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Shay's dream in Roo-ns

Late heroics by Wayne means Given still no closer to winner's enclosure SHAY Given must sometimes look to the sky and wonder whether he will ever feel the joy created by the simple act of winning a medal.

No matter how much personal satisfaction he can take from his career to date and despite the ever growing chorus of admirers singing his praises, Given woke today with the certain knowledge that another opportunity has passed him by.

Twice, now, in the past three months he has experienced the raw pain of loss: first the World Cup, and now the Carling Cup.


His understandable desire to adorn a privileged life as a professional footballer with the trinkets that would underline a prodigious talent took him from a settled life and hero worship in Newcastle to Eastlands.

Everything about the move to Manchester City was right and remains so despite the disappointment of last night's Carling Cup exit. Chris Hughton and his Toon team are marching inexorably towards the Championship title but that's not the kind of silverware Given covets.

Had he stayed and won promotion, Newcastle's ambition for the coming seasons would have centred around Premier League survival and little else. Over the coming seasons with Roberto Mancini and Manchester City, many more chances will present themselves and, unless Given is completely jinxed, he will eventually fulfil his ambitions.

But, for the moment, it must seem like he will never win anything.

He had just one serious save to make against Manchester United at Old Trafford and experienced nothing like the pressure he felt in the first leg when his heroics allowed City to travel across town with something more than hope in their hearts for the return game.

Yet the most significant thing he did was to pick the ball out of his own net -- three times; the last after Wayne Rooney had scored his 21st goal of the season in all competitions and reasserted United's Manchester derby dominance.

This was a game billed as a potentially pivotal point in the life of Alex Ferguson -- a local battle for bragging rights fought against a background of massive debt and declining influence.


Garry Cook's brash boast about City's imminent ascension to the summit of world football may have provided a handy motivational tool for Ferguson when he gave his pre-match team talk, but the cash behind the rash words is real enough.

So too were the two goals scored by Carlos Tevez at Eastlands and the fact that City remain close to the pace at the top of the Premier League.

Add in the atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding the Glazer family's finances and there was weight in the notion that the greatest manager of the modern era was fast approaching the worst moment in any career: retirement day.

But Ferguson responded as he has always done when the doubters' voices become credible and called on his main men to shoulder the job of sustaining his reputation. His old reliables.

Before the game, he told us that the hard-won and now hard-wired memory of winning contained in his squad would be the key factor in deciding which team would win the right to go to Wembley for the final, and he was right.


Paul Scholes delivered first and set the scales back in balance.

A moment of casual genius from Rooney set up the move which delivered a goal for Michael Carrick and, with the sand down to a final trickle, Old Trafford's resident Scouser delivered the coup de grace.

But not before Carlos Tevez blew another raspberry at his old boss and the noticeably absent Gary Neville, who paid the price for a loose mouth and crass stupidity.

If there is an expression which covers anger, irritation, envy, embarrassment and disgust, it was etched across Ferguson's face when Tevez scored his third goal of the tie. No doubt Neville's too.

At that moment it looked like Fate had reserved a particularly galling helping of humble pie for Ferguson and the legion of United fans who booed Tevez and proved just how short memories are in the Barclays Premier League these days.

No matter what happened between Ferguson and Tevez last season and during the summer, the Old Trafford faithful have quickly forgotten the commitment and honest endeavour the Argentinian devoted to Manchester United and the part he played in winning the title.

Tevez left the pitch after the game via a series of friendly exchanges with his former team-mates, images that must have left the hapless Neville seething inwardly. Genuine popularity is earned and is never contrived.

Privately, even Ferguson would admit his admiration for Tevez's defiance and fantastic fighting spirit.

Qualities like that will make City a formidable force over the rest of the season and could yet play the lead role in an FA Cup run which might just deliver Given's heart's desire.

With the required volume of fine wine, Fergie might even concede that Tevez in red would give Manchester United a much greater chance of winning one or both of the big prizes on offer this season.

While the two sides of Manchester were squabbling over the season's least important trinket, Chelsea put Birmingham to the sword with clinical efficiency and shrugged off the absence of Drogba, Essien, Mikel and Kalou to return to the top of the Premier League.


Ferguson knows that the real threat to his empire comes from Carlo Ancelotti and not Mancini. Chelsea look strong and confident, as well they might.

The African Nations Cup is an extra series of fixtures for Ancelotti but with no benefit to Chelsea from games won by his players in Angola.

Yet his squad his shown itself to be robust and resilient. In fact, it's fair to say that Chelsea have played some of their best football since Ancelotti took over in the past few weeks.

With so little separating the top three sides, any decent run of form at all could be hugely significant. Chelsea look the most likely to break free.

But now that he has dealt with domestic business successfully, Ferguson will hope for a bounce and some momentum as he heads for London and a game which is so much more important than his local disagreement with City.

Defeat by City would have shrouded the journey south in gloom but Sunday's clash with Arsenal comes at just the right time.