Scunthorpe 2 Manchester United 5: Michael Owen strikes twice as holders turn in five star performance without Sir Alex Ferguson

September 22nd, 2010

Vintage finish: Michael Owen tucks away his first of the game in trademark style to make it 3-1

Sir Alex Ferguson missed only the third game of his 24-year Manchester United reign as he travelled to Spain to watch next week’s Champions League opponents Valencia.

News of his side’s rampant display from the less glamorous setting of Glanford Park would have delighted him.

Despite starting nervously against Ian Baraclough’s progressive Scunthorpe side, United recovered from falling behind to an early goal to ease past their Championship opponents with some clinical football.

Ferguson will also be pleased to hear positive reports from Mike Phelan about the late contribution of £7.4million signing Bebe.

The 20- year-old was only on the field for 16 minutes and the first three of those were spent with his hands on his hips as a pitch invader – naked apart from his socks – did a couple of lengths of the field.

Big day out: Substitute Bebe is held up by Scunthorpe skipper Byrne as he makes his United debut

But when the youngster was finally given his opportunity he acquitted himself well. He would appear to have pace to spare and he may even have scored a spectacular goal, only for his ambitious shot to take a deflection and spin over the crossbar.

Earlier in the day Ferguson had given an interview to CNN and offered some insight in to why he had bought such an unknown player.

The manager said: ‘It was a bit of a leap into the dark really because we hadn’t seen him play but we sent down one of our scouts and he came back and said: “There’s something exceptional here, we’ll maybe be seeing something really special”.

‘So we took the gamble. It was one of those instinctive things. You have a smell about something and you take it. Since he’s joined, we’ve been working on him physically. He’s played one reserve game and you’ll see the progress now.’

For Bebe, there will be bigger nights. Certainly, there are likely to be bigger tests for him in this competition.

Ferguson should stick with the team on view on Wednesday night – with one or two noteable exceptions – through a tournament he has won with the help of under-strength sides for the last two years.

Scunthorpe more than contributed to a good tie. Their fluent, aggressive football ensured they were a threat all night. Indeed, United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak made more saves than his counterpart Joe Murphy.

Scunthorpe were particulary potent from distance and United’s Polish goalkeeper was busy on at least 10 occasions.

Overall, however, United were impressive in the way in which they took their chances and recovered after Josh Wright’s goal from distance.

Wright and midfield counterpart Martyn Woolford were impressive throughout. It was just a shame for the home fans that strikers Jonathan Forte and Chris Dagnall were not quite as dangerous.

The 10 minutes which followed Wright’s goal proved decisive. At the time they looked capable of stretching their lead as United had started poorly, with Rio Ferdinand looking decidedly out of sorts and United’s midfield unable to secure any kind of prolonged possession.

Had Baraclough’s team scored again then, the game may have got away from United. As it was, they equalised out of nothing as Darron Gibson ran on to Chris Smallings long pass down the right to lob Murphy from a tight angle.

Scunthorpe captain Cliff Byrne then headed a corner over when he should have scored and United exacted the most painful form of punishment when Smalling himself – still upfield following a poorly-cleared corner – diverted a low cross from Park Ji-Sung in to the goal from close range to give his side an unexpected lead at half-time.

After the break Scunthorpe attempted to take the game back to United but their play became a little gung-ho and United picked them off twice on the counter before the hour.

Federico Macheda, disappointing on the whole, played Michael Owen clear for the former England striker to score with little fuss and then Park – strangely absent from the United first team recently – drove a low shot home from just inside the penalty area.

Caretaker boss Baraclough must have felt a little aggrieved. His team had done little wrong. By now, however, United were in their element and this was turning in to a very good night for the likes of Owen, Park, Gibson and Brazilian midfielder Anderson.

Owen was to score again in the 71st minute as he reacted first after Murphy could only parry Park’s low shot but there was to be a closing moment of happiness for the home team as their most impressive player, Woolford, stuck out a leg to give Scunthorpe a second goal in added time.

United assistant manager Phelan was asked if Ferguson had shown Scunthorpe a lack of respect by choosing to stay away.


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