictate the destination of titles. Villa have already beaten United of course and will face them again in the Carling Cup final. A draw wouldn't be a bad result normally, especially considering Villa are unbeaten this year, but with Chelsea bang in form United can't afford any slip ups in the title race and a win is imperative.
The football odds might not be in United's favourites right now, but there is still a long way to go.
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