Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Shocked Fergie to ring the changes for Manchester United

Manchester United could field a much-changed team in their next game following yesterday's FA Cup third round defeat to Leeds.

Jermaine Beckford's first-half goal not only gave Leeds a famous victory at Old Trafford, it also consigned United to their first third-round FA Cup exit, and their first defeat by lower league opposition in the most prestigious domestic cup competition, since they were beaten by Bournemouth in 1984.

Ferguson could offer up no excuse, or explanation, for his side's defeat.

However, having declared he would rely on many of the younger players involved yesterday afternoon for the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at Manchester City on Wednesday, the Scot has had an immediate change of heart.

“We have a semi-final on Wednesday night and a lot of these players today won't be playing,” he said. “You have to view that performance in its right light.

“I am shocked by the performance because our preparation for the game was very good. But we never got going. The quality of the passing and whole performance was bad.”

Ferguson could not resist a dig at referee Chris Foy.

After a second-half punctuated by petty disputes and an injury to Beckford, plus five substitutions before the additional time was shown, Foy added an extra five minutes.

According to Ferguson, it was not enough.

“The referee gave five minutes,” he complained. “That is an insult to the game and the players out there.”

It also rather deflected away from the paucity of the home side's performance.

“Leeds had far bigger appetite than us,” admitted Ferguson. “Human beings can always surprise you but we didn't expect that today.

“We didn't start right, Leeds got their goal and it was something to hold onto.

“We spoke about Beckford's pace up front and we were caught napping.”

Ferguson excused only substitute Antonio Valencia from criticism, which presumably also included Michael Owen, who had a couple a decent chances to pull United back on level terms but failed to take them.

Certainly a defence from which Nemanja Vidic pulled out after apparently complaining of an injury in the warm-up that Ferguson could not shed any light on, performed well below par.

Wes Brown found himself isolated when Jonathan Howson launched his long ball down field, with Beckford getting away with a heavy first touch by toeing the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak, who had been slow to react.

“I don't think any of them can say they had a good day,” said Ferguson.

“It took us 10 minutes to find him but only Valencia can say he had a good performance.

“You have to get over these kind of results quickly. We have to make sure we are ready for the match on Wednesday.”

Beckford’s winner was his 20th goal of the season but although his contract runs out in the summer Leeds manager Simon Grayson insists he wants to keep him at Elland Road.

“There are three scenarios,” said Grayson.

“He can either sign a new contract now, or we can keep him until the end of the season and he leaves then. The worst-case scenario is that we are offered some money now that is too good to turn down.

“But we would have to have replacements lined up if that was to happen.”

It has already been suggested Newcastle have made a bid, something Grayson refused to discuss.

However, he knows Beckford's ability is a precious gift.

And the 26-year-old will be going nowhere unless the price is right.

“Today he showed what he is all about. He worked hard for the team and got his opportunity,” said Grayson.

“That is five goals in the last three games now. That is a big commodity. We are not looking to sell him but money talks with any player. I knew as soon as the window opened there would be a lot of talk about him.

“We don't want him to leave unless it is the best thing for him and, long term, the football club. But, if we do let him go, we won't let him go on the cheap.”

It is only a couple of weeks ago Beckford stormed off down the tunnel after being substituted at Southampton, a reaction he has since apologised for.

However, the supporters who were booing him then were raising the roof yesterday afternoon.

It does not quite erase all the pain they have endured over the past few years. But it certainly signals an intention to bounce back.

“It is a fantastic achievement,” said Grayson, who went on to praise the club's loyal fans.

“Our football club has had a lot of negativity over the last five years.

“We have been in administration and we have been relegated. I said when I came to the club we had reached rock bottom and would not go any lower.

“But our fans were there for us. It is not just about taking 9,000 to Old Trafford.

“We have taken 3,000 to Bristol Rovers on a Tuesday night. Every away allocation, we sell. We regularly get 25,000 at home.

“Today is a result for them more than anyone else.”

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