A Glenn Murray strike in the first period of extra time deservedly sent Palace through, punishing United for a spineless performance.
The Carling Cup might not be the most glamorous of occasions and Palace might not be the most glamorous of opponents but when a semifinal place is at stake there are no excuses. United let themselves down tonight, while Dougie Freedman’s side can look forward to a famous semifinal against – possibly – Liverpool or Manchester City.
United haven’t been firing on all cylinders for a while now but, while a first look at the score line might suggest a shock, the story of the game tells a completely different tale.
Palace, fielding 7 different players in their formation from the team that drew against Millwall on the weekend, with Easter the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation, controlled the game from the start, showing much more desire and hunger and winning almost every 50-50 challenge.
United, on the other hand, looked lethargic and, at times, almost uninterested. And, to think, that this was a great occasion for a lot of players to show their worth.
For all their effort, it’s hard to see Diouf and Macheda having a future at United, while Gibson might as well be in his last season at Old Trafford.
Ferguson fielded a completely changed starting XI, with Berbatov and Diouf up front, Valencia and Macheda on the wings, Park and Gibson in midfield and Evans and Smalling at centre-backs with the Da Silva twins as full-backs and Amos in goal, and he’ll be disappointed that none of the younger players grabbed their chance to shine.
To add insult to misery, Fabio, Berbatov and Rafael went out injured, leaving the team severely stretched for the near future.
The Brazilians’ talent is beyond doubt, but the same can’t be said of their fitness. It is definitely an issue for Fergie and his staff.
After the first half passed by with both teams failing to create a chance, the game suddenly came alive in the second half when Morrison, who had replaced Berbatov, forced a brilliant save by Price after being played through by Valencia then, with 64 minutes played, Ambrose put Palace ahead with a wonder strike from 25 yards out. Amos had no chance as the former Newcastle man’s effort swung into the top corner.
United were level three minutes later when Macheda converted a penalty after having been tugged down by McCarthy in the penalty area.
Normally, in this situation, United would push on, but they were strangely subdued as Palace looked to finish the second half strongly.
Despite having a lot of the ball in the latter stages of the game, the Reds looked unable to create any clear-cut chances, with the only threat coming from Valencia down the right channel.
The game seemed destined for penalties, then, ten minutes into the first half of extra time, Murray headed in from Ambrose’s free kick, to stun Old Trafford and send Palace through to their first semifinals since 2001.
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