|photo by halighalie||via PhotoRee|
It was a young and inexperienced Manchester United side that welcomed Newcastle to Old Trafford for the Capitol One Cup on Wednesday night, albeit one significantly buttressed by the return of forward and team talisman Wayne Rooney, as well as heavyweight Brazilian midfielder Anderson. For their part, the visitors featured a young side as well, one that included ex-United man Gabriel Obertan among others. On a night featuring several notable returns, however, none was more celebrated than Darren Fletcher's inclusion in the United starting lineup after a ten month absence for health reasons. And so it was in a rather spirited mood that the game's kick off was greeted despite the fair number of empty seats which oversaw the players on the pitch below.
If the game began in spirited style, once the action was underway things quickly became rather more subdued. Anderson had the home side's best opportunity in the contest's opening twenty minutes but somehow contrived to miss his opportunity, as if to remind the Old Trafford crowd that he was still in need of regular games to shake off any rust resulting from his long-term layoff. For their part, the visitors' first half attacking efforts were led by Shola Ameobi, with Alan Pardew's decision to omit both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse from the starting lineup in advance of the weekend's League contest telling you all you really needed to know about the Magpies' true commitment to the League Cup.
Tom Cleverly should certainly have scored prior to the break after Javier Hernandez single-handedly carved his way through the Newcastle defense with a scything run, but the Englishman's shot fell inches wide of its intended target. If Cleverley's effort was close, Anderson did him one better just a few minutes later, curling his effort In between the Newcastle keeper's outstretched arm and the post to give the home side a deserved 1-nil advantage heading into the break. Watching from the Directors' Box, Sir Alex would have been pleased not only with his team's lead, but even more so with the tempo control that his midfield trio of Fletcher, Anderson and Cleverley managed to impose on the evening's affair.
Danny Welbeck and Chicharito looked lively for the United as the second half got underway, though it was Cleverley who atoned for his first half miss to double the home side's advantage. United's two goal advantage was short-lived, however, as Papiss Cisse pulled a goal back for the Magpies less than a minute after he was introduced into the action, with just under a half hour remaining in the game.
Chicharito knocked the cobwebs off the Stretford End cross bar in search of the third goal but Lady Luck was not with the Little Pea on the evening. While Cisse rattled the bar at the other end after an acrobatic bicycle effort, luck was decidedly not with the men in the black and white kits, either. And so it passed that United managed to hang on in the end, with a slim 2-1 home victory that just about fairly reflected the evening's efforts. Next up for the Reds is Chelsea in the Sweet 16 of the Tournament -- in which the forecast is for more youngsters on display in an old-fashioned rivalry.
This is farlieonfootie for September 27.