x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Old guard such as Michael Owen trying to stake claim

The Carling Cup, usually the competition for the Premier League's top clubs to break in youngsters, will give Manchester rivals United and City a chance to utilise older players this week.

Michael Owen, second left, has been forced to watch from the bench as Manchester United’s youngsters have started the season in such impressive fashion.
Michael Owen, second left, has been forced to watch from the bench as Manchester United’s youngsters have started the season in such impressive fashion.

The Carling Cup, usually the competition for the Premier League's top clubs to break in youngsters, will give Manchester rivals United and City a chance to utilise older players this week.

Owen Hargreaves, the injury-plagued midfielder, could make his first appearance for City since his switch across Manchester after being released by United.

The 30 year old has failed to complete a match in the last three years, but is set to have a chance to prove he is clear of the knee problems that have blighted his recent career when City face Birmingham City tomorrow.

"I need to speak with Owen and on Tuesday [today] we will decide if he will play, but he probably will," Roberto Mancini, the City manager, said. "He has been in full training but he is not 100 per cent. He could play maybe 30 to 45 minutes."

City host the defending champions in the third round after seeing their perfect start to the Premier League season end with a draw at Fulham on Sunday.

Despite a summer outlay of around £75 million (Dh435m), Mancini is complaining about deficiencies in the squad.

"We are lacking at this moment because we lost two midfielders," Mancini said. "I don't have players at the moment. I have only two midfielders because James [Milner] and [Nigel] de Jong have injuries."

United have the opposite problem: making use of the array of talent at manager Sir Alex Ferguson's disposal.

After packing the first team with youngsters, United have opened their title defence with five wins.

Such early success has prevented Michael Owen from making an appearance, but the 31-year-old striker is set to be deployed against Championship club Leeds United tonight.

There could also be a place in the team for Ryan Giggs, the 37 year old, who did not play in the 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Sunday. He has highlighted the competition as a chance for young players to make an impact.

"There are young players coming through at United but this is an important part of their career," Giggs told MUTV.

"When you look at the lads who came through in my age group, then those who followed; Wes Brown and John O'Shea for instance, when they got their chance, they took it.

"Once you hit 17, 18 and 19, that is what you have to do. It doesn't matter whether you get a chance to train with the first team, or in a match as a substitute, you need to make an impact."

Leeds were one of United's fiercest rivals until they dropped out of the Premier League in 2004. But Simon Grayson's side upset United in the third round of the FA Cup in 2010.

"Wont [sic] be no ordinary Carling Cup clash," Owen tweeted. "Huge rivalry. Can't wait."

Arsenal's match against fourth-tier side Shrewsbury Town should be providing a welcome distraction from their worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1953/54. But the start of Arsenal's current difficulties can be traced back to losing in last season's final against Birmingham.

Going into the February final, the Gunners were in contention for four trophies but they missed out on all of them.