Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Nani booked United’s place in the Carling Cup fourth round, but the 3-1 victory over Middlesbrough was marred by a potentially serious injury to Rodrigo Possebon.
The Brazilian midfielder was carried off midway through the second half following a horror tackle from Emanuel Pogatetez who was rightfully dismissed for the offence. Earlier, Ronaldo’s 25th minute header was cancelled out by substitute Adam Johnson’s volley after the break. Giggs calmly put United ahead late on, before Nani slotted home a clincher in the fifth of nine minutes of injury time.
United fans have become accustomed to seeing many of the Reds’ budding young stars when the Carling Cup comes round, but with a number of first team squad members needing to sharpen up their match fitness, Sir Alex opted for a mix of youth and experience in his starting XI. There were debuts for goalkeeper Ben Amos and striker Danny Welbeck, as well as first competitive starts for full-back Rafael da Silva and midfielder Rodrigo Possebon. Ryan Giggs skippered the side, which also featured a host of first team regulars including Cristiano Ronaldo – in his first start of the campaign - Nemanja Vidic and Anderson.
United began the brighter with Giggs and Ronaldo looking particularly menacing, the former almost fashioning a 3rd minute opening for the onrushing Welbeck. But Brad Jones was alert to the danger and came out to punch clear. Soon after, Nani stung the palms of Jones with a fizzing effort, before clipping a near-post effort wide after an impressive build-up.
Further neat interplay involving Welbeck, Ronaldo and Giggs led to a corner and a subsequent opening goal for the Reds on 25 minutes. And it was a familiar name on the scoresheet as Ronaldo held off the attentions of Digard to head home Giggs’ inswinger.