United claimed the first silverware of the new decade thanks to goals in each half from cup final specialist Michael Owen and the super substitute who replaced him – Wayne Rooney.
The latter’s 28th strike of the season edged an entertaining Carling Cup final in favour of the Reds, who therefore retained a cup for the first time in the club’s history. The prospects of this had looked grim after just five minutes when Nemanja Vidic pulled down Gabriel Agbonlahor – but avoided a red card – and James Milner put Aston Villa 1-0 up from the penalty spot.
But Owen’s latest goal in a domestic showpiece – he netted for a certain former club in the 2001 FA Cup and 2003 League Cup finals – ensured there was parity for a large portion of the match until Rooney triumphantly headed home 16 minutes from time.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s surprise omission of Rooney from his starting XI was one of six differences to the side which kicked off against Man City in the scintillating semi win. Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes, the banned Nani and the injured Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs were also out; in came Tomasz Kuszczak, Nemanja Vidic, Antonio Valencia, Ji-sung Park and the front pair of Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen.
One of the mainstays, and United skipper for the day, Patrice Evra had to defend acrobatically inside the first minute to repel a free-kick from Ashley Young on Villa’s left flank. The resulting corner was also dealt with but Martin O’Neill’s men had posted an early warning, one which the Reds failed to heed. Moments later, Gabriel Agbonlahor broke beyond the backline and when Nemanja Vidic hauled him down, there were no arguments as referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot.