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English League Cup: Newcastle's focus is on Champions League

Alan Pardew says "winning" would be qualification for Europe's top competition, while the defensive injury crisis at Manchester United deepens.

Alan Pardew believes Champions League qualification is more important that a cup win.
Alan Pardew believes Champions League qualification is more important that a cup win.

Alan Pardew believes qualifying for the Champions League would be as big for Newcastle United as ending their 43-year wait for a trophy.

The Magpies embark upon their latest attempt to end a lengthy silverware drought when they head for Manchester United in the Capital Cup third round tonight.

They have not taken a major trophy back to Tyneside since their 1969 European Fairs Cup triumph.

However, they came within five points of Champions League qualification last year and Pardew insists the kudos and riches that would bring would be every bit as important as winning a cup.

He said: "Obviously, we want to win something - you shouldn't be in the game unless you want to win something.

"Winning for us would be actually qualifying for the Champions League - that would be winning for us, 100 per cent. It would be like winning a trophy.

"But our fans would like to see a nice big cup, I am sure, and hopefully we can achieve that somewhere down the line."

Manchester United are facing another major defensive crisis after Nemanja Vidic was consigned to the sidelines for another eight weeks.

After complaining of tightness in his knee ahead of Sunday's win over Liverpool, Sir Alex Ferguson pulled the Serbian out of the 2-1 win as a precaution.

But further investigations revealed Vidic required further surgery on the knee he ruptured his cruciate ligaments in last December.

With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling also out, Ferguson is now down to his last two fit senior central defenders, Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand.

"Nemanja Vidic has had a meniscus operation on his right knee and will be out for around eight weeks," said a club spokesman.

Jones is not due to return for another six weeks after suffering the same problem as Vidic, whilst Smalling is yet to resume training after a broken metatarsal.

More immediately, Ferguson needs to select a team for tonight's Capital One Cup clash with Newcastle at Old Trafford, with inexperienced duo Michael Keane and Scott Wooton in line to play.

Nineteen-year-old Keane has made one substitute appearance for the senior side, whilst Wooton, who went on the summer tour to South Africa and China, is yet to make his debut.

England Under-18 international Tyler Blackett could also be involved.

Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones admits the Capital One Cup has less significance to the club this season than when they won it in February.

However, he insists that does not mean the players who are picked to face West Brom at The Hawthorns tonight will take it less seriously.

A Wembley win over Cardiff secured the Reds' first trophy for six years but, since the change of management in the summer, the club has been undergoing something of a transition.

That has not been helped by their start to the season, which has seen them take just two points from five matches and leave the club in the bottom three.

Manager Brendan Rodgers is naturally prioritising the league and is giving fringe players and youngsters their chance in both the Europa League and the competition they begin their defence of tonight.

"Every game we want to go out and get results so obviously last year was good for the club to win a trophy and we did well in the cups," said Jones, referring also to Liverpool's run to the FA Cup final.

"This year is maybe a little bit different in terms of where the club wants to go and what we want to do.

"But we want to get results and tick along so it is important for whoever goes out to put on a show and hopefully get a result.

"You might see a few different players playing so it is a chance like it was at Young Boys in the Europa League.

"For us, whoever goes out, it is the same principle - we want to get the same result."

Emmanuel Frimpong is in line for an early return to Arsenal duty after recovering from the serious knee injury he sustained while on loan at Wolves last season.

The 20-year-old midfielder suffered cruciate ligament damage in February but is eager to make up for lost time and should face Coventry in tonight's cup tie at the Emirates Stadium.

Manager Arsene Wenger will field a host of youngsters and fringe players against the Sky Blues, and at some stage Frimpong is set to be a part of the Gunners side.

Wenger is delighted to have the youngster back in first-team contention, and compared Frimpong's determination to that shown by Jack Wilshere, who has been out of action due to injury for the last 17 months.

The Frenchman said: "It is a big moment because he has suffered for a long time and has worked extremely hard, like Jack.

"He will be back for the first time on the bench. Ideally we should have waited a bit longer to include him again, but once you're back, you want so much a chance to be involved, so I want to give him a chance to be involved at least."


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