Manchester United
League Cup Final

Sunday 1st March 2009


Last year Spurs faced the second best side in the Premier League at Wembley in the League Cup Final and came home with the trophy, when we went to the national stadium with a poor record stretching back years against the Pensioners. 

So, what's different this year apart from the fact that the opponents are not only the best team in the Premier League, but the best team in Europe and the best team in the world !!

Even if it is not their strongest first XI that Alex Ferguson sends out, the players have been going through their league campaign, not only winning, but being seriously tight at the back.  Maybe Ferguson could go into banking when he retires as United manager to help the ailing economy !

But both clubs do not regard this as their major priority this season.  Spurs have already shipped out of the FA Cup (at the hands of United) and the UEFA Cup a couple of days back, while United are looking to shinier prizes such as the Premier League title and the Champions League.  For Tottenham it is not a piece of silverware they are looking for elsewhere, but the financial holy grail of staying in the top flight.  The win over Hull City helps that and hopefully, with a more stable side they can go on to make sure they gain the required points total to avoid relegation.

One of the issues for Tottenham is that the players have chopped and changed for each competition and this can't help get an understanding going.  While United are rotating their squad, it is a case of being able to decide when to do so and to drop a player into a position he is used to playing rather than fitting the available resources into the eleven places in the team.  For this game a lot of players are cup-tied and the wait on Ledley King's fitness test is a worry.  He didn't look fully fit at Hull, but his presence helps the team sometimes.  However, against United, who work so hard on and off the ball, every Tottenham player will need to be 100% for at least 90 minutes.  While Ledley is one of the outstanding players of the club's defenders, a harsh decision might have to be made if he isn't up to the game.

United have said they will field youngsters Darron Gibson and Danny Welbeck in their starting line-up, while Tottenham will look to field the side that did so well in the progress to the final, albeit without Fraizer Campbell, who has done well for the side in this competition.  Rooney is being called in to start upfront with Welbeck and this will cause Spurs problems as they are both strong and good runners with the ball, so our defenders will have to be aware of their movement.  With our midfield likely to be packed to try to stop getting over-run, it will probably leave Roman Pavlyuchenko up front on his own.  Maybe slightly better than Darren Bent at holding the ball up, the Russian will need to be strong and realise that he might have to wait for support.  Aaron Lennon can be a key player, as he was last year and his pace in taking Patrice Evra on will be one of the vital battles in the match.  Also, he is one player who can move from a defensive duty to attack very quickly, so he needs to be providing an option for Pav, when the ball is played up to him.  Goal-scoring has been a problem area for Spurs this season and with a strong defence up against them, it might be even tougher.

With a few games within a week being played by a variety of Tottenham players, some might be carrying a knock or two, but the adrenalin will need to overcome any aches or pains as they will need to be ready to put everything in, while having the league match against Middlesbrough in the back of their minds on Wednesday - an equally important game.

The one weakness in the United side might be in goal, with Edwin van der Sar being omitted and either Ben Foster or Tomas Kuczszak taking the gloves.  Neither is a regular in goal and thus might have some communication problems with the defenders in front of them and neither is up to the standard of the Dutch record breaking clean-sheeter.  It will be a case of having to put pressure on the keeper and follow up shots in case they are spilled, but that will need Spurs to work the ball through midfield and get around Pavlyuchenko to produce some chances.

A clean sheet will be needed by Spurs if there is to be any repeat of last season's success and while we managed it against United at the Lane earlier in the season, they were not in full flow then.  While anything can happen in a one-off match, this one will be against the toughest of opponents and the form they are in, unfortunately, it will be a case of going to Wembley and enjoying the day out ...

PREDICTION : -  Manchester United  2     Tottenham Hotspur   0

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


MANCHESTER UNITED :  -  Rafael (broken ankle); Owen Hargreaves (knee); - (-); - (-); - (-); 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Jermain Defoe (foot); Alan Hutton (foot); Robbie Keane (cup-tied); Wilson Palacios (cup-tied); Carlo Cudicini (cup-tied); Frazier Campbell (ineligible to play against his home club); - (-); - (-); - (-); - (-); 


Sky Sports 1 - (live coverage)
Carling Cup Final highlights  (ITV 1) - Sunday 23.15 - 24.15 (highlights)
For coverage in all parts of the world, check here and here

Radio :  
BBC LONDON 94.9FM (London area only), Digital Radio (London area only) &  Sky Channel 0152
 (live coverage)
BBC Radio Five Live (live coverage)  606/939 MW

