x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Foster's taste of success

The goalkeeper's iPod heroics keeps Sir Alex Ferguson on track for more silverware.

Ben Foster is mobbed by teammates after David Bentley's missed penalty saw Manchester United win the Carling Cup.
Ben Foster is mobbed by teammates after David Bentley's missed penalty saw Manchester United win the Carling Cup.

They remain on course for a quintuple after a timely quartet. Manchester United toppled Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 in the penalty shoot-out of a frothy Carling Cup final that swallowed two hours of play without a goal. Imagining it will be United's final prize-receiving ceremony of the season is more difficult to swallow. For United, the end justifies the means.

Sir Alex Ferguson's squad for all seasons continue to get it spot on this campaign. Ryan Giggs, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Anderson scored penalties, but it was the spring of reserve goalkeeper Ben Foster, in for a resting Edwin van der Sar, that encouraged Tottenham to take a tumble. Foster unearthed a riveting save to halt Jamie O'Hara's opening penalty. It was hardly the handiwork of a goalkeeper riddled with injuries over the past two years.

This was an old story at the new Wembley. Ferguson and United first won what is more traditionally known as the League Cup by downing Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in 1992. Times change but, just like the fabled Cloughie, Ferguson is a glutton for worthwhile ornaments. Old Trafford already houses the Community Shield and the Fifa Club World Cup, but these are mere trinkets when one studies what is on the table.

The three trophies United truly crave are still out there. There is talk of unheralded quadruples, quintuples or even a sextuple, if you count the Community Shield, but United are hardly in a quandary. Whatever United seek, they want the lot. The League Cup is traditionally fourth in the list of priorities in such times of possibility. The Scottish side Celtic's European Cup winners completed a clean sweep in 1967.

Ferguson, a former player at their Glasgow rivals Rangers, will be aware of such folklore, especially in relation to United's standing in the British Isles. If one is looking to wrap priorities into a cute little package, the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup is where they will find the real adrenalin rush in the death throes of the season. Lifting the Carling Cup was not a bad appetiser, even for a club hellbent on defending English and European belts.

A mistake by the Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech saw Tottenham ransack Chelsea 2-1 in extra-time of this final a year ago. Foster was like granite in comparison, thwarting Aaron Lennon and Darren Bent in open play. He earned his spurs before penalties, studying footage of Tottenham taking spot-kicks on an iPod. As it worked out, he could have indulged himself with an airing of Queen's We Are The Champions.

The weekend could not have worked out much better for Ferguson. Liverpool are rotting away in the league, losing 2-0 at Middlesbrough on Saturday to fall seven points behind United having played a game more. Inter Milan have to be seen off in the last 16 of the Champions League and Fulham in the last eight of the FA Cup, but United can march onwards in March. Harry Redknapp's Tottenham were found wanting when put on the spot. Vedran Corluka scored their solitary penalty.

They must crave similar bashful form in trying to slink out of the claustrophobia that adorns the foot of the Premier League. Foster moved swiftly to frustrate O'Hara, but could have sat down to study Beyonce Knowles on his iPod when David Bentley shot lamentably wide. Anderson struck the conclusive penalty. The crafty Croatian midfielder Luka Modric at least showed why Tottenham bought into his promise at £16million (Dh82.6m) after Euro 2008.

Old habits die hard elsewhere. Ronaldo had to fend off allegations of diving, but it was Foster's diving that contained the most dramatic effect. dkane@thenational.ae