Old Trafford looked to be about two thirds full, no doubt down to United’s record of going out of the competition to Championship sides in the last two seasons and also United charging full admission for the match. The match had the air of a pre-season friendly about it as there was virtually no tempo to the game. Ronaldo started the match trying various flicks and turns, almost as if himself believed the match was beneath him (he probably did – must be the first time he’s played in the third round of the League Cup for a long time). United had much the better of the first half, with the youngsters of Da Silva at right back and Possebon in midfield being particularly impressive. Amos in goal had little to do, and Wellbeck showed some good touches, but made some errors of judgement in his passing. Ronaldo got United’s first from a corner, showing his aerial ability matches his ability on the ground.
Middlesbrough changed things round in midfield in the second half, and came more into the game as a result, and got an equaliser with the aid of a deflection after about an hour. It was after that goal that the incident the match will probably be most remembered for – Emmanuel Pogatetz with a terrible challenge on Possebon, which looks to have broken the young chap’s leg. What was most infuriating about the incident was that it was malicious – the replays proved that – but Pogatetz had the audacity to argue his sending off as he left the pitch.
Fittingly, the defensive player brought on to cover for Pogatetz goofed up and passed a ball straight to Giggs for a clean run on goal to restore United’s lead, and Nani got a third from another mistake deep into injury time (nine minutes due to the treatment of Possebon).
It was a pleasing performance from United, who got a result without really appearing to try that hard, and showed that some of the youngsters on the books would be worth a look in the Premier League, especially now that 7 substitutes can be used. However, what the match is most likely to throw up is more media analysis of how reckless tackles should be punished, and how blatant disrespect like Pogatetz should be dealt with. As the match was not broadcast live in the UK, and the competition has a much lower profile than the Premier League, the bare outrage will probably not reach that of the tackle involving Arsenal’s Eduardo last season, but it is another entry in the long list of why so many people are being turned off top flight football.