Manchester United score three first-half goals to destroy any chance of an upset against Leeds at Elland Road
Hello world! Well, while excitement builds at Elland Road I welcome you with two very special treats of varying relevance to the game in hand.
Item 1: some early team news. This, you'll probably agree, is pretty relevant. Anyway, United include Fabio, Michael Owen, Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov and Ezekiel Fryers are in their squad. Nope, I'm not sure who that Fryers chap is either. Leeds will name as good a team as they've got. "Man U could run all over us," says Simon Grayson, unpromisingly. "This is an opportunity for our players and it's a game where we have nothing to lose at all."
Item 2: Highlights of the single most ridiculous and memorable Carling Cup (or whatever it was then) fixture I have ever seen or probably ever will, a match so energising and enthralling that, having watched my side ship six at home, I came out absolutely buzzing. First-minute goals, missed penalties, unbelievably good performances by Jürgen Klinsmann, it had the lot. I did, on the negative side, emerge from that night with a hatred of Ian Walker that remained with me for the rest of his career. Did you know that he's now managing Bishop's Stortford? They're currently 21st in the Blue Square Bet North, so he's got a way to go before he's emulating his dad. Anyway, if you know of any games that beat this I'd like to hear about them.
Manchester United's team is in! And it looks like this: Amos; Valencia, Fryers, Carrick, Fabio; Giggs, Park, Macheda, Diouf; Owen, Berbatov. Er, so that's Michael Carrick at centre-back, then? And Valencia at right-back? Are you sure?
And Leeds's line-up looks like this: Lonergan; Lees, O'Dea, Bromby, White; Snodgrass, Clayton, Howson; Keogh, McCormack, Becchio.
Jonathan Wilson's column today and the comments below the line?" ponders David Wall. "Surely setting out that formation as 4-4-2 is a ruse and he's really going to play 2-3-5 just to show that it can still be done, with Fryers and Fabio at the back, Carrick, Giggs, and Park in midfield, and five forwards in Valencia, Macheda, Diouf, Owen, and Berbatov. Takes being bloody-minded to an extreme...""Has Fergie been reading
"I'm a Leeds fan, on my way in to Manchester town centre to watch the game alone in a pub, just so I can go to a gig afterwards as well," writes Matthew Briton. "The worst part? I'm at the bottom of my overdraft and only have £6.47 to drink the pain away after the inevitable loss." Don't do your team a disservice, M, defeat isn't inevitable. Likely, sure, but not inevitable. Particularly with United lining up with a flat front five.
Here are some proper teams, with substitutes and everything:
Leeds United: Lonergan, Lees, Bromby, O'Dea, White, Snodgrass, Howson, Clayton, McCormack, Keogh, Becchio. Subs: Rachubka, O'Brien, Vayrynen, Brown, Forssell, Nunez, Tayor.
Manchester United: Amos, Da Silva, Valencia, Diouf, Fryars, Carrick, Park, Giggs, Owen, Berbatov, Macheda. Subs: D'Gea, Wellbeck, Brown, Keane, Thorpe, Pogba, Cole.
Referee: M Jones.
official website profile of Ezekiel "Zeki" Fryers describes him as "a tall and athletic left-sided full-back". So he should have no problem making his first-team debut at centre-half alongside Michael Carrick, then.Manchester United's
Aston Villa's 1994 semi-final, second leg fightback against Tranmere as the all-time League Cup greatest match ever. Only vague recollections at this end I'm afraid...Elliot Carr-Barnsley proposes
The teams are out, kick off is moments away. Gird those loins, folks...
I'm hoping to avoid furious emails tonight, and will therefore refer to the teams as LUFC and MUFC, and won't call either of them simply "United", unless by accident.
1 min: Peeeeep! And they're off!
2 mins: Fryers gets the third touch of the game, Michael Owen passing it straight to him. He's bouncing around like an overexcited lamb. Bless.
4 mins: "Hardly a 'heroic' comeback," pooh-poohs Ian Williams of Aston Villa v Tranmere circa 1994. "We (Tranmere) hit the inside of the angle in the final minute, and Mark Bosnich (who starred in the subsequent penalty shootout) should have been sent off. Everyone knows that!" More dissent from Joseph Harden. "Surely, if you're talking about great league cup games & tranmere, the 4-3 game against Southampton is a better example – 0-3 at half time, 4-3 at the end, Paul Rideout, John Aldridge going crazy … good times."
5 mins: Diouf scoots from the centre of the pitch into the left side of LUFC's penalty area, lines up a left-footed shot and then ... totally misses his kick and falls over.
6 mins: Goal-line scramble/melee/clearance! LUFC win a corner, and the header beats the goalkeeper and is heading in only for Dimitar Berbatov to get a foot to it. Two further shots are blocked before the ball is finally cleared.
7 mins: Down to the other end, where Dimitar Berbatov passes to Federico Macheda in the penalty area, but he dallies long enough for Leeds to regroup and crowd him out.
10 mins: Michael Owen goes down on the edge of the penalty area, but the referee is unimpressed. Ben Amos is in goal for MUFC. It's three years this week since he made his debut for the club in this competition, and this is the third match he's played for them since.
11 mins: 10 minutes and 31 seconds. For the record, that's how long it took for a commentator to mention Eric Cantona.
GOAL! Leeds United 0 Manchester United 1! (Owen, 15 mins) Michael Owen breaks the deadlock with a scuffed shot after a very fine MUFC move. Park played the ball to Berbatov in midfield and then got on his bike, Berbatov returned it to the Korean – now totally unmarked – and he squared to Owen, who shifted the ball onto his left foot and then produced a shot which bobbled into the corner.
18 mins: Unpromisingly for LUFC, Leigh Bromby was having a real, genuinely angry go at Snodgrass after the goal.
20 mins: "What about my home town team FC Groningen in The Netherlands," ponders Machiel Akkerman, taking the discussion away from the League Cup and towards knockout tie comebacks in general, but let's go with it. "Last year we were challenging for a place in the Europa League in two legged play-off vs ADO den Haag. The first leg was away and we lost 5-1. The return seemed to be a foregone conclusion but we beat them 5-1 as well, only to loose in the penalty-shoot. Are there more agonising defeats out there?" Probably not, though if you ask me it's better than losing both legs 5-1.
22 mins: Clayton hammers a 25-yard shot at goal, but it's straight into Amos's arms. It already looks like LUFC are most likely to score from a set-piece, but it's a fairly bright opening from them, goal excepted.
24 mins: Paul Taylor has fairly accurately pointed out that the photo currently at the top of this page looks quite a bit like the alien landing in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If you're reading this MBM later, after I've changed the picture, don't worry – aliens haven't landed in Leeds (though questions have been asked about Ken Bates).
26 mins: Fabio is booked, and then commits another foul moments later but without further sanction. And then Diouf is booked for fouling White.
29 mins: Snodgrass shoots left-footed from 30 yards. It curls very nicely, but it's a long way over the bar. Moments later Bromby goes through Berbatov from behind and gets away with it, ludicrously.
31 mins: Francis Mead proposes the following as the all-time best League Cup game, as McCormack very nearly gets through MUFC's backline: "This is the best match I've ever seen in my 53 years. Chelsea 3-2 up from first leg of semi-final. Unbelievable game, unbelievable atmosphere: Spurs absolutely batter Chelsea for first half, score one. Chelsea absolutely batter Spurs in the second half, equalise, only for a late Martin Peters penalty to send it into extra time. Near the end, Chelsea get to 2-2 on a free-kick and go through. It's mentioned by Nick Horny in Fever Pitch, and rightly so."
32 mins: Michael Owen's playing very well – the goal is perhaps his least convincing contribution to date. He just produced a delightful, deft flick to release Fabio on the left.
GOAL! Leeds United 0 Manchester United 2 (Owen 32)! That's a beauty! Diouf gets down the right, spots Owen lurking on the edge of the penalty area, plays the ball to his feet and Owen controls and thwacks the ball from 18 yards into the far top corner of the net. And here's a picture of Diouf, just because I like it.
37 mins: Horrific miss! Owen gets into the box, beats two men by checking back inside and sets up Antonio Valencia, who has sprinted 40 yards into the box despite being a right-back for the evening but is then so knackered he can only poke the ball wide of the far post.
38 mins: Goalflashes from around the grounds: Kieran Gibbs has equalised for Arsenal, who had been trailing Shrewsbury at home. Wolves are still 2-0 up against Millwall, both the goals coming in the first seven minutes.
40 mins: Leeds are playing keep-ball around the half-way line. Good for the stats, but not going to help them much.
43 mins: Becchio heads an eighth-chance (that's approximately 25% as scoreable as a half-chance, in case you're wondering) miserably wide from 12 yards. It ain't much, but it's the best they've had for a long while.
44 mins: One MUFC player who isn't particularly excelling: Macheda. He seems to have faded a bit since that goal against Aston Villa two seasons back. Is he actually rubbish, then?
45 mins: Valencia robs the Leeds left-back White and has three forwards to aim at, but his low cross is deflected towards the near post and the keeper turns it behind. We'll have two minutes' stoppage time here.
GOAL! Leeds United 0 Manchester United 3 (Giggs 45+1) Giggs plays a short corner to Park, gets it back and then prods it past someone who I didn't identify but will be feeling pretty silly right about now, hares into the area and prods the ball goalwards, a deflection taking it past the keeper.
45+2 mins: And that's half-time. Couldn't have gone much worse for LUFC, really. They nearly scored at the start but haven't even come close since, and surely the match is already beyond them.
46 mins: Peeeep! They're off! Again! And Ryan Giggs actually is off – Paul Pogba has replaced him.
48 mins: It was almost certainly Robert Snodgrass who Giggs nutmegged embarrassingly in the build-up to the third goal, by the way.
49 mins: Darren O'Dea is booked for bumping gently into Michael Owen in a very slightly aggressive manner.
49 mins: Pogba update – his first involvement is to give away a free-kick; his second is a stonking 60-yard crossfield pass to Valencia. Remember the name, as they say.
53 mins: Pogba shoots weakly and wide from 45 yards. Leeds had been preparing two substitutions for literally four or five minutes, in which time the ball never went out of play. Finally they get their chance, and Vayrynen and Forssell replace Becchio and Keogh, the latter immediately challenging Pogba for a high ball. The MUFC player gets the ball, the LUFC player nuts Pogba in the head, forcing a lengthy treatment break.
55 mins: I am, incidentally, astonished that Forssell has struggled so badly to find a club this summer. He's got a reputation here for being injury-prone but he's played most of the last couple of seasons and is currently the third top scorer in Euro 2012 qualifying.
56 mins: Owen wants his hat-trick tonight. Berbatov plays him into the penalty area, Owen checks onto his right foot and tries to curl the ball into the far corner of the net. He had plenty of goal to aim at, but didn't get very close to it.
59 mins: "If there has ever been great times for Manchester United fans, it's now," trills Himanshu Pratap Singh. "Every match is a goal fest ... new and exciting talents coming and proving their mettle ... mauling all the rival teams ... SAF indeed brought back era of Busby Babes." I'm not sure why you need to bring the Busby Babes into it, but they're certainly having a lot of fun.
60 mins: Arsenal are now 2-1 up against Shrewsbury at home, which is good/a shame, depending on whether you're a) an Arsenal fan, or b) fancy a bit of a chuckle.
61 mins: Macheda is played through by Berbatov, and is flagged offside as he hits his shot from an acute angle across goal and wide. He wasn't actually offside, though.
64 mins: Leeds's first attack in ages ends with Snodgrass passing to an offside Tom Lees. At the other end, Pogba has another terrible shot, this from just 20-odd yards.
