The Capital One Cup, League Cup, Milk Cup, Carling Cup, whatever you want to call it has been a massive stepping stone for some of United’s young guns in the Fergie Era.
It’s seen as a perfect opportunity by Ferguson to let his younger players get some first team football and to test their ability at a relatively high level, depending on the way the draw goes. This year United have been given a tough test in the 3rd round against a very strong Newcastle who took 4 points out of 6 off us last year with both performances more or less costing us the league. With Sir Alex already confirming that Darren Fletcher will be making his long awaited comeback into the starting 11, I’ll be looking at 4 youngsters in contention to make their first team starting XI debuts against what is bound to be a relatively full strength Newcastle side.
Nick Powell: Powell signed from League 2 team Crewe Alexandra in the summer for a reported fee of around £6 million pounds. Powell made a couple of appearances in pre-season for the red devils and made a decent impact on the team with his hard work and his vision for a pass with early comparisons to a certain Paul Scholes. He then made a massive impression on his first team debut coming on as a substitute against Wigan. With only 9 minutes of Premier League football under his belt, Powell blasted a 25 yard screamer which was just too powerful for Ali Al Habsi. This again got fans talking about him as the next Paul Scholes. At the tender age of just 18, showing this much potential, Powell is sure to be a United star going at this rate, something which is often echoed by Crewe academy manager Dario Gradi. A central midfield partnership of Fletcher and Powell is almost a certainty for the game, especially considering his debut performance.
Ryan Tunnicliffe: If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know how much of a keen admirer I am of this lad. He was scouted for United at the age of 9 and has progressed through the academy to sign professional terms in December 2009. The thing in which i admire about Tunnicliffe is is hard work and the aggressiveness in his play. Since Keane left, we’ve been looking for that aggressive midfielder who scares opponents, something we’ve yet to have found, but I finally think we have in Tunnicliffe. He goes into tackles like Paul Scholes, but unlike a majority of Scholsies tackles, he wins the ball which is a quality trait to have, especially in the Premier League. He’s very much a box to box midfielder, very identical to Cheik Tiote of Newcastle. The chances of him starting on Wednesday are very small due to Fletcher coming back, but I do see him getting on the bench and coming on if the game starts to get a bit heated. However, if Ferguson decides to play 5 in midfield, then Tunnicliffe is sure to be in contention for his first start.
Michael Keane: Like Tunnicliffe, Keane is a product of United’s famous Carrington academy along with his twin brother Will who impressed last year but was unfortunate to get a knee injury whilst on duty for England Under 19s which ruled him out for 9 months. Meanwhile, Michael Keane is a tall athletic centre back who has the versatility to play at either left back or right back. Keane signed professional terms in January last year and made his first team debut later that year coming on as a substitute against Aldershot in the Carling Cup fourth round. With injuries to Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, Ferguson will be keen, pardon the pun, to make sure his first choice defenders are fit which gives Keane a real chance of getting his first start for the reds who’ve won this trophy four times.
Davide Petrucci: Finally is Italian starlet Davide Petrucci. Petrucci signed as a 16 year old from Roma in 2008 with a lot of United’s coaches having high hopes for him. He made a good start to his United career in 2008/09 but then came an unfortunate set of injury’s which was to all but ruin all of his hard work put in for the early part of his United career. After recovering from his injuries, Davide captained the reserve team which won the Premier League North Reserve Championship is 2011/12. His ability to turn defence into attack along with his ferocious shot holds him in good stead for the rest of his United career, should it be a long one or a short one. If Ferguson decides to play one striker against Newcastle, then Petrucci is the perfect playmaker to play behind the striker to support him.