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Football: United kids needed cup says Albiston

Alex Ferguson could come to regret throwing away Manchester United's involvement in the Coca-Cola Cup, warns the former Manchester United defender Arthur Albiston.

The Old Trafford manager could hardly hide his glee at getting rid of what he feels is an unwanted domestic distraction as his side lost 2-0 at Ipswich.

But he introduced four new youngsters and Albiston said: "It's unfortunate because the longer United had stayed in this cup the easier it would have been for Alex to introduce the young lads into the side.

"It's obviously difficult to bring untried youngsters into the Premiership and especially the European Champions' League. That wouldn't be fair to them.

"They have got to get experience from somewhere so the Coca-Cola Cup is a good avenue for a club like United who have so many good youngsters to give them games."

John Curtis and Phil Mulryne, a typically sparse-framed Irish teenager who has already who his first international cap, made their first appearances, while Ben Thornley continued his comeback from a serious knee injury. Eric Nevland made a second-half appearance to complete the quartet.

It was eerily evocative of four seasons ago when Ferguson was criticised for fielding unknowns called Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Keith Gillespie and David Beckham at Port Vale.

Now four of those are kingpins not only of the championship-dominating club team but for England's World Cup bid, while Gillespie is a Premiership player at Newcastle.

"Who's to say we won't be talking of these lads in the same way in four years' time?" Albiston says. "United need to keep developing because you don't know what can happen in football with injuries or players getting transferred, so you need that conveyor belt to keep running.

"Everyone thinks very highly of Curtis as a defender while Mulryne is a bit like Norman Whiteside in that he has already played for Northern Ireland before he's got into the United first team.

"Thornley is the same age as the Beckhams and Nevilles but unfortunately got a bad knee injury, so it was good to see him back and have a good first half. He'll now be trying to catch up with his mates.

"They will have got things from that, like playing in front of a crowd. Everything seems to happen that bit quicker after playing in front of a handful of spectators playing for the second team.

"It's always difficult making your debut, especially away from home and playing for Manchester United because everyone wants to beat you.

"It's incredible to think back to that Port Vale game and what it began for United. Maybe we'll be thinking the same about Curtis and Mulryne in a few years too."

The Ipswich game also allowed David May to begin his comeback with his first game of the season, but Ferguson will have been disappointed at the lightweight showings of Karel Poborsky and Jordi Cruyff while Andy Cole looks a player who is very short of confidence.