Macheda in line to start at Scunthorpe

The Italian striker Federico Macheda, who burst on to the scene with two goals vital to Manchester United's last Premier League title, is expected to partner Michael Owen in the Carling Cup third round at Scunthorpe tonight, as Sir Alex Ferguson is believed to feel that his presence was vital to Dimitar Berbatov's hat-trick against Liverpool on Sunday.

The 19-year-old was limited to another cameo role against Liverpool and has slipped behind the new signing Javier Hernandez in the United pecking order but the danger he posed in the Liverpool area when John O'Shea swung in the cross which Berbatov converted for his third goal apparently did not escape the manager's attention.

Ferguson has already said that Owen will start at Glanford Park and the 20-year-old £7m Portuguese signing Bebe will travel with the squad, with the possibility of a first appearance for him as United begin the defence of the trophy. Ferguson has bitterly resisted suggestions that Bebe was a distance off the United standard when he was missing from the reserve team squad which faced Manchester City last month and finally gave him a start in last week's 4-1 defeat to Aston Villa reserves – though he did not particularly shine.

The spotlight will be on Bebe if he gets on but a player thought to be closer to a first-team berth is Chris Smalling, who impressed Ferguson with his composed display against Rangers last week. There is a feeling from some in the game that Rio Ferdinand is now beginning to find himself under growing pressure to prove himself, with Ferguson now finding himself unable to rely on the England captain's form or fitness. There is certainly a chance for the surprise £10m signing from Fulham, given that Jonny Evans' rash challenge on Fernando Torres which gave Steven Gerrard his penalty on Sunday cements an impression that the second central defensive place alongside Nemanja Vidic is not untouchable.

Though a role for Ferdinand looks to be in the balance, yesterday he declared himself recovered from the illness which saw him miss the Liverpool game. "Looking to train 2day to be in contention 2mo," he announced during another busy day of tweeting which focussed on prompting a debate on what reminded his 96,000 followers of old times, including Panini stickers and "when a Snickers was called a Marathon." Scunthorpe will seek to acquit themselves better than in the 4-2 defeat to Manchester City in last season's FA Cup Fourth Round.

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