Date: 6th November 2006 at 7:16pm
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Holders Manchester United have nearly slipped up in the third round of the Carling Cup as League One Crewe Alexandra outplayed the Red Devils and only Kuszczak’s saves and Lee’s excellent debut saved us the blushes.

This time United visit another United, Southend who are languishing in the Championship and to put it mildly, they are not candidates for promotion. Red Devils are firing on all cylinders at the moment, but still, it is another game that could easily turn into embarassment for us – and Sir Alex Ferguson is aware of it.

We don’t want another Crewe experience on Tuesday night so I’ll be taking a stronger team to Southend,’ said Sir Alex.

‘We’re taking Ronaldo, Rooney, O’Shea, Fletcher, Silvestre, Heinze, Brown, Richardson… and Tomasz Kuszczak will be in goal. So we’re taking a good squad.

‘Although I’ve got some good young players in the Reserves they are definitely too young for this situation. Reserves football nowadays is just an extension of youth football and therefore doesn’t provide the same challenges of playing in the football league.

‘We’ve got around fifteen players out on loan at the moment who are gaining good experience but it means I’m restricted in terms of being able to play some of our young players in the League Cup as we used to do.

‘However, players like Kieran Lee, Ryan Shawcross, David Gray and David Jones will still be involved against Southend.’

So, it’s now easy: all the reserve’s players who are above 19, not out on loan and still not involved in this trip can say goodbye to his United dreams. Or not. Still, we may be sure that the team will negotiate this round with ease, seeing the squad we take there.

Alan Smith is expected to be in the starting line-up again (it would be good for him to win at Celtic: he could play a full Champions League game, against Benfica) but to be honest, I’m not too happy about the prospect of Rooney starting in this game.
He can’t play in every match, but without Solskjaer and Rossi, he will probably partner Smith in attack. I’d rather see Marsh again, with Rooney on the bench. His fitness and freshness is much more important than the whole Carling Cup.

United squad: Kuszczak, Heaton, Gray, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, O’Shea, Silvestre, Heinze, Lee, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Jones, Richardson, Ronaldo, Smith, Saha, Rooney, Shawcross.

Match prediction: Southend-Man United 1-3