Manchester United 3
Berbatov 19, Owen 42, Valencia 48
Manchester United recovered from Sunday’s Manchester derby defeat to Manchester City with a straightforward 3-0 victory over Aldershot Town in the League Cup.
Sir Alex Ferguson named a completely different starting XI to the one that foundered against Manchester City, a likely occurrence whatever the outcome of the Manchester derby but more significant given the astounding result. It was still a strong side, with Nemanja Vidic, Tom Cleverly and Dimitar Berbatov all included. Aldershot made four changes from the side that beat Dagenham and Redbridge in their prior outing.
It was Berbatov who opened the scoring, converting from around eight yards after a neat interplay down the left of Aldershot’s penalty area. The Bulgarian’s strike provoked the inevitable chants of “we’re going to win 6-1” from the home supporters but it was the visitors who looked like adding to the score line.
A Fabio da Silva effort drew a corner while Berbatov’s far post header back across goal bounced agonisingly close to the goal line but the only contact came from the clearing Aldershot defender. Michael Owen eventually doubled United’s advantage just before the break, sweeping home Berbatov’s lay-off from around 12 yards.
Berbatov, who often plays as if he believes he is too good for the opposition, was at least on this occasion correct. The former Tottenham Hotspur striker, making a rare appearance this season, was involved in almost everything positive United did, but melded his usual attacking insouciance with no little defensive legwork too.
The home side’s threat was limited to a couple of runs at Vidic, the second of which brought the Serbian a booking after he unceremoniously brought down Alex Rodman, a shot flashed over the bar from Jermaine McGlashan after United’s rookie left-back Ezekiel Fryers sold himself cheaply to a long ball, and a handful of half-chances and corners. At half-time, however, United were in total command.
Any lingering hopes of a dramatic second-half comeback from Aldershot were effectively over inside three minutes of play’s resumption. Antonio Valencia effortlessly stroked the ball past Ross Worner in the home goal from 25 yards, joining Berbatov in staking a memorable claim to return to Ferguson’s starting line-up when United travel to Everton on Saturday.
Ferguson took the opportunity to give more game time to French midfielder Paul Pogba, who replaced Cleverly on the hour mark and in his first contribution to the game, gave away a free-kick almost instantly. Pogba, on this cameo, was at least physically ready for the first team if not quite mentally or technically, having been fortunate not to concede a second set-piece on the edge of his own penalty area.
Aldershot offered some encouragement to their vocal support but it was mostly short bursts of pressure that soon fizzled out, although Guttridge sent a powerful volley past the United goal in the dying minutes and stung Ben Amos’ hands with a free-kick. Berbatov came closest to nabbing a fourth for the Premier League champions with a free-kick of his own as United strolled home, but Aldershot can take heart from a more than respectable performance.
Aldershot (4-4-2): Worner; Herd, Jones, Morris, Straker; McGlashan, Vincenti (Collins 73), Guttridge, Rodman (Bubb 46); Hylton, Rankine (Smith 82)
Manchester United (4-4-2): Amos; Fabio da Silva, Jones, Vidic, Fryers (Keane 70); Valencia, Cleverley (Pogba 60), Park, Diouf (Morrison 70); Owen, Berbatov
Did you know… These two teams met in the same competition in 1971, when the Red Devils ran out 3-1 winners.
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