Patrice Evra fights for the ball with Liam Lawrence

After his mistake against City last weekend, Rio Ferdinand was back to his best at Stoke

Paul Scholes pulled the strings in midfield as United dominated possession

Nemanja Vidic, who was outstanding in United's defence, outjumps Collins and Shawcross

It was a special day for John O'Shea who headed United's second on his 350th Reds' appearance

Berba had the simple task of tapping home after Giggs' great set-up

Fletcher, whose fine pass put Giggs in to set up United's first goal, battles for the ball with Glenn Whelan

Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United

Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United

A dominant display from the Reds coupled with goals from Dimitar Berbatov and John O’Shea secured an impressive 2-0 victory over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, but the star of the show once again was Ryan Giggs.

Alan Hansen’s Premier League Pick: Stoke v Manchester United

Alan HansenManchester United travel to Stoke this weekend brimming with confidence after impressive victories over both Tottenham and local rivals Man City. The champions really impressed me at White Hart Lane and although they left it very late against City, there’s no doubt they deserved to win the match. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side may miss the guile of Cristiano Ronaldo but they have maintained their competitive winning edge and it’s hard to back against them at the Britannia Stadium.

Wayne Rooney & Ryan Giggs Starring for UnitedIt’s well worth noting that United won both home and away against Stoke last season without conceding a goal. However, they did not have it all their own way at the Britannia Stadium as an 83rd minute Carlos Tevez goal was all that separated the teams. Sir Alex’s side may have suffered an upset at Burnley earlier in the season but after such impressive performances, it’s hard to imagine they are ripe for another shock defeat.

Wayne Rooney is in the form of his life after scoring 6 goals in his last 6 league games and no side will find him easy to handle. The young striker has been backed up superbly by the form of veteran Ryan Giggs who rolled back the years against Man City last weekend turning Micah Richards inside out with his dribbling ability. The Welshman has already created 24 goal scoring chances for his team-mates this season which is more than any other player and a fantastic testament to his enduring ability in the Premier League.

United goalkeeper Foster gets Ferguson's vote of confidence

LONDON — Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will persevere with Ben Foster despite the goalkeeper's error-strewn start to the season.

The England international's gaffe led to Manchester City's first goal at Old Trafford last weekend before the defending Premier League champions eventually beat their neighbour 4-3.

Despite Tomasz Kuszczak keeping a clean sheet in the League Cup victory over Wolverhampton on Wednesday, Ferguson will have Foster start at Stoke on Saturday and remain his first-choice Premier League goalkeeper while Edwin van der Sar recovers from injury.

"Edwin is still three weeks away," Ferguson said Friday. "It was a good opportunity for Tomasz to play on Wednesday, but Ben will start against Stoke. He's not had a lot of game experience but he'll be OK."

The Red Devils are second in the standings after six matches, three points behind Chelsea, thanks to Michael Owen's stoppage time winner over City.

Ryan Giggs created each of United's four goals to show that he remains a key component in the team at 35.

"The horrible part of being a footballer is that at some stage you are finished with the game," Ferguson said. "It catches us all. When someone like Ryan is playing at the level he is at, he realizes to stay there, he has to prepare himself in the right way.

"He has to look after himself and do the right things. It is not a matter of him defying his age. It is more a case that there is no discernible deterioration in his game at all. It is remarkable."

Chelsea may be protecting a 100 per cent record at Wigan on Saturday, but manager Carlo Ancelotti knows it won't last forever.

"It's very difficult because now the team is doing very well," Ancelotti said Friday. "We have maintained a good control of the injury situation and we have players in good condition and there is a good atmosphere.

"But in football in my experience it's very easy to pass from good to bad situations. It's very difficult to win and maintain a good situation."

Winger Florent Malouda has attributed Chelsea winning six straight games to the play of strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

"If you are an opponent and you see Didier and Nicolas are playing against you, you won't feel comfortable," Malouda said. "When they are confident, there is danger all the time for the opposition. And it helps us if the other team focuses too much on those two players as it will create space for the others.

"We have a strong midfield so when you have the pace of Nicolas with the power of Didier, it's good."

Meanwhile both Andrei Arshavin and Theo Walcott should return for Arsenal which plays at Fulham in Saturday's late kickoff.

Arshavin has missed four matches with a groin problem, while Walcott has not played this season due to a side strain as the Gunners have lost twice and fallen nine points behind Chelsea.

"We are very pleased because Arshavin gives us an attacking option that is always very interesting and away from home he's always very efficient as well," manager Arsene Wenger said. "He's a guy who turns up at the right moment and can always create chances or score himself."

Third-placed Liverpool missed out on the title last season in part because of its seven home draws, one of which was against newcomer Hull, which is back at Anfield on Saturday.

"We had difficulties last season with all the draws but now we are able to score goals in the first half," striker Dirk Kuyt said. "It's really important to score as early as possible because then it will be more difficult for them and easier for us.

"Hull are a good team as well but we have to look at our own strengths and we must believe we can beat them."

Level with Liverpool on 12 points are Manchester City, which hosts West Ham on Monday, Aston Villa, which is at Blackburn on Saturday, and Tottenham, which hosts Burnley at the same time.

In Saturday's other matches: Portsmouth, searching for its first point of the season, hosts Everton and Bolton is at Birmingham.

In Sunday's only match, Sunderland hosts Wolverhampton.

December decision time for Van der Sar

Edwin van der Sar has set his usual December deadline to decide whether to extend his Manchester United career.

For three seasons now, the 38-year-old has waited until the depths of winter to determine his fate, which the answer coming up positive each time. And Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed it will be no different this term, even though the Dutchman has apparently already said he wants to continue.

"It has always been the case with Edwin that he has made the decision around the end of December and it will be this same this season too,'' said Ferguson. "There is going to be a time when he decides it is time but he never does anything at this stage of the season.''

In fact, Ferguson is more concerned Van der Sar is available again this season after he suffered two broken fingers in a pre-season game against Bayern Munich in July.

It was originally thought the former Fulham star would be out for two months, but Ferguson has confirmed he will be sidelined for another three weeks, meaning the first time he will be available is the encounter with Bolton on October 17.

In theory, Van der Sar's continued absence left Ferguson with a selection dilemma for the trip to Stoke.

Poland international Tomasz Kuszczak certainly must have been fancying his chances after keeping a clean sheet against Wolves on Wednesday, just three days after Ben Foster's dismal performance against Manchester City.

However, Ferguson has already decided to keep faith with Foster, who he believes will go to the World Cup as England's first-choice keeper.

"Ben will play tomorrow,'' he said. "I didn't have any doubts. We are not worrying about the odd mistake - young players make them all the time -- and he has not have a great deal of game experience. I do not have a problem with the boy."

Squad sheets: Stoke City v Manchester United

There will no motivational material for Tony Pulis to pin up on the dressing-room wall. "Stoke are going to be a force," said Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday. The Manchester United manager knows how to use flattery to help his cause but he also appreciates just how difficult it can be to get a result at the Britannia Stadium following last season's 1-0 win. The significant team news is that Ben Foster will definitely start in goal for United despite his mistakes last weekend. No prizes for guessing whom Stoke will be targeting. Stuart James

Venue Britannia Stadium

Tickets Sold out

Last season Stoke 0 Manchester United 1

Referee H Webb

This season's matches 4 Y12, R0, 3.00 cards per game

sportingbet odds Stoke 7-1 Manchester United 7-20 Draw 16-5

Stoke v Man Utd Probable starters in bold, contenders in light Photograph: Graphic


Subs from Simonsen, Tuncay, Whitehead, Higginbotham, Wilkinson, Pugh, Griffin, Beattie, Diao, Cresswell, Cort

Doubtful Beattie (ankle), Fuller (groin)

Injured M Sidibe (knee,Oct), Am Faye (back, unknown)

Suspended None

Form guide DLWDL

Disciplinary record Y11 R0

Leading scorer Kitson 2

Manchester United

Subs from Kuszczak, Scholes, Carrick, Brown, Nani, Anderson, Neville, Gibson, Fabio, Owen, Welbeck, De Laet, Macheda, Tosic, J Evans

Doubtful None

Injured Van der Sar (finger, Oct), Obertan (back, Oct), Rafael (shoulder, Oct), Hargreaves (knee, Nov)

Suspended None

Form guide WWWWL

Disciplinary record Y11 R1

Leading scorer Rooney 6

Match pointers

• Stoke's last eight home wins have all been achieved with a clean sheet

• The last time United scored in an away league game and did not go on to win the match was against Arsenal in November 2008

• Stoke are the only top-flight team to have drawn more than once this season

• United have score more second-half goals (11) than any other side this season

• Glenn Whelan has had more shots on target (four) than any other Stoke player this season; Dave Kitson has had the most shots off-target (five)

Premier League Preview: Stoke City – Manchester United

Leaving it late in the League Cup

Stoke City barely scraped by Championship side Blackpool in the Carling Cup in midweek, with a late winner from previously shamed defender Andy Griffin the difference between the two sides. In Griffin’s first appearance since last December’s bust-up with team-mate Ricardo Fuller in a league match against West Ham United, the former Stoke captain is looking to put the unfortunate fracas in the past in hopes of more first team appearances under Tony Pulis.

Pulis has led the Potters to tenth place in the Premier League table at this early stage of the season, performing miracles with a squad which has suffered its share of injuries and misfortunes. Stoke looked to have fought a hard-earned draw against Chelsea in week five, only to have the Blues pull off one of their trademark late shows to take all three points at the Britannia Stadium.

Pulis has also had to contend with an injury to James Beattie, who after arriving at the club in January last season from Sheffield United, has been in fine form, scoring seven times in 21 appearances. Keeping a healthy squad will be vital for Pulis over the course of the season as he looks not only to keep the Potters in the Premier League, but also potentially to guide them to a top ten finish.

Young Red Devils see off Wolves

Sir Alex Ferguson will have mixed feelings after seeing his young side pull off a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. With some of the less experienced and younger members of the squad having been given their chance to impress, Brazilian defender Fabio da Silva found himself sent-off midway through the first half after an unsightly challenge on Wolves’ Michael Kightly. His dismissal would have a domino effect for young United hero Federico Macheda, who was sacrificed for defensive reinforcement in the form of another youngster, Ritchie De Laet.

Although things did not quite go to plan in the League Cup, Ferguson can now focus on catching up with Chelsea in the Premier League. After controversially overcoming Manchester City’s challenge last weekend, Manchester United will travel to the Britannia Stadium to take on a hungry Stoke side.

Centre-back Rio Ferdinand is struggling for form after coming back from an early-season injury, while Ferguson could have a selection headache given the recent form of Michael Owen. Owen has impressed through goals in the Manchester derby as well as an assist in the win over Wolves, while Dimitar Berbatov has continued to disappoint with his lacklustre and underwhelming performances.

Danny Welbeck scored the winner against Wolves, and since bursting into the first team squad last season, will be looking to break into the starting eleven as often as possible. The race is on to partner Wayne Rooney up front for Manchester United, while Rio Ferdinand will have to pick up the slack at the back to get the Red Devils back to the Premier League summit.


Stoke City

Leyton Orient 0-1 Stoke City (League Cup)

Stoke City 1-0 Sunderland (EPL)

Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea (EPL)

Bolton 1-1 Stoke City (EPL)

Stoke City 4-3 Blackpool (League Cup)

Manchester United

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal (EPL)

Tottenham 1-3 Manchester United (EPL)

Besiktas 0-1 Manchester United (CL)

Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City (EPL)

Manchester United 1-0 Wolverhampton (League Cup)


Stoke City

Tony Pulis is waiting on news for strike pair Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie, both picking up knocks in Stoke’s win over Blackpool.

Fuller has encountered a groin strain that could keep him sidelined.

An ankle injury flare-up is threatening to sideline James Beattie, who only recently regained full fitness.

Richard Cresswell could be recalled into the squad to partner Dave Kitson, while Tuncay Sanli is also in contention for a starting berth.

Possible Starting XI: Sorensen, Huth, Faye, Shawcross, Collins, Delap, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington, Kitson, Tuncay.

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that Edwin Van der Sar will be absent for three more weeks, also proclaiming that Ben Foster will continue as his stand-in.

Owen Hargreaves is also easing back into first team contention and is reportedly now just a month away from returning.

Michael Owen could earn a starting berth this weekend after positive performances in his last two matches.

Paul Scholes is back from suspension after being sent off against Tottenham.

Rafael da Silva is out with a shoulder injury while Gabriel Obertan has suffered a back strain.

Possible Starting XI: Foster, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Giggs, Valencia, Fletcher, Anderson, Rooney, Berbatov.


Stoke City

Dave Kitson is finding his feet at Stoke City, netting three goals in the league already this season. His performance will be crucial on Saturday with Beattie and Fuller potentially sidelined, leaving him with the bulk of the offensive responsibilities.

Manchester United

Having already suffered an early season injury set-back, Rio Ferdinand is struggling for form for Manchester United. Gifting a well-taken goal to Craig Bellamy in the Manchester derby, Ferguson will be hoping the Rio of old emerges against Stoke City.


Manchester United are eager to stay on the heels of Chelsea, who are the only team in the Premier League still unbeaten. The Red Devils have endured an early season hiccup to Burnley, one they will not be eager to repeat against Stoke City.

