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Birmingham City 1 Man Utd 3

Birmingham City 1 Man Utd 3

BIRMINGHAM: Maik Taylor, Johnson, Martin Taylor, Upson, Painter, Pennant, Butt (Clapham 67), Clemence, Dunn (Kilkenny 66), Heskey (Forssell 82), Jarosik.

Subs Not Used: Doyle, Pandiani.

MAN UTD: Howard, Neville, Brown, Silvestre (Ferdinand 60), Richardson, Ronaldo, O'Shea (Jones 66), Fletcher, Park, Rossi (Rooney 45), Saha.

Subs Not Used: Van der Sar, Bardsley.

Att: 20,454

If Steve Bruce is still at St Andrews in May - I'll eat hay with a donkey!

The man is a legend down the Warwick Road, but his days at Brum must be short-lived, because his side has a defence like a rabbit's hind leg. And to be honest, wouldn't you have thought the one thing he WOULD get right, would be the back-line.

Man United were on form in this Carling Cup quarter-final, and heaped a bundle of misery on old boy Steve. But let's be honest ... Brum were shocking!

The half-time introduction of Wayne Rooney turned the screw, and three goals in 20 minutes booked the Red Devils a semi-final spot for the third time in four years.

A well-taken Louis Saha double sandwiched Park Ji-Sung's debut United strike to give the visitors a deserved triumph and prevent Bruce finding any respite from the pressure which ensures this will be anything but a happy Christmas at the midlands club.

It was stretching the imagination to believe Birmingham could possibly be as bad as they were at Manchester City on Saturday, especially with the sizeable presence of Emile Heskey restored to their starting line-up. But they certainly didn't improve much.

It is almost a distant memory now but Saha scored six times in his first eight appearances for the Old Trafford outfit following his £12.8million move from Fulham nearly two years ago.

Throughout the intervening trauma, Ferguson has never lost faith in Saha's ability, although he must have been cursing when he rose to meet Darren Fletcher's excellent far post cross but only nodded wide from point blank range.

The missed opportunities, which proved so costly for United in Europe, weren't exploited by Birmingham.

The visitors did finish the opening period on top, with Saha bringing a good save from Maik Taylor - who earlier had denied Cristiano Ronaldo - but there was enough encouragement for Bruce to feel his side had a chance of advancing into the last four.

What wrecked his hopes, indirectly at least, was Ferguson's decision to introduce Rooney for Rossi at the break.

Although the England wonderboy was not involved in either of the goals which wrapped up a Red Devils victory within five minutes of the restart, his mere presence seemed to induce a greater sense of urgency in the visitors' ranks.

In the build-up to the game, Ferguson made two specific points. The first related to the development of Cristiano Ronaldo, the second to Park's run of bad luck in front of goal.

The United boss had a positive night on both fronts.

Not only did Ronaldo respond well to his first start since his ill-advised 'one-fingered' departure from his club's Champions League exit in Lisbon, he also produced one of his more direct performances.

Opting for one or two touches instead of the seven or eight he sometimes prefers, the Portuguese winger was at his effective best.

He also showed an increased willingness to move after he had passed the ball and after finding himself on the end of a flowing attack he started with a lay-off to Park, Ronaldo drilled over a low cross 40 seconds after the interval which Saha was on hand to finish off.

Before they had time to clear their heads, Birmingham were two down as Park finally netted for the first time since his summer arrival from PSV Eindhoven, driving into the box after taking Saha's pass in his stride, then beating Taylor with clinical efficiency.

All hope had disappeared for the disgruntled home fans, who reacted badly to the sight of Bruce responding to the promptings of the visiting section by waving at the United supporters.

It was not long before Saha had scored his second, stepping inside Martin Taylor, then blasting into the top corner.

Just as he did at Eastlands at the weekend, Jiri Jarosik bagged a late consolation for the hosts.

But United return in eight days time with Premiership points at stake. Beforehand, Birmingham visit Tottenham, immediately afterwards they go to Chelsea. Bruce must fear the consequences.

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Writer:Cantona
Date:Wednesday December 21 2005
Time: 11:34PM

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