If available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard in these countries on these stations ...
Australia (Melbourne) SEN  -  116 AM  Live Transmissions: TWI, Saturday. 12.45 & 1500 matches
Australia (Sydney)  Radio 2  -  1611AM  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 12.45 Match
Singapore Media Corp Radio  -  93.8 FM  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 15.00 Match
South Africa  SABC (Radio 2000)  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 15.00 Match
Uganda  Radio 1 (English) 90.0 FM, Radio 2 (Lugandan) 87.9 FM  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 15.00 Match
North America (USA, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean)  Sirius Satellite Radio  Live transmission: Saturday - 12.45, 15.00 (TWI) & 17.15 (BBC) Sunday - 14.00 & 16.05 (BBC) Mon, Tue, Wed - Various times (BBC)

Internet :   Live webcast  - subscribers only
BBC London -
click on link to "Listen to Tottenham Hotspur live commentary" on top right hand menu.




Manchester United   0   Tottenham Hotspur    0      (Half-time score : 0-0)  (0-0 after extra time)  Man U win 4-1 on penalties

League Cup Final
Venue : -  Wembley
Sunday 1st March 2009
Kick Off :  3.00 p.m.
Crowd :   88,212
Referee :  Chris Foy (St. Helens)
Spurs kicked off and played towards the United end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Dry, mild
Teams : - 
Manchester United :

12  Foster

22  O'Shea      (15  Vidic 76)
23  Evans
  5  Ferdinand  (c)
  3  Evra

  7  Ronaldo     
16  Scholes     
28  Gibson  (11  Giggs 91)
17  Nani

32  Tevez
19  Welbeck  (  8  Anderson 56)

Unused subs: 
29  Kuszczak
13  Park
34  Possebon
42  Eckersley

Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes

22  Corluka
20  Dawson
26  King (c)
32  Assou-Ekotto

  7  Lennon (  5  Bentley 102)
  8  Jenas (  3  Bale 98)
  4  Zokora
14  Modric

10  Bent
  9  Pavlyuchenko (24  O'Hara 65)

Unused subs: 
27  Alnwick
  6  Huddlestone
16  Gunter
19  Taarabt

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Manchester United

Tottenham Hotspur
Scorers : -  
Manchester United


Pens : -
Giggs - scored
Tevez - scored
Ronaldo - scored
Anderson - scored

Tottenham Hotspur


Pens : -
O'Hara - saved
Corluka - scored
Bentley - missed

Cards : -  
Manchester United

O'Shea (foul)  57
Ronaldo (simulation)  67
Scholes (foul)  109


Tottenham Hotspur 




Match Report : -  
When Spurs battled through 120 minutes of the League Cup Final with chances to win it, the moment the decision fell to a penalty shoot-out, it had an ominous air about the outcome for Tottenham.

But there was enough to be proud about in the preceding action to give the club a lot of hope for the future, although, with Tottenham, it is always about producing these sort of performances on a regular basis.

The pre-match talk was all about United and there were no great expectations about Spurs, but the side put aside worries of relegation for a few hours and gave their all against United to keep them goal-less for the second time this season.  Not only that, but the game echoed the league meeting at the Lane in December, with Tottenham having enough chances to win it and the Red Devils also testing the Spurs defence.

The opening period of the game was controlled by United, who were passing crisply and moving the ball around, as Spurs chased after them.  Early on, Assou-Ekotto signalled his intent with a crunching tackle on Ronaldo and his performance against the tricky winger was impressive.  Two chances fell United's way in the first five minutes, causing Spurs problems.  Firstly, Carlos Tevez flicked over when Evra crossed to him and then, when the Argentinian broke away, Zokora fouled him as he bore down on goal.  30 yards from goal, it was obvious that Ronaldo would try to produce one of his trademark free-kicks, but this time his well-struck shot flew over the bar with Heurelho Gomes under it had it dipped on target.

Giving the ball to United is not something the team did too much, apart from clearances to nobody in particular when under pressure.  However, Assou-Ekotto passed out of defence across the pitch straight to Evra and his ball into Tevez was set up for Ronaldo to hit a shot at goal, but it lacked power and direction to beat Gomes and it was caught comfortably.  Darron Gibson was the next to have a pop at goal and his shot failed to test Gomes, as it curled about a yard wide from outside the box.

Tottenham were having trouble getting out of their own half.  Modric was having difficulty getting on the ball without time, as United's high tempo start pushed Spurs back.  With 14 minutes gone, Nani cut in from their left wing to hit a low shot on goal from 18 yards and Gomes turned it round for a corner, although the ball initially seemed to be going wide, but might have crept inside his near post.  A corner came in and while they have been Spurs' failing lately, they were dealt with competently today.

