|1||Van der Sar|
The Carling Cup may not top the list of priorities at the start of the season, but there's no denying how sweet the feeling is to reach the final this year at the expense of our Manchester neighbours. Goals from Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and another dramatic injury-time derby winner, this time from Wayne Rooney, sent the Reds to Wembley at the end of an enthralling 180 minutes of semi-final football.
After all City's posturing since they struck gold with their change of ownership, this was hard evidence that Manchester's football hierarchy remains intact - and United's fans relished hammering home the point after the final whistle.
The Reds had every right to feel aggrieved at trailing 2-1 after the first-leg. United had controlled large swathes of the match at Eastlands, and remarkably a frantic last 20 minutes had not yielded a second goal. As for City’s two efforts, the penalty for Carlos Tevez’s first was highly contentious, while the decision to award a corner kick in the lead-up to the Argentinian’s second could also be questioned.
That sense of injustice, added to fans’ desire to keep City’s trophyless years ticking by – not forgetting a Wembley final and trophy defence at stake – meant expectations were ramped up for this fixture, as were the noise levels. Sir Alex predicted an atmosphere akin to a top European night; he wasn’t to be disappointed. To a man, the entire Old Trafford crowd - with 9,000 visiting fans raising the stakes – were up for this one.
Rio Ferdinand’s decision to appeal his FA misconduct charge meant he was eligible to play and, with Sir Alex seeking continuity in defence, it was an unchanged back five from Saturday’s 4-0 league victory over Hull. Man of the moment and scorer of all four goals that day, Wayne Rooney, led the charge up front. Sir Alex stuck with the 4-5-1 that served so well at Eastlands, with Nani’s impressive recent displays earning him a spot on the right of