Ferguson’s selection up front should prove interesting as he searches for a partner to Wayne Rooney. Michael Owen’s recent good form might have the former Newcastle man starting this Saturday, yet Ferguson could give Dimitar Berbatov another bite at the apple.

Tony Pulis will field his strongest side in hopes of slaying the Old Trafford giants. The Potters have managed a decent start to the season, and a win against the reigning champions could work wonders for Stoke’s confidence.

However, a striker shortage could wreak havoc on Pulis's’side, with both James Beattie and Ricardo Fuller potentially sidelined for this clash. That leaves leading scorer Dave Kitson to lead the line at the Britannia Stadium, looking to add to the three goals he has already scored this season with either Richard Cresswell or Tuncay Sanli.

Alkthough Stoke will leave it all on the pitch, the Red Devils have momentum left over from their triumph in the Manchester derby. With an eye on Chelsea, it is hard to imagine Sir Alex Ferguson and his men will let this one slip away.

Stoke City 1-3 Manchester United

Alex Ferguson: Best Yet To Come From Manchester United

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has warned his rivals in the Premier League with a defiant claim that the best is yet to come from the champions this season.

United suffered a shock defeat at Burnley early in the season, but have since won six consecutive games in all competitions, causing Ferguson to state that they will only get better as the campaign continues.

"We had a bad start, there's no doubt about that, but the form of the team has been coming on well," Sky Sports report the United manager as saying.

"Our best performance was at White Hart Lane [United won 3-1 against Spurs]. I'm happy with our form now. We have the squad and my only dilemma is who to play.

"Usually October sees us become more consistent and hopefully that will be the case again. The squad is a strong one and my only problem seems to be who to pick for each game."

One player who has impressed in United's recent run is 35-year-old veteran Ryan Giggs, and Ferguson concedes that there is little else he can say to add to the plaudits that have already come the Welshman's way during a long career.

"I don't know what more there is to say about him," the Scotsman added.

"It's not a matter of defying age with him because there has been no deterioration in his game at all – and it's remarkable.

"It's down to how he has lived his life, how he has looked after himself and done the right things and his form is just as good as it was last year."

Sir Alex Ferguson: Owen Hargreaves Is Back For Manchester United

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has confirmed today that midfielder Owen Hargreaves, for so long on the sidelines after major surgery on his right knee, is back in full training ahead of the weekend's trip to Stoke City.

"Owen Hargreaves is back now, and hopefully the boy gets a break and continues his progress without any further mishaps," the United boss told reporters at his Friday press conference.

"It's been long time for the lad and normally when a player has been out that length of time, he's always helped during his rehabilitation by with other players.

"The fact he did it on his own in America under the guidance of the doctor [Richard] Steadman. Then it's not easy, but he's got the determination and the resilience to see it through and he's now back with us.

"I feel that maybe it'll still take us four weeks to get him into the rhythm of training again and get to the point of match play. But I think that hopefully he is on the way back."

Ben Foster will be in goal again for the Red Devils at the Britannia after Ferguson also confirmed that Edwin van der Sar will be absent for at least another three weeks with a broken hand.

Tomasz Kuszczak impressed between the sticks in the League Cup win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday night, but Ferguson today revealed that he is sticking with the England international for the visit to the Potteries.

"Edwin is still three weeks away. It was a good opportunity for Tomasz to play on Wednesday, but Ben will play against Stoke," Ferguson explained.

United have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to Stoke, a club for which Ferguson retains the utmost respect.

"Stoke have a good home record, and I'm not surprised how they've started the season at all," he added. "They're a club on the up and they're going to be a force this season."

Manchester United Goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar Undecided Over Retirement

Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has refused to confirm whether he will retire at the end of the season, saying that he will only make his decision in December.

The 38-year-old, who has yet to feature this season due to a broken thumb, admitted that while he felt as fit as ever, the inevitable end of his career was nearing.

“I've said for a few years that it sometimes may be my last season,” Van der Sar said, according to The Daily Mail.

“Six months before my contract with Manchester United ended in December 2006, we extended for one year and so far it has been the same every time.

“I wait each season to see where I stand, if everyone is happy and if I can still get motivated. But I know, because I always get older, it is increasingly likely that this will be my last season.

“In December, it will be clear how it goes. By then, I'll have clarity. It is a horrible dilemma. On the one hand I do not oversleep, I feel as good as a few years ago.”

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has said previously that he did not expect the Dutch 'keeper to continue beyond 2010 - but he may be hoping to be proven wrong, given Ben Foster's recent efforts between the sticks.

Rio Ferdinand concern for Manchester United and England's World Cup plans

Rio Ferdinand, the Manchester United defender, is becoming an increasing worry for manager Sir Alex Ferguson as the club bids to claim a fourth successive Premier League crown.

Rio Ferdinand is concern for Manchester United and England's World Cup plans

And Ferguson's fears will no doubt be shared by England as Fabio Capello shapes up his squad before the World Cup finals next summer in South Africa.

Ferdinand, 30, was an unused substitute in Manchester United's 1-0 win over Wolves in the Carling Cup on Wednesday night, but of more concern is the England defender's long term back injury, which caused him to miss the first four games of the season.

His lack of first-team football this season was perhaps to blame for his mistake in the Manchester derby at the weekend, which allowed City striker Craig Bellamy to equalise before Michael Owen’s injury time strike spared the defender's blushes.

Ferdinand missed United's win against Besiktas before the Manchester derby and Ferguson is concerned that the club's key figurehead has started only two successive league games twice since April.

Meanwhile off the pitch Ferdinand is hoping to transfer his talent to the kitchen as a silent partner in a new restaurant venture.

Called Rosso, Italian for red, the eatery will be located in the centre of Manchester.

Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham all advance in Carling Cup

LONDON — Chelsea and Tottenham advanced to the last 16 of the Carling Cup with victories over second-tier opposition, while defending champion Manchester United eliminated Premier League rival Wolverhampton on Wednesday.

Salomon Kalou scored at the start of the second half to clinch Chelsea's 1-0 win over west London neighbor Queens Park Rangers, while Peter Crouch scored a hat trick as Tottenham routed Preston 5-1.

The Red Devils played for an hour with 10 men but Danny Welbeck's second-half strike secured a 1-0 win over Wolves.

Manchester City required captain Kolo Toure's extra time header to oust Fulham 2-1.

At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's 23rd consecutive unbeaten match equaled a club record as Joe Cole captained the side on his return from nine months out with a knee injury.

Cole set up the winner, slipping the ball through to Kalou in the 52nd minute and the Ivory Coast forward cut inside Mikele Leigertwood on the left clipped in off the post.

"I'm very pleased - I helped to make the goal and I should have scored myself," Cole said. "I'm delighted I wasn't off the pace and I was among the action, but I'm not getting beyond myself. This is a steppingstone for me. I'll keep working hard."