With some slick passing, Tottenham began to get a hold in the match.  Playing the ball around on the right wing, Corluka slipped Lennon in and pulled the ball back over a diving Foster to try and find Roman Pavlyuchenko, but Rio Ferdinand got there first to get the ball away.  Ferdinand went close in the 24th minute, when a corner was cleared to him outside the penalty area where he controlled the ball on his thigh and then hit a powerful volley that dipped onto the top of the net.

Aaron Lennon was a major threat to United and when Assou-Ekotto picked him out form the other side of the pitch, he went around Nani like he wasn't there and his cross was kicked out by Evans.  Playing on Evra, who was not well protected by Nani, was a tactic that Harry had probably picked out and it paid off, but the final ball into the box was lacking although Lennon was not probably helped by the lack of movement by the two Spurs forwards.  Pav was a bit better than Bent, but neither succeeded in losing their markers often enough and Bent often ran into areas where he put a United player between him and the man on the ball.

Chris Foy had a poor game in charge.  O'Shea crashed Modric down after he skipped away from the ageing Scholes and got away with no more punishment than a free-kick.  Scholes also got away with fouls before he finally got booked for a poor tackle that was late, but that was later into extra time. 

Spurs made a chance in the 35th minute when a cross from the left was headed by Pavlyuchenko, but he needed to glance it rather than get a firm head to the ball, putting it well wide.  Pav didn't have his best game, but was played in a 4-4-2 system that was designed to give the United back four something to think about and the Russian would have been confident after scoring in each round up to the final.  However, he would have needed Peter Crouch on his shoulders to reach Zokora's cross from the right, as he raced clear and crossed over everyone.  If his first touch had taken him straight rather than going wide, he could have had a shot, but you know what a Didier shot means !!  Corluka put in a cross over Bent's head before United almost broke the deadlock, with Tevez getting the ball with his back to goal and he tried to twist and turn, but his shot was blocked by Michael Dawson, who had a fine match.

Twice in the closing minutes of the first half Lennon got free and one cross was wasted, while the other tried to pick out Bent, but Ferdinand got there first.  The corner was cleared and the half-time whistle blew to give everyone a rest after an eventful first half.  Spurs had done well after a testing first twenty five minutes and were coming into the game a bit more with Lennon a key player.

The early chances of the first half fell to United.  Restarting with the same elevens that left the field at the end of the first half, United started with pace and Modric brought down Ronaldo to concede a free-kick, which the Portuguese international fired well wide of the goal.  The winger also had a chance a minute later, but with the goal opening up in front of him, he knocked the ball across and it was cleared. 

To prove it wasn't Pavyluchenko's day, he grabbed the ball off Modric when Spurs had a free-kick outside of the corner of the box and wanted to fire it powerfully at goal, but only succeeded in firing it powerfully at the person in row 43 of the lower tier.  At the other end, Dawson was putting in his trademark block to deny Gibson, then Ferdinand did the same to Modric's ball into the area.  United made the first change of the game by bringing on Anderson for the disappointing Welbeck, who ran strongly,  but could not get past Dawson or King.

A ball into Jenas saw him leave it for Aaron Lennon, who returned it to him in the box and he took an instinctive first time shot with the outside of his foot and the ball dropped just over and wide of the angle, with Foster struggling.  One more foul by O'Shea finally got a yellow card and had the temerity to complain about it, but Modric's cross failed to cause too much trouble as Foster dealt with it well.  Pavyluchenko was put in when Zokora took the ball off Scholes and set off on a run, but he hit his shot well wide from the right hand side of the box. 

United could have taken the lead with a cheeky goal when Tottenham got a corner away, but it dropped to Johnny Evans, who struck a low shot that Tevez was alive to and tried to flick it thought his legs, but knocked it wide from a yard out.  Then Anderson struck a free-kick well wide before Modric broke away and was hacked down by O'Shea, but the referee once more failed to show his mettle and gave Spurs a throw-in rather than a foul and the second yellow the Irishman deserved.

Tottenham made the change of bringing on Jamie O'Hara for Pavlyuchenko and Modric moved up behind Bent to allow the substitute to play on his natural left side.  In the 67th minute, it was heart in the mouth time as Ronaldo ran in from the right wing, where he found a lot of space and as he went across the face of the area, Ledley King tackled, but appeared to make contact with the winger's leg.  It was in the box, but Ronaldo didn't get what he wanted, but paid the price for going down far too easily on two occasions earlier in the match and was shown the yellow card for diving.

