Easy for United understudies
By Richard Jolly
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Louis Saha and Kieran Richardson scored as Manchester United beat Palace 2-0.Manchester United's full-strength team have only won one of their last five Premiership matches, but their second-string side eased into the last eight of the Carling Cup.
Louis Saha and Kieran Richardson scored the first-half goals to see off a similarly depleted Crystal Palace side in a comfortable 2-0 victory.
And in a subplot in English football's bitterest rivalry, the United understudies joined Arsenal's adolescents in the last eight; victory at Old Trafford was accomplished with consummate ease but, arguably, less fanfare about the future.
But though the home team cost more than £25 million, the teamsheets reflected Premiership priorities at either end of the table. There were 21 changes in total, enough to placate the moaning factions in Sir Alex Ferguson's squad. Only Saha kept his place, and his nine-game search for a first goal of the season may have been the cause. His objective was achieved within 22 minutes, giving United a lead they never looked like relinquishing.
The Frenchman may have been relegated to United's fourth-choice striker but, in the absence of miscreants Alan Smith and Ruud van Nistelrooy, serving a suspension and available again after a ban respectively, he provided a reminder of the qualities that prompted Ferguson to pay £12 million for him.
Chief among them was the delicate chest control to take him past Mark Hudson and Gary Borrowdale as the prelude to a drilled finish. Quinton Fortune, with a cross-pitch pass, was the provider and within two minutes, Saha's alertness almost earned him a second, but he skied his finish high over the bar.
To be beaten once at the near post is unfortunate, to concede a second goal there is a cause for concern for Palace's unpredictable Argentinian keeper. But when Richardson cut in from the right flank to whip in a low shot, the hapless Julian Speroni dived over it.
He was shielded by nine defensive colleagues as Palace were content to leave lone striker Sandor Torghelle stranded up front. The Hungarian turned the otherwise untroubled Wes Brown either side of Saha's opener, but placed his shots straight at Tim Howard and past the post respectively.
Howard, unhappy at his lack of first-team football, had little chance to press his case for a recall. But when the Palace midfield grew adventurous and Tom Soares supplied Vassilis Lakis, the American made a point-blank block. Brown, sweeping up behind his keeper, cleared his second shot off the line.
But Palace retreated and United almost added a third. Speroni was at full stretch to tip a Kleberson volley wide and from the resulting corner, his central midfield partner Eric Djemba-Djemba thumped a 20-yard shot which Lakis headed off the goal line.
However, with Arsenal drawn against United in the last eight, Ferguson's reserves may find their Carling Cup is over; that, surely, is one for the first team.
| ||Manchester United||Crystal Palace|
|Shots on target||5||5|
|Shots off target||6||4|