Fletcher: Reds have a little extra

Simon Stone

Darren Fletcher believes Manchester United will have cause to be thankful for Wayne Rooney's last-gasp Carling Cup winner when they visit Arsenal on Sunday.

Not only did Rooney's stoppage-time header book a Wembley clash with Aston Villa next month, it also avoided United having to face a draining extra half an hour against Manchester City -- time that would have made recovery harder for the encounter at the Emirates Stadium.

"Apart from winning us the tie, the good thing about Wayne's goal was that it saved us going into extra time," said the Scotland midfielder.

"That would not have been the ideal preparation for a visit to the Emirates because we know how important this weekend is. But that is what being a Manchester United player is all about -- a massive semi-final during the week then a few days later another (big) one in the league."

United must travel south without Rio Ferdinand after the central defender picked up an additional match suspension, on top of the automatic three-game ban for violent conduct, because the FA disciplinary panel deemed he made a frivolous appeal against a charge brought against him after his attack on Hull's Craig Fagan last Saturday.

Now Chelsea have scrambled back to the top of the table with a game in hand, the need for a win is acute.

Until last season's Champions League semi-final, United had never won at Arsenal's impressive new home, but that decisive victory will have given the Red Devils confidence.

Meanwhile, Ferguson has already recorded a big win over Wenger by signing Fulham's Chris Smalling, 20.

He will join on a four-year deal in the summer, and Ferguson said: "He will be a great asset to the club."