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By Football Talk.


Manchester United came from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1 in the Carling Cup Final at Wembley, securing Sir Alex Ferguson his 26th major trophy during his time at Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney was once again the match winner, coming off the bench to head home his 28th goal of the season.

Villa started the better of the two sides and took the lead after just 5 minutes when Nemanja Vidic brought down Gabby Agbonlahor inside the area. Vidic was the last man so surely a red card would be dished out along with the penalty but Phil Dowd bottled it in his first cup final and didn’t even produce a booking. I was not surprised one bit, not many referees would have the balls to send off a Manchester United player in the fifth minute of a cup final. James Milner tucked away the spot kick to give Villa a 1-0 lead.

1-0 Milner (5, Pen)

It didn’t take United long to level, just 10 minutes later Richard Dunne was caught in possession by Berbatov, the villa captain got back to make a great tackle but the loose ball fell to Michael Owen who slotted home from 15 yards to make it 1-1.

1-1 Owen (13)

A great finish from Owen and coming not only in a cup final but in front of England manager Fabio Capello. But any hopes Owen had to impress further were ended just before half-time when he pulled up with a hamstring injury that will keep him out for 2-3 weeks. Even a fully fit Owen would struggle to force his way into Capello’s World Cup squad, but another injury will have ended all hope. Wayne Rooney was brought on to replace Owen after being rested by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Stephen Warnock was also looking to impress Capello, but he didn’t do himself any favours after his slip let in Antonio Valencia who’s cross fell to Park who smashed against the post just before half-time.

Manchester United almost took the lead minutes into the second half but Friedal produced a magnificent save from a Carrick drive. Villa had a great chance themselves but Young miss-hit his effort when well placed in the area.

It was a good game to watch with both teams looking for the winner but Rooney proved to be the difference 15 minutes from the end. Valencia’s cross from the right found Rooney who scored a looping header to give United the lead for the first time in the match.

2-1 Rooney (75)

Minutes later Rooney almost killed the game when Valencia once again sent in a cross for Rooney to head against the base of the post. Villa almost made United pay but Heskey’s header deflected off Vidic and onto the top of the bar, while Richard Dunne almost made up for his early mistake but couldn’t find the target with a powerful header.

But Man Utd held on to record yet another trophy under Sir Alex Ferguson and show that at least one of the big clubs still take the Carling Cup seriously. Ferguson has fielded a mixed team throughout the competition, giving youngsters a chance when possible, but still being able to see off a strong Villa side when it comes to the crunch. Perhaps the outcome may have been different had Wayne Rooney only got 20 minutes instead of 50, as he was clearly the difference again in Sunday’s final.

But the big talking point after the match was why Vidic wasn’t given a red card for his challenge on Agbonlahor after 5 minutes. Some think Dowd thought it was too early to produce a red card, some feel Agbonlahor wasn’t going to make the ball so wasn’t denied a goal-scoring opportunity. The simple fact is Dowd bottled it. He couldn’t face a tirade of abuse from Ferguson so he gave the penalty and told himself that would be enough. Any referee knows that was a red card, regardless what minute it was or whether the player would make the ball.

Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill certainly felt a red card should have been given to Vidic.

I think everybody felt that, everybody except the man who made the decision.

“I don’t think there’s any query about it and the more you see it the more it’s so puzzling. It’s a big, big point in the game.

Would United have been able to come from a goal down with 10 men? Who knows, but it would have been a lot harder than with 11 that’s for sure. Another example of the big boys getting the rub of the green in the big games, but United wont care and neither will Ferguson.

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