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Five things we learned from the Carling Cup

Major takeaways from Mickey Mouse Cup

By | 22nd September 2011

The return of the Carling Cup had plenty of entertainment to offer and although there will always be those who dismiss the value of English football’s fourth-tier competition, there were several important lessons to be learned from what we saw this midweek.

Lesson 1: Hargeaves can come good: Roberto Mancini’s signing of injury-plagued Owen Hargreaves brought the inevitable slew of crock jokes, especially in the wake of the infamous YouTube videos featuring the former Manchester United and Bayern Munich midfielder. But a thunderbolt strike on his debut, along with a solid 57 minutes, indicate that Hargreaves might yet have a role to play at City’s revolution, and could prove to be a rare instance where City find a successful player without splashing the cash. If Hargreaves can replicate the form that made him an essential part of England’s national side a few years back, he might just turn out to be the missing piece to City’s plans for domination.

Lesson 2: Wolves remember how to score: After three straight blanks in their last three league matches, including two defeats, Wolves’s good start to the season was quickly being forgotten. But a side comprised mainly of fringe players still managed a 5-0 demolition of Millwall in front of the Molineux faithful, which should go a long way in restoring confidence for Mick McCarthy and co. Dorus De Vries, Matt Doherty, Dave Edwards, Adam Hammill, Nenad Milijas, and Sam Vokes all started, with James Spray coming off the bench, none of whom have a start in the Premier League this year. Edwards, Hammill, and Spray all scored, along with first-team regulars George Elokobi and Adlene Guediora.

Lesson 3: United showcase depth: A Manchester United side made mostly of reserves eased their way to a 3-0 win at Elland Road. Michael Owen made his first appearance of the season, and the 31-year old took his chance, grabbing a brace. Dimitar Berbatov also  started, but the Bulgarian was unable to put his name on the score sheet. Ben Amos made a rare start in goal, with youngsters Federico Macheda, Ezekiel Fryers, Paul Pogba, and Larnell Cole all featuring and holding their own against the Championship side. Alex Ferguson’s  ability to rotate players not only provides meaningful experience for the younger members of his squad, but also gives United a good chance of progressing and potentially winning another trophy.

Lesson 4: Chelsea can win on penalties: Despite having a poor record in the dreaded shootout in recent years, Chelsea were able to survive more than 70 minutes with ten men to take Fulham to penalties and win at Stamford Bridge. Alex’s sending off right after half-time threw the Blues into disarray, with the Brazilian defender’s foul also giving Patjim Kasami the chance to give Martin Jol’s side the lead. But with half-time substitute Ross Turnbull fresh in goal, the crossbar denied Kasami and Fulham. Andre Villas-Boas put out a side with a solid mix of youth and experience, and the Portugese manager so fond of winning cup competitions whilst at Porto saw his side prevail at home, with little-used Turnbull the unlikely hero.

Lesson 5: The Shots continue impressive run: Aldershot Town were an unlikely bet to make it to the last 16. With 11 Premier League representatives, and 5 from the Championship, Aldershot Town are the only side from League 2, and hence the lowest ranked side left. Currently 11th in League 2 after nine matches, the Hampshire-based club are just six points off the summit and were feeling confident after upsetting West Ham and Carlisle United in the two previous rounds, before dispatching of Rochdale 2-1 midweek. Any draw will be a tough one, but for a club celebrating their 20th anniversary (a reincarnation of the now defunct Aldershot FC), the last 16 of a cup competition will be something to savour regardless.

Do you feel the Carling Cup is still relevant, or are you just looking forward to the return of the Premier League action this weekend?

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