Yuri Zhirkov, who arrived injured from CSKA Moscow in the off-season, made his debut as Carlo Ancelotti made 10 changes from the side that beat Tottenham 3-0 on Sunday.

Tottenham, which beat Chelsea in the 2008 final and reached Wembley Stadium again last season, comfortably dispatched Preston.

Crouch volleyed home Gareth Bale's cross for a 14th-minute opener and Defoe headed in a second in the 37th after Preston goalkeeper Andy Lonergan saved his initial shot.

Crouch found the target again in the 77th after connecting with Aaron Lennon's cross. Chris Brown pulled one back for Preston soon after, but Tom Huddlestone surged forward to set up Robbie Keane's goal and Crouch back-heeled in a fifth.

It was a rare night in Manchester with both United and City playing at home.

United, which beat Tottenham in the March final, had Fabio Da Silva sent off on the half hour when the Brazilian defender bundled over Michael Kightly.

"You can't argue with the red card, but Fabio is only 18 and this experience will help him grow," United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. "Even before we went down to 10 men, Wolves were a threat on the counterattack, but for the last hour we kept our discipline and that was very pleasing.

"That never-say-die attitude runs through this club and the goal was of magnificent quality."

Welbeck broke the deadlock in the 66th, finishing off a flowing move and tucking his shot comfortably past Marcus Hahnemann.

Despite facing a second-string Fulham, Manchester City manager Mark Hughes named a strong lineup, with just one change from the team that lost 4-3 to United on Sunday.

But Zoltan Gera put Fulham in control of the third-round match in the 34th, picking up a loose ball 30 yards out and hammering a half-volley beyond goalkeeper Shay Given.

City leveled after the break when Gareth Barry headed in Craig Bellamy's corner to send the match into extra time, and Toure met Martin Petrov's inswinging corner to send City through to the competition it last won in 1976.

Everton raced into a 3-0 lead inside 24 minutes at Hull with Ayegbeni Yakubu, making his first start since last November, Jo and Dan Gosling all finding the net. Leon Osman tapped in a fourth from close range in the 57th.

Aston Villa secured its progression past Cardiff after just three minutes when Gabriel Agbonlahor scored for a fourth successive match.

welbeck gives holders victory

At a time when English clubs' recruitment of overseas youngsters is attracting the disapproving attention of FIFA, one of Manchester United's true home-grown talents sent their 10 men into the Carling Cup fourth round with a 1-0 win over Wolves.

Born in Longsight, a long stone's throw from Old Trafford, England Under-21 international Danny Welbeck calmly ensured Wolves were not able to profit from the dismissal of Fabio after just half an hour.

Welbeck finished in fine style after running on to Michael Owen's precise return pass, ensuring the holders' progress to the last 16 was smooth after a largely one-sided contest in which the loss of a player had barely any impact.

As expected, Ferguson changed his entire starting line-up from Sunday's dramatic derby draw with City.

Yet there were still opportunities for Michael Carrick and Nani, who both missed out at the weekend, plus Owen and Tomasz Kuszczak who, in their own individual way, had something to prove.

Owen has now shown his goalscoring instinct remains. Yet, as a 90-minute player he remains a bit of an unknown.

In fairness to the veteran forward, the presence of Federico Macheda and Welbeck alongside him meant he had to do more tracking back than he would normally expect and it was only after United's numbers were reduced that he really came into his own.

Kuszczak must have sensed a Premier League start at Stoke would follow an eye-catching display given Ben Foster's pitiful experience against the Blues, when he was directly responsible for one goal and hardly covered himself in glory with the last.

The Pole benefited from Fabio's departure too, producing a fine fingertip save to deny former United midfielder David Jones with the resultant free-kick.

All in all then, with the contest turning into a keenly-fought affair instead of the sterile stalemate that had gone before, the sending-off was no bad thing, except for poor Fabio, who cut a dejected figure as he made his way off the field.

In truth, the Brazilian could have no complaints.

Put in trouble by Jonny Evans' failure to win an aerial duel with the robust Stefan Maierhofer and Wes Brown over-running the loose ball which momentarily escaped his vision, Fabio looked like getting back to challenge Kightly.

Unluckily, he slipped just at the wrong moment, so in sticking out a despairing arm to prevent Kightly charging clear into the box, he brought the Wolves man down for what was ruled a professional foul.

Owen had United's best chance before the interval but could only turn a header straight at Marcus Hahnemann, who experienced his own Foster moment just before the break when his attempted clearance was charged down by Welbeck.

Fortunately for the veteran American, it bounced to safety.

A surging Welbeck run created an opportunity Darron Gibson should have done more with, and only Nani's poor cross prevented him setting up Carrick after Gary Neville had sent the Portugal wide-man racing forward.

The goal, when it eventually came, just emphasised the gulf in class.

Wolves thought they had the situation under control when Gibson rolled a sideways pass to Carrick 30 yards out.

But within an instant, the England midfielder had created space for Welbeck, whose first time pass was returned in equally promising manner by Owen, who succeeded in providing his young team-mate with an opportunity to run onto the ball, clear of the Wolves defence.

The finish was first-time too. Straight into the bottom corner, as befits a player currently making the graduation from England Under-19 to Under-21 duty and surely destined for even higher honours one day.

Welbeck departed to a standing ovation from United's lowest crowd for four years - which still exceeded 50,000 - for another teenager, Norwegian Joshua King, of whom very big things are expected.

With a bit more composure and a little bit of luck, King might have marked his debut with a goal too, although ultimately one proved to be enough.

  • Fergie wants family tie in draw Sir Alex Ferguson wants a Carling Cup last 16 meeting with son Darren, manager of Championship side Peterborough. "Peterborough at home," he said. "All the family should be happy with that." "It was a fantastic goal," purred Ferguson over Welbeck's winner. "There was some quality passing involved in the move and he took it really well. It was obviously a difficult job for him, playing with 10 men for so long, but the goal told you everything about the boy's quality. He earned it." Ferguson had no complaints over Fabio's dismissal for hauling down Michael Kightly after the youngster had slipped as he attempted to make a tackle. The Scot was delighted with his side's discipline in possession, which left Wolves chasing shadows for long periods under Kevin Doyle brought a bit of spark late on. But, having changed his entire starting line-up from Sunday's breathtaking win over Manchester City, Ferguson felt vindicated in his selection policy which allowed him to introduce 17-year-old Norwegian Joshua King for his debut, another promising striker to emerge at Old Trafford. "The boy has a really good future," said Ferguson. In fact, with Welbeck, Federico Macheda and Joshua King we have some really good young strikers. It is a long time since we had a group as good as that coming through the club." Wolves boss Mick McCarthy accused his side of showing a lack of belief when they were facing 10 men. "I preferred it when they had 11," said McCarthy. "Manchester United have done it many times before, against clubs who have been in the Premier League far longer than us. "They pick teams off and get to the other end of the pitch by playing through you. We were in the game more before they had a man sent off. But the result was more about us, our confidence and our belief in beating a team with 10 men." Yet McCarthy refused to castigate a team for whom Kightly and former United striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake were returning after extended periods on the sidelines. "We have been in the Premier League for three months," he said. "That doesn't make us a Premier League team. We are a football club that has got itself into the Premier League and for most of the time we have competed. "Manchester United are arguably the best team in Europe. Liverpool have a similar set-up, and Arsenal. We are snotty-nosed kids coming up from the Championship. "Is it a case of us coming up here and having our bellies tickled and for them to say, 'thanks for coming'? I don't like that. But it is part of the learning process."

