Alex Ferguson is convinced his youngsters will benefit from tonight’s Carling Cup exposure at Scunthorpe – even if Manchester United end up on the wrong end of a shock.
United head to Glanford Park as Carling Cup holders, having disposed of Aston Villa at Wembley last season.
As they also defeated Tottenham in the showpiece 12 months earlier, it is clearly a piece of silverware Ferguson has begun to like, despite his tendency to use the competition to give the younger members of his squad a chance to shine.
Against the glory can be balanced unexpected defeats to Coventry and Southend. Yet even on those dismal days, Ferguson found reasons to be positive.
“The Carling Cup has served us well over the last few seasons,” Ferguson told www.manutd.com.
“It allows me to keep everybody happy in terms of giving them games and reaching the last two finals has obvious advantages.
“But, in retrospect, going out in the early rounds – like we did against Coventry and Southend – are good experiences, too, even if we would always prefer to win.”
There will be some experience in United’s line-up this evening, notably Michael Owen, who is expected to make his first start of the season.
Rio Ferdinand’s lack of recent match practice hints at an involvement as well if he has shaken off the virus that forced him to miss Sunday’s win over Liverpool.
However, most interest will surround new arrival Bebe, who is pencilled in for some involvement after missing the reserve-team encounter at Bury last night.
The 20-year-old arrived at Old Trafford via an unconventional route, with eyebrows raised at how a player who arrived at Vitoria Guimaraes on a free transfer after Portuguese third-tier outfit Estrela da Amadora failed to pay his wages, should suddenly be worth in excess of £7m even though he never played a competitive game.
In addition, Ferguson claimed the wide man’s fitness levels were not high enough on his arrival at Old Trafford, having admitted he took a punt on Bebe without actually seeing him play.
That problem has seemingly been rectified, so Bebe is set to be exposed to the pressure of being a United player tomorrow in a game Ferguson does not expect to be easy.
“They are a handful on their own ground,” Ferguson told Key 103.
“We know what it will be like but we have experienced this kind of situation before and did well at Barnsley last year, so hopefully we can do the same again.”