United bounce back with Carling Cup victory
An entirely new-look United cruise past Aldershot, and Arsenal join them in the last eight
AFTER the humiliation of Sunday, Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson changed his entire starting line-up for Tuesday's Carling Cup tie with Aldershot and was rewarded with a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Following the 6-1 rout at the hands of Manchester City, it was a welcome return to winning ways for United – albeit against League Two minnows – with goals from Dimitar Berbatov (above), Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia.
Afterwards Ferguson made it clear that his second stringers are now challenging the first-team regulars in the United squad. "We have a fantastic squad and that is why I had to play these players here, they need games," said Ferguson, adding: "Michael Owen, every time he plays he scores. He has a fantastic record. You cannot ignore that. Dimitar Berbatov had a fantastic game and scored a tremendous goal."
Berbatov it was who opened United's account on 15 minutes before Owen made it 2-0 four minutes before the break. Valencia added the third early in the second half. It was Owen's first start for United since the last round of the Carling Cup against Leeds – a game in which he scored twice – and the former England striker admitted the club was relieved with the win: "We were a little bit under pressure with the result at the weekend," he said. "Sometimes you need a kick in the teeth to get going and it was a big kick in the teeth. We were eager to bounce back."
United were joined in the quarter final of the competition by Arsenal who ran out 2-1 winners at home to Bolton. It was another stuttering performance from the Gunners, but another win all the same, their seventh in their last eight matches and one achieved by an inexperienced side. Arsene Wenger put his trust in the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and 18-year-old right-back Nico Yennaris, but it was the wise old head of Russian striker Andrey Arshavin who started the Arsenal revival.
Having gone a goal down to a Fabrice Muamba's strike on 47 minutes, Arshavin surged into the Bolton box from the right and rifled the ball past Adam Bogdan for the equaliser. Then on 56 minutes Arshavin left Gary Cahill for dead and crossed for Park Chu-Young to lash the ball home.
Bolton pressed hard for a second in the final quarter of the game but the combined efforts of keeper Lukasz Fabianski and centre-back Thomas Vermaelen helped the Gunners defence stand firm. Worryingly, though, Vermaelen limped off five minutes from the end and is now a doubt for Saturday's league clash with Chelsea. Having just returned from a lengthy injury lay-off it was the one downer on an otherwise encouraging night for Arsenal. "He had to come off for a minor calf problem but I hope it's not too bad," said Wenger when asked about Vermaelen's injury. "He will be a bit short for Saturday, I don't know yet what I will do."