  • Man Man Utd See Off Wolves 1 - 0 In League Cup

    LONDON (Reuters) - Holders Manchester United overcame the 29th-minute sending-off of Brazilian defender Fabio Da Silva to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 in the third round of the League Cup on Wednesday.

    United fielded an entirely changed team from that which beat Manchester City 4-3 on Sunday but the stand-ins proved up to the job and won with a neatly-made goal by Danny Welbeck after 66 minutes.

    League leaders Chelsea made it eight wins out of eight in competitive games with a 1-0 win over west London neighbours Queens Park Rangers, Peter Crouch bagged a hat-trick as Tottenham Hotspur won 5-1 at Preston North End and Everton put Phil Brown's future in jeopardy by thrashing Hull City 4-0 away.

    Aston Villa beat Cardiff City 1-0 while Manchester City against Fulham went into extra time after they finished level at 1-1.

    Manchester United and Chelsea move into Carling Cup fourth round

    Danny Welbeck scored the only goal as a 10-man Manchester United kept their Carling Cup defence alive with a 1-0 third round win over Wolverhampton at Old Trafford.

    United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who made 11 changes to the team that defeated Manchester City on Sunday, saw Brazilian defender Fabio Da Silva sent off for a professional foul in the first half at Old Trafford.

    Fabio, making only his fifth appearance, slipped as he tried to catch Michael Kightly in the 28th minute and only managed to drag the Wolves winger to the turf as he sprinted clear.

    But Michael Owen turned provider with a pass to Welbeck that allowed the young forward to break Wolves' stubborn resistance in the 66th minute.

    Ferguson said: "Fabio was unlucky, He slipped and tried to recover and as he tried to recover he brought him down.

    "Wolves were a threat on the counter-attack, but for the last hour we kept our discipline and that was very pleasing.

    "That never-say-die attitude runs through this club and the goal was magnificent.''

    Chelsea extended their winning run under new manager Carlo Ancelotti to eight matches in all competitions as Salomon Kalou's goal earned the Blues a 1-0 win over west London neighbours QPR.

    The Blues have triumphed in every game since the Italian took charge and, after a tight first half at the Stamford Bridge, the Premier League leaders took the lead in the 52nd minute when Kalou beat QPR's offside trap and fired past Tom Heaton.

    Peter Crouch scored a hat-trick as Tottenham's bid to reach a third successive League Cup final stayed on track with a 5-1 win against Championship promotion chasers Preston.

    It was Crouch who opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Then Jermain Defoe increased their advantage in the 37th minute and Crouch notched his second in the 77th minute.

    Chris Brown got one back for Preston in the 83rd minute but there was still time for Robbie Keane to add Tottenham's fourth goal three minutes from full-time before Crouch claimed his hat-trick in stoppage time.

    Manchester City bounced back from their derby despair with a 2-1 win over Fulham after extra time at Eastlands.

    Mark Hughes's team were beaten 4-3 at Manchester United on Sunday and fell behind to Fulham after 34 minutes when Zoltan Gera hit a spectacular half-volley from long range.

    But City levelled through England midfielder Gareth Barry, who headed in after a mistake from Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale, and Kolo Toure nodded the winner in the 111th minute.

    Socceroo Lucas Neill has made his debut for Everton in his side's 4-0 thrashing of Hull City by coming off the bench midway through the second half.

    Fellow Australian Tim Cahill was an unused substitute for David Moyes' men, who won through thanks to goals from Ayegbeni Yakubu, Jo, Dan Gosling and Leon Osman.

    Yakubu was making his first start since November 2008 as the Nigerian continues his comeback from a snapped Achilles and he took just 11 minutes to make his mark, taking Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's pass and curling home.

    Jo struck in the 20th minute and Dan Gosling added a third goal four minutes later before Leon Osman's second half strike completed Hull's misery.

    Gabriel Agbonlahor's early goal was enough for Aston Villa to see off Cardiff 1-0 at Villa Park.

    Villa took the lead in the third minute when Agbonlahor met John Carew's cross with a fine finish.

    Which the young Mancunian was clearly pleased with

    Michael Owen was instrumental in Welbeck's goal just after the hour mark.

    Fabio's sending off after half an hour made it difficult for United

    Danny Welbeck celebrates his winner against Wolves

    Another young striker, Joshua King, 17, impressed on his debut

    Manchester United 1 - 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

    A superb goal from Danny Welbeck took United through to the fourth round of the Carling Cup, but the reigning holders were made to work for their progress after surviving the first-half dismissal of Fabio.

    Ben Foster's place in Manchester United goal threatened by Tomasz Kuszczak recall

    Ben Foster's place in Manchester United goal threatened by Tomasz Kuszczak recall
    With United facing a difficult trip to Stoke on Saturday, Ferguson is expected to make 11 changes to the team that started Sunday’s 4-3 victory over Manchester City at Old Trafford.

    Foster, who has played every game this season because of Edwin van der Sar’s thumb injury, was always likely to be rested against Wolves, but his shaky performance against City has now placed his Premier League position in jeopardy.

    Ferguson unusually criticised Foster in his programme notes on Sunday for failing to deal with Andrei Arshavin’s goal in last month’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal and, with two goals at the weekend down to the England goalkeeper’s indecision, Kuszczak could dislodge the 26 year-old at Stoke if he impresses against Wolves.

    Van der Sar is two weeks from returning and former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel expects the 38 year-old Dutchman to reclaim his starting place.

    Schmeichel said: “Ben Foster has done well this season and he certainly looks to be a very good goalkeeper, but I’m sure Edwin will be back in when he’s fit. The manager knows he’s the right guy for the team at the moment.”

    Teenage forwards Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck are vying for the right to partner Michael Owen this evening and, after being billed during pre-season as first-team contenders by Ferguson, the United manager has urged the pair to focus on their club football.

    He said: “I just think that they are away that much with the [international] youth squads they have forgotten where their real place is. I have also made them aware that you have to work to be successful.

