LONDON // Bebe will make his highly anticipated Manchester United debut in the Carling Cup tonight, more than a month after Sir Alex Ferguson signed the unproven Portuguese striker without seeing him play. Ferguson has been forced to fend off critics who have questioned the wisdom of paying £7.4 million (Dh42.2m) for a player who has never featured at a higher level than the Portuguese third division.
The 68-year-old manager did not even bother watching videos of Bebe in action before the transfer from Vitoria Guimaraes was completed last month, relying instead on the recommendations of Carlos Queiroz, his former assistant manager and a United scout. Some English papers have already branded Bebe an expensive flop based on his appearances for United's reserve team. But Ferguson is ready to include Bebe in the first team for the first time as United begin their League Cup defence at second-tier side Scunthorpe United in the third round.
"A lot of my young players will play. Bebe is training very well," Ferguson said. "He'll be involved [tonight]." And Lisbon-born Bebe has appealed for patience. "I am going to be a brilliant player for Manchester United," he said. "After a couple more games I will be better. I have to be fitter because it's a different type of football in England." United beat Aston Villa 2-1 in last season's final to win the tournament for the fourth time and the Birmingham club's third-round match against Blackburn Rovers tonight will see Gerard Houllier take charge for the first time.
In another all-Premier League match, Shay Given, the out-of-favour Manchester City goalkeeper, is due to make his first appearance of the season at West Bromwich Albion. * Associated Press @TV pointer:TV times, s14