Graham Kavanagh reckons the criticism being heaped on Manchester United’s midfield recently has been more than a little unfair.
The Wigan star will look to exploit a seemingly obvious frailty in the Red Devils’ engine room at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday when the Latics aim to complete a meteoric rise to prominence by snatching the Carling Cup at United’s expense and clinching a place in Europe.
Given the departures of Roy Keane and Phil Neville, plus the loss of Paul Scholes and Alan Smith to injury, central midfield has been an area of concern for Sir Alex Ferguson for most of the season.
Even Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand have been called upon to fill the gap at times this term and it seems certain Ryan Giggs will be joined by either Darren Fletcher, John O’Shea or Kieran Richardson on Sunday as United look to avoid finishing successive campaigns empty-handed for the first time in 17 years.
Ferguson has already admitted he will try to bring in some fresh faces this summer but Kavanagh insists the youngsters manfully trying to fill the breach just now are not as bad as many assume.
“They are not Keane or Scholes but the criticism has been a bit unfair,” he said.
“People said United would never find a replacement for Bryan Robson and Paul Ince, now they are saying it about Roy Keane.
“I suppose the difference is Ince and Keane were already at United and next in line.
“In this instance we are talking about young lads and, while they may not be a replacement in the Keane mould, they have to be given a chance.”
Nevertheless, United’s youngsters will not be spared Kavanagh’s competitive spirit in a midfield battle that could prove pivotal to the destination of the trophy.
As Kavanagh acknowledges, there are not many games which can be won without at least achieving parity in that department, although the Dublin-born star does admit United’s last Cardiff appearance against Arsenal last May was one such occasion.
“If you look at last season’s FA Cup Final, United dominated in midfield but still didn’t win,” he said.
“But usually, if you get on top of the opposition in midfield you have a very good chance of winning the game.
“We certainly believe we have the players to stamp our authority all over the park – and midfield has to be an area where we look to do it."