    “Welbeck has been called away so much with every single England squad I don’t know if he is our player or their player.

    “Macheda has been away with Italy youth teams all the time. He has hardly been with us.”

    Owen Hargreaves returns to United on Wednesday to step up his recovery from double knee surgery following months of rehabilitation in the United States.

    League Cup Preview: Manchester United - Wolverhampton Wanderers

    Big Wins Abound

    Manchester United welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to Old Trafford in this midweek Carling Cup tie. Both United and Wolves enjoyed wins at the weekend, boosting both squads for this encounter that could provide some excitement.

    Manchester United overcame cross-town rivals Manchester City 4-3 courtesy of a late, late winner by Michael Owen. The super-sub’s first goal at Old Trafford won’t soon be forgotten, in what many are calling one of the greatest Manchester derby’s of all time. Sir Alex Ferguson was noticeably pleased when Owen scored the winner nearly seven minutes into stoppage time, but the Scot will be hoping the same won’t be required when Wolves come scratching at the door.

    Mick McCarthy’s side enjoyed a considerable win over Fulham at the weekend, bringing victory to the Molineux for the first time in the Premier League this season. Several key figures returned to the squad from injury including last season’s leading scorer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, while Kevin Doyle looks to build off an impressive performance against Fulham.


    Manchester United

    Wigan 0-5 Manchester United (EPL)

    Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal (EPL)

    Tottenham 1-3 Manchester United (EPL)

    Besiktas 0-1 Manchester United (CL)

    Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City (EPL)


    Manchester City 1-0 Wolverhampton (EPL)

    Wolverhampton 0-0 (6-5 pens) Swindon Town (League Cup)

    Wolverhampton 1-1 Hull City (EPL)

    Blackburn 3-1 Wolverhampton (EPL)

    Wolverhampton 3-1 Fulham (EPL)


    Manchester United

    Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to name a modified squad from the one that lined-up against Manchester City.

    The likes of Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson are likely to get a chance to impress against Wolverhampton.

    Michael Owen could also receive a starting birth after coming on to win the Manchester derby through his late heroics.

    Squad: Foster, Kuszczak, Neville, O'Shea, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Fabio, Valencia, Anderson, Carrick, Fletcher, Gibson, Giggs, Nani, Rooney, Berbatov, Owen, Welbeck.

    Wolverhampton Wanderers

    Richard Stearman and Andrew Surman are injury doubts ahead of Wolves encounter with United at Old Trafford.

    Stearman has sustained an ankle injury in training.

    Similarly, Surman is waiting on news from a knee injury he picked up in training.

    Squad: Hennessey, Hahnemann, Ikeme, Foley, Berra, Stearman, Zubar, Craddock, Elokobi, Hill, Kightly, Halford, Surman, Henry, Milijas, Castillo, Jones, Edwards, Jarvis, Ebanks-Blake, Maierhofer, Keogh, Vokes, Doyle.


    Manchester United

    While many Manchester United players shined in the Manchester derby, Rio Ferdinand suffered through a forgettable performance that saw him at fault for at least one of Manchester City’s goals. After just recently returning from injury, it will be interesting to see how long it takes the England international to find his form again.


    Striker Kevin Doyle looks to finally get his Wolverhampton career going after leading Wolves to a win over Fulham at the weekend. The former Reading striker looked to be struggling for form under Mick McCarthy, but Wolves fans will be hoping the Fulham win is a sign of good things to come.


    As Manchester City found out last weekend, it is never easy to play at Old Trafford, even when the visiting team is able to score three goals.

    Mick McCarthy’s side are more than capable of pulling out an upset, and it must be noted that United have already fallen this season to Premier League newcomers Burnley. While Wolves are capable, the fact that United have won the League Cup two out of the last four seasons might dent their chances of securing an upset.

    Even though Ferguson is expected to name a slightly younger side, it is hard to bet on the reigning Premier League champions being dumped out of the League Cup at this stage in the competition at home.

    McCarthy’s priority this season is undoubtedly to keep Wolves in the Premier League, meaning a second-string side could be produced for the trip to Old Trafford, giving United an unquestionable advantage in this encounter.

    Manchester United 2-0 Wolverhampton

    Mark Hughes insists he will not tone down Manchester City's livewires

    Craig Bellamy gers into an altercation with a Manchester United fan after yesterday's derby

    Manchester City's Craig Bellamy gets into a altercation with a fan after the final whistleFull length Photograph: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

    Mark Hughes has insisted he has no intention of demanding restraint from Manchester City's volatile players after Craig Bellamy, along with Gary Neville and Manchester United, escaped with a warning from the Football Association for his contribution to Sunday's explosive derby at Old Trafford.

    Bellamy had been under threat of a three-match ban for striking a pitch invader towards the end of United's controversial 4-3 victory, and Neville also risked an improper conduct charge for goading City supporters following Michael Owen's 96th-minute winner. Both, however, received warnings as to their future conduct instead.

    "In relation to Craig Bellamy the match referee has confirmed that he would not have sent the player off had he seen the incident with the fan at the time," confirmed the FA. "Craig Bellamy will be contacted by the FA and warned as to his future conduct. Gary Neville has been reminded of his responsibilities following his actions after Manchester United's final goal deep into injury time."

    Neville's slap on the wrist comes despite the United club captain receiving a £5,000 fine and an identical warning for taunting Liverpool fans in 2006. United also escaped a charge of failing to control their supporters after the City substitute Javier Garrido was struck on the head by a coin as he headed down the tunnel at half-time. The FA statement added: "The FA fully expects the club to use all available means to identify and deal with the culprit appropriately and, along with the fan who entered the field of play, look to issue bans on attending future matches."

    The FA's decision on Bellamy represents a major relief to Hughes, who last week lost Emmanuel Adebayor to a three-match ban for violent conduct against a former Arsenal colleague, Robin van Persie. Despite the successive incidents, however, the City manager sees no reason to order his players to improve their behaviour.

    "You can't take emotion out of football or any sport for that matter because that is fundamental to what you are trying to create," insisted Hughes. "That passion from the players' point of view is fundamental to how they develop as a top player. Every player who plays for Manchester City has passion but there will be varying degrees of it, because all players and personalities are different. You have to have it."

    Hughes also issued a staunch defence of Bellamy's actions in the Manchester derby and believes the FA had to take the pitch invasion into account. "The guy should not have been on the pitch," he added. "Craig went over to tell him to get off the pitch as quickly as he could, the guy made an aggressive move towards him and Craig has instinctively put his hand up in a defensive manner and pushed the lad away. That is the top and bottom of it and I think people will see that for what it is."

