Owen's double shows gulf in class between the two Uniteds

Leeds United 0 Manchester United 3
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The Independent Football

The local Yorkshire Evening Post had produced a 12-page pull-out for this fixture recalling past cup meetings between these old rivals but even Jermaine Beckford's FA Cup winner at Old Trafford two seasons ago felt sepia-tinged last night as Manchester United swatted their old rivals aside with embarrassing ease.

Sir Alex Ferguson might have changed entirely his United starting XI from that which beat Chelsea on Sunday but they still overwhelmed Simon Grayson's Championship side. After the exploits of Ferguson's young guns in totting up five straight Premier League victories, it was left to the Scot's thirtysomethings, Michael Owen and Ryan Giggs, to steer United through this potentially awkward-looking Carling Cup third-round tie.

Owen, on his first outing this season, had struck twice by the 32nd minute before Giggs killed off Leeds with a third on the stroke of half-time as the defensive shortcomings that undermined the home side's promotion push last spring were brutally exposed.

Ferguson was full of praise for Owen afterwards: "His second goal in particular was fantastic." Grayson mused afterwards on "the big gulf" between the clubs and nothing summed it up more than the fact United could win so comfortably with 10 of Sunday's starting line-up rested and a team including a central defensive pairing of Michael Carrick and 19-year-old full-back Ezekiel Fryers.

The teenager, who pleased his manager with his "good composure", was not even born when Giggs scored in a 3-1 win at Elland Road in the then Rumbelows Cup in January 1992, the season Leeds pipped their cross-Pennine rivals to the title.

The big screen at Elland Road was advertising a reunion evening next month for Howard Wilkinson's championship-winning side; that will stir some sweet memories for Leeds' older fans but this, by contrast, was sobering stuff as a second-string United showed the distance in class and resources now separating the Premier League leaders from a home team placed 11th in the Championship.

United dominated from the off and after surviving a scare when Dimitar Berbatov, in his own six-yard box, blocked a Tom Lees header and Ross McCormack follow-up, they went in front through Owen.

Berbatov slipped a pass through to Park Ji-sung on the right and he supplied Owen, who sidestepped Lees before putting the ball back through the defender's legs and into the far corner. Scuffed perhaps but perfectly precise from Owen who, granted too much space on the edge of the box, duly doubled the advantage after 32 minutes, finishing high to Andy Lonergan's right after collecting a cross from Mame Biram Diouf who, like Owen, Federico Macheda and goalkeeper Ben Amos, was enjoying his first game of the season.

After Antonio Valencia had steered wide of an open goal, Giggs added a third on the stroke of half-time. Exchanging passes with Park from a corner, he nutmegged Aidan White and then steered a rising shot between Lonergan and the near post. "The first half was a tremendous performance by us, the movement off the ball and possession was very good," said Ferguson.

Game effectively over, he was able to give debuts to young midfielders Paul Pogba and Larnell Cole during a second half that for Leeds was about damage limitation. "We had to regroup and make sure we didn't concede four or five goals," Grayson said.

While the Leeds fans' chants of "Bates Out" underlined the frustrations among some of the home support with their chairman, they kept backing their team and would have had at least something to cheer about had substitute Ramon Nunez not sliced wide when breaking through at the death. The fact that United by that stage had Berbatov in central defence said it all, though.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lonergan; Lees, Bromby, O'Dea, White; Snodgrass, Clayton, Howson, Keogh (Vayrynen, 52); Becchio (Forssell, 52), McCormack (Nunez, 66). Substitutes not used Rachubka (gk), O'Brien, