Carling Cup: Owen and Giggs help Manchester United rip Leeds apart
Leeds United 0 Manchester United 3: The local paper the Yorkshire Evening Post had produced a 12-page pull-out for this fixture recalling past cup meetings between these old rivals — but even Jermaine Beckford’s FA Cup winner at Old Trafford in January last year felt a long time ago last night as Manchester United swatted their old rivals aside with embarrassing ease.
Sir Alex Ferguson might have changed his entire Manchester United starting XI from that which beat Chelsea on Sunday, but they still overwhelmed Simon Grayson’s Championship side.
After the exploits of Ferguson’s young guns in totting up five straight Premier League victories, it was left to the Scot’s thirtysomethings, Michael Owen and Ryan Giggs, to steer United through to the fourth round of the Carling Cup.
Owen, on his first outing this season, had struck twice by the 32nd minute and Giggs killed off Leeds with a third on the stroke of half-time as the defensive shortcomings that undermined Leeds’ promotion push last spring were brutally exposed once again.
And this against a United line-up featuring 19-year-old full-back Ezekiel Fryers with Ben Amos in goal for the first time since last December.
There were also first starts of the season for Owen, Mame Diouf and Federico Macheda in a four-man attack alongside Dimitar Berbatov.
United boss Ferguson paid tribute to Owen: “His ratio of goals to games is unbelievable and his second goal was fantastic.
“With Berbatov, Hernandez, Rooney and one or two other strikers around the place he's not getting the games he deserves, it's unfortunate for him, but he's fantastic to have around.”
Ferguson added: “Young Fryers did very well, he wasn't fazed by it at all.
“Paul Pogba got a good 45 and young Larnell Cole came on at the end — it's good for them to get taste of the atmosphere and what the first-team is like.”
Fryers partnered makeshift centre-half Michael Carrick in an unlikely central defensive partnership.
The teenager was not even born when Giggs scored in a 3-1 win at Elland Road in the then Rumbelows Cup in 1992, the season Leeds pipped their cross-Pennine rivals to the title.
But this, by contrast, was sobering stuff as a second-string United showed the gulf in class and resources now separating the Premier League leaders from a home team that is currently sitting 11th in the Championship.
United dominated possession from the off and after surviving a scare when Berbatov, in his own six-yard box, blocked a Tom Lees header and Ross McCormack’s follow-up, they went in front through Owen.
Berbatov slipped a pass through to Park Ji-sung on the right and he supplied Owen who sidestepped Lees before putting the ball back through the defender’s legs and into the far corner.
Owen, granted far too much space on the edge of the box, duly doubled the advantage, poking the ball high to Andy Lonergan’s right after collecting Diouf’s cross. It was his 16th goal in a United shirt.
The former England striker described his goals as “one mishit and one as sweet as I hit them.”
After Antonio Valencia had steered wide of an open goal, Giggs, who was playing when Leeds last beat United here in September 2002, salted the wound.
Exchanging passes with Park from a corner, he nutmegged Aidy White and then steered a rising shot between Lonergan and the near post.
The outcome effectively settled, Ferguson was able to hand a debut to French midfielder Pogba as a half-time replacement for Giggs and by the final whistle, Larnell Cole, an 18-year-old Manchester-born midfielder, had also made his first senior appearance as a late substitute.
As well as winning at Old Trafford, Leeds have run Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal close in cup ties under Grayson but this was now a damage-limitation exercise and when the manager sent on Finns Mikael Forssell and Mika Vayrynen for Luciano Becchio and Andy Keogh, he was probably more mindful of Friday night’s visit to Brighton than hopeful of an improbable comeback.
The Leeds fans remained in good voice, though their chants of “Bates out” hinted at the frustrations among some of the home support over the club’s lack of summer transfer activity, which appears to have stalled progress this term. Substitute Ramon Nunez might have given them something to cheer in the final moments but his sliced effort summed up the night.