    The City manager would not elaborate on Neville's provocative celebrations in front of the City supporters, despite accusing his former team-mate of behaving "like a lunatic" immediately after the derby. He will, however, demand a similar punishment for Adebayor after the Togo international was charged with improper conduct for running at Arsenal supporters following his goal at Eastlands on 12 September. "There is a lot of hysteria surrounding everything we do at the moment," Hughes said. "All we ask is that if we have to answer to the FA [regarding Adebayor's celebrations] then we will be looking for that balance."

    Hughes was content with Sir Alex Ferguson's post-match description of City as a "noisy neighbour" or, to be more precise, the idea that the United manager is more venomous in his criticism of his local rivals now that he perceives them as a genuine threat.

    "In terms of the amount of noise our fans made on Sunday you could possibly say we are a noisy neighbour, although I don't think we made as much noise as is being made out," added the City manager. "If that is people's perception [of Ferguson's agenda] then yes, we are quite comfortable with that. After our performance against Arsenal and the character we showed at Old Trafford, they know we are not going to go away. We are going to have an influence on who wins the Premier League in the seasons to come."

    Brown still upbeat as he starts out again for Manchester United

    Wes Brown refuses to get downhearted at the way his injury curse returned just as he was starting to fulfil his enormous potential.

    Sir Alex Ferguson has always viewed Brown as one of the most natural defenders he has worked with at Manchester United.

    Yet, on too many occasions, the 29-year-old's progress has been halted. Cruciate operations on both knees, a broken ankle and a host of muscular problems have kept Brown on the sidelines for extended periods.

    His hopes of hitting the ground running this term were wrecked by a thigh problem suffered during a pre-season game in Munich, condemning the likeable Mancunian to spend the start of this term warming the bench.

    Although the defender has made three appearances, his only starts came against Burnley and Arsenal last month and he did not even make the bench for Sunday's amazing derby clash with City at Old Trafford.

    So once more, Brown has a sense of making up for lost time when he features in tonight’s Carling Cup tie with Wolves.

    “It was frustrating not to be able to build on where I was at the end of 2008,” he said.

    “Getting injured for most of last season was not very pleasant but I am used to it I suppose.

    “There is no point thinking 'Why me?' I just get on with it and try to be confident. I am fit at the moment. That is the main thing.”

    Brown will not be the only United player eager to make an impression against Mick McCarthy's men with Tomasz Kuszczak, Darron Gibson and Michael Owen all likely to get starting roles.

    Brown still upbeat as he starts out again for Manchester United

    Wes Brown refuses to get downhearted at the way his injury curse returned just as he was starting to fulfil his enormous potential.

    Sir Alex Ferguson has always viewed Brown as one of the most natural defenders he has worked with at Manchester United.

    Yet, on too many occasions, the 29-year-old's progress has been halted. Cruciate operations on both knees, a broken ankle and a host of muscular problems have kept Brown on the sidelines for extended periods.

    His hopes of hitting the ground running this term were wrecked by a thigh problem suffered during a pre-season game in Munich, condemning the likeable Mancunian to spend the start of this term warming the bench.

    Although the defender has made three appearances, his only starts came against Burnley and Arsenal last month and he did not even make the bench for Sunday's amazing derby clash with City at Old Trafford.

    So once more, Brown has a sense of making up for lost time when he features in tonight’s Carling Cup tie with Wolves.

    “It was frustrating not to be able to build on where I was at the end of 2008,” he said.

    “Getting injured for most of last season was not very pleasant but I am used to it I suppose.

    “There is no point thinking 'Why me?' I just get on with it and try to be confident. I am fit at the moment. That is the main thing.”

    Brown will not be the only United player eager to make an impression against Mick McCarthy's men with Tomasz Kuszczak, Darron Gibson and Michael Owen all likely to get starting roles.

    Sir Alex Ferguson is into flora: Agent claims Manchester United bought flowers for Paul Pogba's mum

    Paul Pogba's agent has backed Manchester United’s claims they did not offer the French teenager and his parents a financial inducement to move to Old Trafford, claiming they merely sent his mother flowers and his father a book about the club’s history.

    United have threatened Le Havre with legal action after their president Jean-Pierre Louvel alleged that Pogba’s parents were given £85,000 each and a house in Manchester to lure the 17-year-old.

    However, agent Gael Mahe said: ‘The flowers cost just £20, and the mother felt trust. Paul got a shirt with his name on. It is a symbol, but they felt United respected them.

    ‘Of course, it is a nice contract but not only money makes a young player and his parents change their country.’

    Pogba’s mother, Yeo, also rubbished claims they were given a house.

    She said: ‘That story made people laugh in the hotel. Why would we be in a hotel, if we had been given a house? I can assure you Manchester United didn’t give us anything.’

    Alex Ferguson warns Manchester United's young strikers

    Sir Alex Ferguson has long used the Carling Cup as a testing ground for his budding young talents and two, in particular, will be under scrutiny as Manchester United begin their defence of the trophy at Old Trafford this evening.

    Ferguson has high hopes for Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda, but the United manager has warned that the 18-year-old strikers need to get their priorities right as they prepare for their first run-outs of the season in the third-round tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

    Macheda burst on to the scene at a vital stage last season, the Italian coming off the substitutes’ bench to score a decisive late goal on his debut in United’s 3-2 victory at home to Aston Villa in April and following that up with another winning strike away to Sunderland.

    The Manchester-born Welbeck also impressed, scoring three times in eight starts in all competitions last season, including a powerful 30-yard strike on his league debut in the 5-0 thrashing of Stoke City at Old Trafford in November.

    However, while Ferguson denied that the plaudits had gone to the heads of either player, the manager suggested that Macheda and Welbeck had lost some of their focus after regular call-ups to the Italy and England Under-21 squads respectively.

    “Welbeck has been called away so much with every single England squad [the Under-19s and Under-21s] that I don’t know if he is our player or their player,” Ferguson said. “Macheda has been away with the Italy youth teams all the time and has hardly been with us, either. They are away that much with the youth squads, they have forgotten where their real place is.”

    Michael Owen, fresh from his stoppage-time winning goal in the 4-3 victory at home to Manchester City on Sunday, is likely to start up front against Wolves with Macheda alongside him and Welbeck expected to offer support from the left wing.

    Tomasz Kuszczak is expected to start in goal, with Ben Foster rested and Edwin van der Sar still recovering from a broken finger.

    Edwin van der Sar still Manchester United's No 1, says Peter Schmeichel

    Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel claims Ben Foster faces a return to the bench at Old Trafford as soon as Edwin van der Sar overcomes the thumb injury that has sidelined him since pre-season.

    England keeper Foster, 26, is under the spotlight after an unconvincing display during United's 4-3 victory against Manchester City on Sunday.

    The former Stoke and Watford keeper was at fault for Gareth Barry's opener for City and some critics have also questioned his positioning for Craig Bellamy's 90th minute equaliser.

    Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has also unusually publicly criticised Foster for his failure to keep out Andrey Arshavin's long-range strike during the 2-1 win against Arsenal last month.

    With Dutch veteran Van der Sar set to be out for another month, Ferguson has given Foster the nod ahead of Polish stopper Tomasz Kuszczak so far this season.

    But Old Trafford legend Schmeichel, who won every major honour bar the Uefa Cup during his eight-year stint at United in the 1990s, believes that Ferguson will recall Van der Sar as soon as the 38-year-old returns to full fitness.

    Speaking to United Review, Schmeichel said: "Ben Foster has done well this season and he certainly looks to be a very good goalkeeper.

    "He's getting a run of games now, but I'm sure Edwin will be back in when he's fit because the manager knows he's the right guy for the team at the moment.

    "I think Edwin can keep playing for a few more years yet. He's fit, he's strong and he's motivated.

    "I think he wants more silverware and, when you want more, you can go on. I was offered another year before I retired at 40 and, physically, I was pretty sure I could have done it, but I just didn't want to.

    "Physically, it shouldn't be a problem for Edwin to carry on and if he wants to, then I'm sure he'll take that opportunity."

    United have been linked with Schalke goalkeeper Marcus Neuer and CSKA Moscow's Igor Akinfeev this season. Barcelona stopper Victor Valdes has also emerged as a possible target.

    Ferguson is set to hand Kuszczak his first start of the season on Wednesday, however, when United begin their defence of the Carling Cup against Wolves at Old Trafford.

    And despite his recent poor form, Foster is unlikely to lose his place for Saturday's Premier League clash with former club Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.

    Mark Hughes chooses the Blues and the boos over Manchester United

    David O’Leary played a record 722 matches for Arsenal over 19 years, and yet the last time I saw him at Highbury he could not leave the away dugout without thousands of home supporters hurling abuse. He could scarcely ha

    ve been less popular if he had been wearing a Tottenham Hotspur hat and scarf.

    The Gooners had noted his constant carping at Arsène Wenger, the endless babble of criticism when O’Leary was Leeds United manager and let him know, loudly, that he had been banished from their affections. His mouth had carried him across an invisible line.

    I bring this up in the light of Mark Hughes’s battle with Sir Alex Ferguson, a managerial duel that appears to have escalated every time one of them has spoken in the past few weeks.

    On Sunday, during the unforgettable Manchester derby, the effects became strikingly evident. Having walked to the touchline to shout at the referee, Hughes glanced up at some United fans behind the dugout on his return to his seat.

    By words and by gesture, they let Hughes know, as forcibly and crudely as they could, that he was now the enemy. And the way that the United-City rivalry is being re-stoked, those 50 fans might be 500 the next time the clubs meet. How long before they become 50,000?

    How long, in short, before one of the most revered players ever to pull on a United shirt becomes every bit as reviled at Old Trafford as Arsène Wenger or Rafael Benítez? Before the player once ranked the ninth greatest United legend, above Denis Law, in a poll by the official club magazine, is demonised?

    It is a question for United fans to consider. After all, if Hughes is a success at City, would they not then be wanting him back?

    In the case of Hughes, an impressive man who is showing indications of being a pretty impressive manager, abusing him cannot come easy.

    Hughes was such an icon as a player, so brave and so wholehearted that he used to look like he had been mud-wrestling rather than playing football. Booing O’Leary probably came easy — remember the placard from Aston Villa fans that once read: “We’re not fickle. We just don’t like you.” Hughes, for sound reasons, is widely admired.

    Some United diehards believe that Hughes has brought it on himself by denigrating his former club, that he has fuelled the enmity.

    And while the neutrals would point to Ferguson doing more than his share of the stirring, including the deliberately incendiary stuff about “we could have won 7-0” on Sunday, it has been notable how Hughes has sought to distance himself from his former club, to be his own man.

    Perhaps it indicates that he is now working with a renewed certainty at City, having survived the threat of José Mourinho last season and gained solid backing from his wealthy Arab bosses.

    Hughes speaks these days with a striking self-belief for someone not given to boasts. “I have been a Premier League manager for five years and a manager for more than ten,” he said recently. “I am comfortable in what I do and I back my judgment, and my staff, against anybody in the Premier League.”

    Despite reservations from the City board, Hughes stuck firmly to his judgment in driving through the purchase of Craig Bellamy last season. How inspired that looked on Sunday as Robinho, either unfit or fitful, sat in the stands.

    Perhaps Hughes has simply decided that City can provide everything for him, that he does not need to yearn to be United manager. He is certainly acting as though prepared for his popularity at Old Trafford to be a casualty of the escalating tension.

    Former colleagues at Old Trafford are taken aback, not only by his success (they never had the introverted forward down as a manager) but by his apparent willingness to set himself up as an outsider — but, after the past few days, they had better get used to it.

    How ironic it will be if the best of the young managers to have played and learnt under Ferguson, his potential heir, was the one most indifferent about going back.

    The glory of Sir Bobby – something we can all agree on

    In an industry where ten minutes of a monosyllabic player’s time is something for which we are meant to be grateful, Sir Bobby Robson stood out like the magnificent Durham Cathedral, where his life was fondly remembered yesterday.

    Again and again, those providing tributes referred to the generosity of Robson’s spirit, the time he would give not only to those he knew but to strangers — even to those newspapermen who were not always his greatest admirers. I was one of the many thousands who benefited from that warm nature when researching a book about Diego Maradona. He promised a quick chat but was still talking more than two hours later about “that little rascal”.

    Robson would not let his ire over the “Hand of God” diminish his appreciation of Maradona the player. So, unsure that I had fully appreciated an important point about Maradona’s ability to take the ball on the half-turn, Robson came out from behind the restaurant table and performed some phantom moves. The waitresses, like everyone else, were spellbound as Robson fox-trotted across the floor. He was more than 70 at the time.

    Those couple of hours were among the most enjoyable ever spent in this job for the reason captured yesterday by the Bishop of Newcastle. “When you walked away, a little of his sparkle clung to you,” he said. Inside Durham Cathedral hundreds of heads nodded, notable ones, too, such as Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps the greatest of managers.

    “It is one of the privileges of my life to have met Bobby and been enthused by him,” he said in an address delivered without notes and straight from the heart.

    Ferguson spoke movingly of how, as an awe-struck young Aberdeen manager preparing to face Robson’s mighty Ipswich Town, he came south on a scouting trip and was stunned when his rival invited him to watch training, to spy on the enemy.

    “That was one of his fundamental truths about football,” Ferguson noted. “No secrets. Impart your knowledge. His generosity opened your eyes.”

    There will be managers who win more (although not many) but it is very unlikely that any of them will ever be as giving as Robson. He thought nothing of sharing his knowledge, his enthusiasm.