In the 70th minute, the best chance to win the game fell to Lennon on the right side of the area.  King's pass out to the left wing released Assou-Ekotto and Benny put in a low ball into the hear to f the penalty box, where Modric was lurking.  He had the awareness to leave the ball to run through to Aaron, who was in lots of space and perhaps too much, as he hit a strong shot at goal, where Foster beat the ball out and his parry fell just out of reach of Darren Bent, who would have only needed a touch to score.  If Bent had beaten the keeper and the two players in front of him, there was a man on the line who might have cleared it anyway.

With a quarter of an hour to go, Gomes made a good diving save from a 25 yard curling effort from Anderson, before Ferguson brought off O'Shea before he got sent off and replaced him with Vidic.  Modric's influence was becoming stronger and the effort the little man put in was prodigious.  His run after nicking the ball away from Vidic was lung-busting after all the closing down he did.  O'Hara put his body on the line when he got in the way of a Ronaldo free-kick and had to have treatment after taking it in the stomach.

As the seconds ticked away, Spurs moved the ball well and Jermaine Jenas passed it to the wing for Corluka to let Lennon cut into the box, but he was denied a shot by Vidic's intervention.  However, the last word of the 90 minutes was left to Cristiano Ronaldo, who hit a fierce shot cutting in from the right and although he beat Gomes, he did not beat the post, as the ball bounced off it across goal and Nani could not get his foot around it to turn it into the unguarded net.

So, the game entered an extra 30 minutes.  Which wasn't what Tottenham needed with a home league game against Middlesbrough on Wednesday, which is another must-win match.  United added fresh legs in the old legs of Ryan Giggs, but it was Jermaine Jenas who had the first chance of extra time.  He made a long run down the left hand channel and looked like he was going to get a shot off, but Ferdinand got in the way and then, when play switched to the other end and Giggs set up Nani, his shot was straight at Gomes from 12 yards out.

The Spurs midfield had worked really hard and Jenas had been box-to-box the whole game, putting in a good performance, but he was replaced by Gareth Bale to add a bit more attacking intent, but then Lennon went down holding the back of his thigh after trying to keep a ball in play and he had to go off with Bentley replacing him.  The final act of the half was a Tevez header that glanced Nani's cross a fair way wide.

The second half became a real test of fitness, as Dawson also had some serious cramp and Ledley King was playing on memory, having not done 120 minutes since last season's final.  But both players held up well and were getting in the way when United attacked, although Spurs had their chances with O'Hara having a shot blocked, a follow-up blocked and his final effort of the three going way over the bar.  Scholes finally picked up his long awaited yellow card for a cynical foul and it indicated that his time had gone, with his influence on the game being minimal.

It was hoped that Bentley's fresh legs might make a difference, but his first foray saw him bump into Evans and then he put a free-kick from a good position onto the roof of the net rather than putting it into the mixer for the players who had made the trip up from the back to try and get on the end of it. 

Tevez hit a shot wildly over and Evra struck a first time shot after a cross landed at his feet at the far post, but form the edge of the box, he slipped as he hit it and it flew powerfully, but too high.  For Spurs, Bale made a run on goal from halfway, but appeared to come inside onto his right foot instead of shifting it onto his better left and the chance was gone.  As added time was reached, Ronaldo was denied by another Dawson tackle, but then set up Anderson, who could only blast wide again.  If only he would have kept that up.

The final final whistle signalled a penalty shoot out and the penalties were to be taken at the United end.  Giggs took the first one and crashed it in on off the inside of the post, with O'Hara being brave enough take to on the task of the first penalty for Spurs.  He struck it a what is deemed a good height for keeper's and with Foster guessing the right way, he pushed the ball out.  1-0 to United.

Tevez beat Gomes' dive for 2-0 and Charlie Corluka stepped up for the second Tottenham spot-kick.  Coolly lifting the ball over Foster's dive, he made it 2-1.  Ronaldo stepped forward for United's third and converted it by sending Gomes the wrong way, leaving David Bentley to try and keep Tottenham in with a chance.  Unfortunately, he dragged his shot wide of the goal and it was 3-1 to Man U with Anderson left the task of converting to win the trophy.  He did, by putting the ball into the opposite corner of the goal to Gomes' dive and the cup was theirs.

It was a little disappointing that we probably played better today than we did last year and had the chances to create more openings and to score more goals, but the finishing might have been better with Defoe in the side and maybe, the opposition was better this year than Chelsea last year.  For all that, we didn't have much hope going into the game and pushed the World Club Champions all the way.  It is a shame finals have to be settled this way, but if it had gone to a replay (as these things used to in the good old days), it would surely have been another game that Harry wouldn't have wanted to interfere with the league run-in.

