A manager-less Manchester United survived a scare against Scunthorpe United and eventually escaped Glanford Park 5-2 winners to advance to the next round of the Carling Cup.
Josh Wright gave Scunthorpe a well-deserved lead midway through the first-half, but five unanswered goals from Darron Gibson, Chris Smalling, Ji-Sung Park and two from Michael Owen – saw United cruise to the victory. The Irons did, however, pull a goal back in injury-time to make the final score more respectable through Martyn Woolford, but it was too little, too late for the vibrant home team.
Sir Alex Ferguson missed only his third match during his 24 years at United, because he chose to personally go scout United’s next UEFA Champions League opponent, Valencia. Scunthorpe were also without a manager as well with Ian Baraclough doing an admirable job filling in as caretaker manager, but shortly after the match he announced that he will be taking the job on a permanent basis.
United can consider themselves very fortunate to win their first-ever meeting with Scunthorpe as they proved to be more than a handful.
Within the first 20 seconds of the match, Scunthorpe had a real chance to grab the lead, but thankfully Tomasz Kuszczak was able to gather Josh Wright’s weak left-footed effort.
The intent for the home side was obvious, and they pressed United and Eddie Nolan hit a blistering strike, but thankfully it was directly at Kuszczak and he was able to palm it away.
Scunthorpe continued to dominate play and their next golden chance to take the lead again came from the left foot of Woolford, but his near post blast was saved by the United goalkeeper. Kuszczak batted his effort high up in the air and was able to pluck it out of the air and clear the danger.
The home fans were sent into complete jubilation around the 20 minute mark of the match. Again, it was Woolford, who attacked down the left-hand said, and after his path to goal was cut off, he laid the ball into the path of Wright blasted an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net.
To be brutally honest, it was fully-deserved and hopefully the kick up the backside that United needed.
Finally after 23 minutes, the Reds had their first chance at goal of the match, and they took it well. Chris Smalling launched a long, searching ball forward, and without hesitation, Darron Gibson cheekily volleyed the ball up and over Joe Murphy to level the scores.
The goal did not change the course of the game and definitely did not discourage the Irons as they continue to put United under the cosh. Scunthorpe’s next chance came from a free-kick, but the impressive Woolford’s effort was parried by the United ‘keeper.
The Scunny captain, Cliff Byrne had a chance to put the Championship side in front, but from about six yards out, he headed the ball over from an in-swinging corner kick.
Somehow, someway United got their noses in front. Wes Brown, who was getting ripped apart by Woolford in the defensive-third, played a neat through ball to Ji-Sung Park, and with his first touch, the South Korean played a teasing ball into the six yard box, which Chris Smalling showed a striker’s touch as he applied a glancing finish to give United the goal advantage.
Scunthorpe were within a whisker of being level again. Jonathan Forte hit a strong left-footed strike from distance, but somehow the shot baffled Kuszczak. The United goalkeeper could only get a hand to the shot, and it looked to be heading into the net, but it, luckily, spun away from the goal to spare his blushes.
On the stroke of half-time, United could have been two goals to the good, but Javier Hernandez’s cross from the left flank was headed over by Federico Macheda, but the youngster should have hit the target from eight yards out.
Before the half-time whistle Scunthorpe, themselves, had a chance at goal – and it was a very good one as well. Nolan again tested Kuszczak with a stinging left-footed blast, but again, the United keeper was able to punch the ball and scramble the ball away.
The second-half started the same exact way as the first with the home team winning two corners within the first two minutes of the half.
Despite being on the back foot, United punished Scunthorpe for not making the most of their dominance.
Macheda made up for his miss at the end of the first-half by sending Michael Owen on a breakaway and the former Liverpool legend neatly slotted the ball in off the post.
Nine minutes after half-time, United tripled their lead with a clinical finish from Ji-Sung Park to put the game almost out of reach just – barring any miracle comeback from the Irons.
The next couple of efforts for Scunthorpe showed that United were beginning to shut up shop as the Irons were forced to shoot from distance, but Michael O’Connor’s effort sailed well over the crossbar, and Kuszczak did well to get down quickly to his left and save Woolford’s snapshot.
The wind in the Scunthorpe sails seemed to have gone, and they were lucky to not have conceded another goal. A lovely ball from Anderson played Chicharito into space on the right flank, and his cross was put into a decent area, and Murphy was forced to save one of his defenders’ blushes by getting down well to keep the ball out of the net.
Kuszczak was again called upon as he was forced into making to decent saves from both second-half substitute Bobby Grant and Nolan tested his resolve.
United rubbed salt into Scunthorpe’s wounds with a fifth goal without reply. Park attacked down the middle and with the defenders dropping off, he had a shot, which Murphy could only get a hand to and the ball trickled into the path of Owen and the 5’7″ forward squirmed the ball into the net.
A lot of speculation ahead of the match was the inclusion of United’s unknown summer signing, Bebe, as he came on for the last 15 minutes.
Apparently, the Portuguese forward was not the only person who wanted to display his talents as the game as the game had a short wait as a streaker made his way onto the pitch, which was cleverly met by the chant “Fergie, Fergie, Sign Him Up.”
After 75 minutes of the match, United began to finally boss the possession of the ball and play a bit of keep ball from Scunthorpe.
United almost had a sixth, but Macheda was in an offside position as he turned in a lovely ball from Anderson.
Kuszczak was still being called upon as he had to make two more quality saves with the best one coming from a dive to his left to punch away Grant’s curling left-footed effort out for a corner.
However, his resolve was finally beaten when Woolford stretch to poke the ball home from the middle of the box.
The final scoreline was a poor reflection of the game, but as Sir Alex Ferguson has said before, “Football is a funny old game,” which the best team, which Manchester United was not, does not always win.
Unknowingly, Tomasz Kuszczak was the busier of the two goalkeepers and his good positions helped United progress to the next round.
T. Kuszczak – 8; W. Brown – 6, R. Ferdinand – 6, C. Smalling – 6, Rafael – 7; J. S. Park – 6 (Bebe – 6), D. Gibson – 6, Anderson – 7, F. Macheda – 6; J. Hernandez – 6 (G. Obertan – 5), M. Owen – 7
D. Gibson (23′), C. Smalling (36′), M. Owen (49′), (71′), J. S. Park (54′)
Shots (On Target): 13 (12)
Fouls Conceded: 8
Fouls Suffered: 5