68 mins: Elsewhere tonight: Aston Villa are losing 1-0 to Bolton, even though Villa are at full-strength and the Trotters are resting half their side (though Stuart Holden started). Nottingham Forest have just equalised to make it 2-2 against Newcastle. Crystal Palace are 1-0 up against Middlesbrough.
70 mins: Danny Welbeck has replaced Mame Biram Diouf.
72 mins: There's a definite air of foot-off-pedalness about this second half thus far. A fairly profound disappointment as a contest, this one. Unlikely to rival Watford v Tottenham for my all-time League Cup affections.
75 mins: Forssell almost gets played in, but he's offside. It's now 2-1 to Palace at Selhurst Park. Middlesbrough have just scored, through Merouane Zemmama – whose surname looks like a confusing array of peaks in a font where the m is pointy (on Sky Sports News, say).
78 mins: Macheda comes off, to be replaced by Larnell Cole, another of last season's FA Youth Cup winners.
82 mins: I'm really sorry about the lack of incident I've had to report on over the last 20 minutes or so. Leeds hit a shot way over the bar. MUFC hit a pass too far in front of Valencia and off the pitch. Gael Kakuta puts Bolton two up at Villa Park.
83 mins: Lifeling for LUFC! No, not a goal, but MUFC will play the last eight minutes with 10 men, after Fryers walked off pointing to a calf. His own calf, on his leg, not a baby cow. Carrick and Berbatov are the new centre-back pairing.
85 mins: Once again Forssell nearly gets played in, but is offside (and had lost the ball anyway). Arsenal have gone 3-1 up against Shrewsbury.
86 mins: "Macheda and Diouf aren't going to make it at MUFC are they? You can just sense it," writes Brian Russell. "It's only a matter of time before SAF convinces that nice Steve Bruce to take them off his hands for a multi-million pound fee." Macheda has got to be below Rooney, Welbeck, Hernández, Berbatov and Owen in the attacking pecking order these days, which isn't a great place to be (but it's still better than Bébé).
88 mins: Forssell's club-finding travails explained: "He started one game last year for Hannover – a 3-0 loss to Bayern. His 11 other appearances came from the bench, typically very late on in the game," writes Tom Jenkins (not the one who takes excellent photos for The Guardian). "As for his impressive standing in the Euro qualifying scorers table, 4 goals against San Marino account for that. In short, it's 'cause he's not the player you remember him being." Oh. And there was me thinking that I knew more than the whole of football.
90 mins: Leyton Orient, bottom of League One without a win all season and with a goal difference of -14 from their first nine league games, have just equalised at Blackburn. No [he swiftly edits, two minutes later] actually they equalised 25 minutes ago and have conceded another since. Never mind. Carry on.
90 mins: There will be another two minutes of stoppage time here.
90+2 mins: Leeds United miss their best chance of the game! Nunez is played in on the left side of the penalty area, he's in plenty of space, takes on touch to control the ball and then swipes his left foot across it, sending it fizzing about six yards wide.
90+2 mins: Peeeeep! And the goal kick is the last action of the night. It's all over! Well, it's been all over for about an hour, but now it actually is literally all over.
Final thoughts: Well that was a fairly thrilling first half, and a fairly dismal second half. Leeds might be stronger now than they have been for a while, but they've got a long way to go before they approach a match with Manchester United with anything but trepidation and they offered Sir Alex Ferguson's second-string very limited resistance here.
I don't know whether to be delighted with Owen's performance or upset that this is the best it ever gets for him these days. I've always liked him, as I guess any Englishman who watched the 1998 World Cup and doesn't have any axe to grind probably has, and while I'm pleased that he's got this opportunity to accumulate a few medals before he retires, he deserves to be more integral than he will be at Old Trafford. Leeds, meanwhile, will hope to do a bit better in their next important televised fixture (which will be on Friday, against Brighton).
Incidentally, Owen tells us in his post-match interview that Berbatov plays centre-back "all the time in training". A Manchester United striker who finds a place in defence – is he the new Dion Dublin?