After the abomination that was last Sunday’s Manchester derby, Sir Alex Ferguson and his squad will have been keen to put the misery behind them as quickly as possible and get back to winning ways with a Carling Cup game against Aldershot. Of course the potential for league “minnows” to cause an upset is always there, but with a relatively strong side being named that boasted the likes of Vidic, Cleverley, Fabio, Valencia, Berbatov and Owen, then nothing less than professionalism was to be expected and as such the chances of a cup upset were made somewhat less likely. And so it turned out to be as United comfortably dispatched the home side with a 0-3 to progress to the next round of the League Cup. The opening goal game around 15 minutes when slick play between Park and Cleverley allowed to place the ball for a smooth finish. Chances came and went throughout the first half as United looked to assert themselves and, on 41 minutes, doubled their lead when Berbatov played a cross in which was poached by Owen. Finally, within minutes of the start of the second half, Valencia was afforded plenty of space 25 yards out to drill a shot past a helpless Worner. Although Aldershot had their bright spells, it was ultimately United who controlled the game and finished the tie three goals to the good. With that here are five things that may be taken from the game.
1) The real recovery starts in the Premier League
Of course it would be wrong to suggest that all of United’s problems have been eradicated on the basis of this one victory in the Carling Cup against lower league opposition. The fact is that the underlying problems that have come to light with the side in recent weeks need to be rectified after being so painfully exposed and ruthlessly dealt with over the weekend. However, a comfortable victory is certainly a start and it will certainly have pleased Sir Alex Ferguson and provided fans with relief at professionally going about the task on Tuesday night in getting the win.
2) Berbatov – scorer, confidence booster
Of late fans have not seen much of Dimitar Berbatov gracing the starting line up, and considering his status as top scorer last season many have felt it unfair regarding his lack of opportunities. With sporadic appearances he has appeared a striker incredibly short on confidence given he is the type of player that thrives off it. With a starting place against Aldershot it provided a small opportunities to prove himself to Ferguson and give a timely reminder that he is not to be overlooked at Old Trafford. Undoubtedly, being on the score sheet will have given him a much needed boost, as well as providing the assist for Michael Owen’s goal. He was involved for much of the game, and although when put through on goal he put his resulting finish wide, a victory with his name on the score sheet is a positive in a season that has seen little of the Bulgarian striker so far.
3) Cleverley – back from injury, back in the side
After such a bright start to the season that was interrupted by injury, fans will have been happy to see Tom Cleverley back in contention for a place in the heart of United’s midfield. After coming through the game unscathed there may be potential for a bench place for the weekend or perhaps even a start if he is deemed fit enough to do so. It did not take long for him to impact the game either, with a slick passing one touch move with park that allowed Berbatov to finish coolly in the 15th minute as well as having an attempt of his own earlier on.
4) Vidic returning
With Vidic missing from the weekend’s atrocities, he was given some game time on Tuesday night to bring in some match practise and no doubt improve his fitness for upcoming games. He came through relatively comfortably although id show signs of rust when early on he was booked for a clumsy challenge. It has been felt that the big Serbian has been missed from the heart of United’s defence in recent weeks, leading to a weakness and lack of organisation that the experience of Evra and Ferdinand has not been able to rectify. One hopes with his return and regaining of full fitness that these issues begin to be rectified.
5) How many changes will be made for the weekend?
Given the nature of the defeat at the weekend as well as the side put out against Aldershot that had it’s fair share of experience within the side, one must wonder what changes will be made for the game against Everton at the weekend. It is only logical to assume that there will be some, speculated to be in the defensive positions, with Vidic likely being given a starting berth and rumours suggesting Evra and Ferdinand will be dropped, although the likelihood of both not making the starting line up does seem unlikely. We may see the return of Cleverley to the starting places, although I do hope that we get to see Berbatov given another chance up front, partnering Rooney and providing him with more match fitness and potentially confidence to allow him to produce more performances and provide greater effect to the side. Regardless, the true test of United’s recovery skills will come when they face Premier League opposition next, and what sort of response Ferguson will get from his players after such a knock to morale.