By Chris Wright
Manchester United just about did enough to deserve their 2-1 victory over Aston Villa in yesterday’s Carling Cup final at Wembley.
Wayne Rooney will undoubtedly steal the headlines again after coming on as a substitute to nod the winning goal but it was the United team’s resolve that won the match for them – not their talisman alone.
After going behind to a James Milner penalty early on, United fired into life and got themselves back into the match almost immediately by means of a classic Michael Owen finish.
Rooney replaced the injured Owen just before half time and duly won the tie for United with a well-placed header, but Villa continued to battle away and kept themselves in the match admirably with a gutsy – but ultimately fruitless – performance.
Here’s how I rated yesterday’s winners and ‘first runners-up’…
Kuszczak Had little to do overall but looked perfectly able when called into action, most notably his good save from Milner early on. 6.5
Rafael Looked naive at times. Supported Valencia eagerly but made a few too many needless fouls. Subbed off after an hour due to injury. 6
Vidic Struggled with Agbonlahor’s pace and movement throughout the game, especially when the young forward gravitated out toward the left flank. It was his clumsy foul (for which he should have been dismissed) on Agbonlahor that gave Milner the chance to put Villa ahead from the spot. 5
Evans Again lacked the concentration needed in big games. Responsible for a defensive mix-up with Vidic and Kuszczak late in the first half which could have easily resulted in conceding a soft goal. 5.5
Evra Pretty much a standard display from the French left back. Good enterprising offensive play mixed with competent defensive work. 6.5
Valencia Quiet start that built to an impressive finale. Played much better once Rooney came on. 7
Fletcher OK and nothing more. Usual blend of sharp tackling and short passing. 6.5
Carrick Kept under and over hitting set piece deliveries and didn’t pick a decent pass until the second half, but steadily grew in confidence thereafter. Wasted his first two chances to test Friedel but forced a good save from the Villa keeper with his third. 6
Park Spirited performance from the South Korean. Surged up in support of every United attack and even instigated a few of his own. As hard working as ever but, unfortunately, as flawed too (he seems to lack the confidence to shoot from range, or to go for the killer ball). Replaced late on. 7
Owen A ‘vintage Owen’ strike for his goal but sadly a ‘vintage Owen’ muscle snag shortly after. Looked lively until his plasticine hamstrings gave up on him again, forcing him off after just 40 minutes. 6.5
Berbatov Lovely hold-up and link play coupled with a bit of defensive