Football / Coca-Cola Cup: Older heads see United through

Manchester United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Port Vale. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(Manchester Utd win 4-1 on aggregate)

MANCHESTER UNITED'S starry-eyed understudies duly secured their place on the Coca-Cola Cup third round stage, though they were led there by two of the cast's more seasoned characters last night.

Goals by Brian McClair and David May, his first for the club, completed the demise of First Division Port Vale, but whether the outcome and Alex Fergusons's explanation for putting out only two regular first-choice players will appease the authorities remains to be seen.

In his programme notes Ferguson insisted United wanted to play in the competition and he was equally adamant that injuries and international calls had dertermined his selection.

The kids were in profusion again, as they had been in the first leg, scurrying around Old Trafford and providing the gallery with a tantalising glimpse of the future.

Exuberance had to be balanced with the propensity for errors and Nicky Butt lifted a penalty on to and over the bar with the leg still scoreless.

Vale, many of whose fans boycotted the match in protest against United's perceived indifference, might have rewarded the 2,000 or so who made the trip with an early lead. United's goalkeeper, Gary Walsh, was required to make fingertip saves from Lee Glover and Allen Tankard. Kevin Kent and Glover had shots deflected just off target as United rode their luck.

It fell to the old sage, McClair, to show aspiring goalscorers of all ages the way in the 35th minute. Simon Davies probed from the left, John O'Kane hooked the ball on and the captain meticulously planted a header into the bottom corner.

Vale's frustration was complete on the hour, when United struck again, May heading in David Beckham's corner.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Walsh; Casper, May, Pallister, O'Kane; Gillespie (Tomlinson, 65), Butt, Beckham, Davies (Neville, 75); Scholes, McClair. Substitute not used: Pilkington (gk).

Port Vale (4-3-3): Musselwhite; Sandeman, Aspin, D Glover, Tankard; Kent (Van Der Laan, 73), Kelly, Porter; Foyle, L Glover, Burke (Allon, 73). Substitute not used: Van Heusden (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

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