Bebe given a chance to prove his worth in the cup that means so much to Scholes

Paul Scholes has given the Carling Cup an unqualified thumbs up, even though it could be one of the reasons why England perform so badly at major tournaments.

After Fabio Capello's team put in abject performances at the World Cup in South Africa, it was generally acknowledged that sheer weight of matches is one of the prime reasons. That backs up Michel Platini's belief that England's best players turn from lions in the autumn, to lambs in the summer.

Although most of Europe are using this midweek to play matches, it is either for a league fixture that will allow a gap to be created later in the season, or for cup competitions they tend not to give much importance to.

In England it marks the first step towards a Wembley final on 27 February, and for Manchester United the chance to collect the trophy for the third year running.

At this stage, Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, prefers to use it to get valuable game time into his senior players, with the likes of Michael Owen among those expected to get selected for tonight's trip to Scunthorpe. However, no one needs reminding the competition provided two of the biggest nights of United's entire season last year; the two-legged semi-final with Manchester City.

It is the prospect of playing in such fixtures that will ensure Scholes takes a keen interest in the outcome of tonight's tie. "I would prefer to be playing mega games than be sat at home watching them," said Scholes. "You do get high intensity games in the Carling Cup and maybe in other countries, cup competitions are not as important.

"But it is in our nature to want to win every game. Winning trophies is all about getting to the later stages of competitions and having big games at the end of them. We want to win this, just as we want to win every other tournament we enter."

As Rio Ferdinand's participation depends on him getting over a virus that kept him out of Sunday's victory over Liverpool, Owen could be the most high-profile player involved on United's first visit to Glanford Park.

Most interest will surround new arrival Bebe, who is pencilled in for some involvement after missing the reserve team encounter at Bury on Monday night. The 20-year-old arrived at Old Trafford via an unconventional route, with eyebrows being raised at how a player who came from Vitoria Guimaraes on a free transfer after Portuguese third tier outfit Estrela da Amadora failed to pay his wages, should suddenly be worth in excess of £7m even though he never played a competitive game.

In addition, Ferguson claimed the wide man's fitness levels were not high enough on his arrival at Old Trafford, having admitted he took a gamble on Bebe without actually seeing him play.

That problem has seemingly been rectified, so Bebe is set to be exposed to the pressure of being a United player in a game Scholes does not expect to be easy. "Scunthorpe are a very good team at home," he said. "Anything can happen at places like that so I just hope we can get through to the next round."

Comments