Sport Soccer

Monday 20 November 2017

‘We have to get this result out of our system’

Tim Rich

‘Shocked’ Ferguson to make changes for League Cup semi-final against City

AFTER suffering his worst defeat in the FA Cup, Alex Ferguson rounded on his players and promised sweeping changes for Manchester United’s Carling Cup semi-final with Manchester City.

Before yesterday’s 1-0 reverse at home to Leeds, Ferguson had never suffered elimination in the third round of the competition and had never lost to lower-league opposition. For it to have happened at Old Trafford and against one of the club’s great rivals, who are now in League One, left the Manchester United manager “shocked”.

“We have to get this out of our system,” he said. “You have to get over these kind of results quickly. We have a semi-final on Wednesday night and a lot of these players here today won’t be playing. You have to view that performance in the right light. I had a team in mind but there will be one or two changes now.”

The afternoon began badly for United with the withdrawal of Nemanja Vidic just before kick-off. According to the club’s assistant manager, Mike Phelan, the Serb defender injured himself in the warm-up and told Ferguson he was not fit to play. Significantly, given Vidic’s reported desire for a transfer, Ferguson’s only comment on the centre-half was a curt: “I could not tell you what the situation is with Nemanja.”

Ferguson, who even during the Yorkshire club’s great revival at the turn of the century, had never before lost to Leeds at Old Trafford, was critical of referee Chris Foy’s decision to award five minutes of stoppage time, calling it “an insult to the game and the players out there.” By saying that, Ferguson risks triggering the two-match ban which was suspended by the FA after his criticism of referee Alan Wiley’s fitness. However, rarely did Manchester United look like breaking through.

“I was shocked at the performance,” Ferguson acknowledged afterwards. “We didn’t start right and Leeds did. They fought like tigers but you expect that from any team coming to Old Trafford. I don’t think any of our players can say they had a good day apart from Antonio Valencia when we got the ball to him – but that took about 10 minutes. It’s a disappointment. Human beings can always surprise you but we didn’t expect that.”

After becoming the first Leeds manager since Allan Clarke in 1981 to oversee a victory at Old Trafford, Simon Grayson acknowledged he might have a fight to retain the services of goalscorer, Jermaine Beckford, who is out of contract at the end of a season in which he has now scored 20 times. Newcastle are among a number of clubs thought to be interested in the 26-year-old’s services.

“We have stressed there will be three scenarios with Jermaine,” said Grayson. “He signs a new contract, he leaves at the end of the season or we sell him and get some money, if we think it is too good an opportunity to turn down.

“He has shown here what he is all about. He has worked ever so hard for the team, he has taken his opportunity, he has scored five goals in the last three games. Strikers are a precious commodity and Leeds won’t be letting him go on the cheap. We hope we don’t have to sell him but money talks with any player.”

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