And it is now that which takes precedence, with twelve games left to salvage the season.  After last year's victory the season went flat.  This year that cannot happen again.





Reaction : -



Just read the match preview and agreed with it 100% -- this was always going to be difficult to win - having said that we should be proud that we have now played United  twice and kept a clean sheet.

The problem as from the start of the season was who is going to score our goals  ?  We have lacked a cutting edge up front.  Would today have been different with Defoe and Keane ?  Maybe.  It's hard to lose on penalties (what is it with English players and penalties).  I could go on about Bentley should be hitting the target from 12 yards, but he missed and that was it.

I'm more worried that we have burned out for the game against Middlesbrough who will have their tails up after a great victory over Liverpool.  We cannot afford to lose this game against Boro.  The fans need to get behind them from the off. 

Harry and the boys need to earn their crust this week.  We were unlucky today but the writing was on the wall.  Funnily enough, I don't feel to downhearted at losing today as
this relegation battle seems to be my main worry.  Forget today, it's over.  We lost on penalties to the World Club champions and possible FA Cup winners and Premiership champions.  We took them to the wire.

Now put all that positive action into the game against Boro and get those three points as this game is just as important as today game , if not more.


Proud of the way we played today and it bore out the theory that if you take the game to the other side, we are better than trying to defend from the off.

Thought the back four were outstanding today, with Assou-Ekotto the pick of them.  Luka Modric was everywhere and didn't deserve to be on the losing team.  Really, the only one of the starters who disappointed was Bent, who might have sealed his wish to get first team football elsewhere.  His running lacked intelligence and his touch was pretty awful, with only his effort in closing down a credit to him.

Gomes was sound enough, but the number of player who will be worn out or will be carrying entries into Wednesday's match is a worry.  I think that the effort that the team put in was top class and matched United's work-rate.

The only thing lacking from our performance was the final ball and the finish.  In the first half, too many crosses flew too high and in the second half, the shots were delayed too long, giving Foster the chance to set himself.

But a day when we not only matched United, but gave them a tough game, which the side should take heart from and playing that way, they should pick up the points we need against lesser sides than the Red Devils.

aubrey hepburn




ABSOLUTE RADIO PODCAST  -  includes a League Cup preview with Ossie Ardiles, Gerry Francis and Wyart Lane

THE CUP OF SALVATION  -  Marc Keown sees some hope ahead at Wembley.

THE RICHARD KELLY ARTICLES  -  With a Cup Final on the horizon, Richard looks at what we can expect from it.

CARLING CUP FINAL 2009  Simon MacDonald selects his team for the final.



Other League scores this weekend :
Arsenal 0 Fulham 0 Saturday
Chelsea 2 Wigan Athletic 1 Saturday
Everton 2 West Bromwich Albion 0 Saturday
Middlesbrough 2 Liverpool 0 Saturday
Aston Villa 2 Stoke City 2 Sunday
Blackburn Rovers 2 Hull City 1 Sunday
Bolton Wanderers 1 Newcastle United 0 Sunday
West Ham United 1 Manchester City 0 Sunday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 26 19 5 2 46 11 62 +35
2 Chelsea 27 16 7 4 47 16 55 +31
3 Liverpool 27 15 10 2 43 20 55 +23
4 Aston Villa 27 15 7 5 42 27 52 +15
5 Arsenal 27 12 10 5 38 26 46 +13
6 Everton 27 12 8 7 36 28 44 +8
7 West Ham United 27 10 6 11 33 34 36 -1
8 Wigan Athletic 27 9 8 10 27 26 35 +1
9 Fulham 26 8 10 8 24 22 34 +2
10 Bolton Wanderers 27 10 3 14 30 38 33 -8
11 Manchester City 26 9 5 12 43 34 32 +9
12 Sunderland 26 8 7 11 27 33 31 -6
13 Hull City 27 7 8 12 33 50 29 -17
14 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 26 7 7 12 28 32 28 -4
15 Newcastle United 27 6 10 11 33 43 28 -10
16 Portsmouth 26 7 7 12 29 43 28 -14
17 Blackburn Rovers 26 6 8 12 30 43 26 -13
18 Middlesbrough 27 6 8 13 20 36 26 -16
19 Stoke City 27 6 8 13 25 44 26 -19
20 West Bromwich Albion 27 6 4 17 24 51 22 -27


Position before the weekend :  14th
Position after the weekend :  14th

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