A Richly Deserved Victory For United
OK, one thing you barely heard after yesterday's Carling Cup final was that United actually deserved to win and should have won much more comfortably. All the talk is about whether Nemanja Vidic should have been sent off (no) and they barely acknowledge the performance of a United side ravaged by injuries, suspension and further injuries sustained during the game.
And all this despite the worst possible start. The focus is on Vidic but questions must be asked of a clearly out of form Patrice Evra, too: where was he wandering? Had he positioned himself properly, Agbonlahor would have been offside and he'd never have had the chance to surge past Vidic, using his considerable pace. Granted, it was a stupid thing to slide in on him, as with a bit of bad luck the ref might have sent him off, in accordance with Martin O'Neill's wishes but still, he should never have been put into that position at the first place.
Still, the response was tremendous. Michael Owen, a surprise inclusion in the starting XI, capitalised on Dunne's mistake and sweeped the ball into the net from 15 yards. And from then on, United never looked like losing, against a side that was clearly determined to take the trophy and which had already beaten us this season, at Old Trafford, no less.
Park was our best player in the first half, driving forward with real energy and his passing was good, too. He should have scored just before half time but his shot rebounded off the post... By that the struggling Michael Owen was off with a strain and Rooney replaced him but I have to say that our brilliant man wasn't on fire yesterday.
He misplaced too many passes, took too many unnecessary and very heavy touches - the subsequent revelation that he had a little sore knee made absolute sense. And it is typical Rooney that despite his less-than-stellar form he managed to score the all-important winner, heading home the cross of the increasingly influential Antonio Valencia.
In the second half, Carrick and Fletcher both really came into their own, comfortably neutralising Villa's midfielders and United were in complete control for much of the half. After the winner, though, we dropped way too deep and conceded the initiative and could have been in trouble had Villa's attacking play been a little more creative. But as it was, United got closest to another goal when Rooney headed the ball against the post from yet another excellent Valencia cross, with Friedel well beaten.
And soon enough that term could be applied to Villa, too: they lost to much the better team and we deserved this trophy. The sight of Rafael, Owen and Berbatov all picking up knocks was enough to dampen the spirits a little but still: it's a trophy, even if the least significant one and now it is certain that we will not finish the season empty handed.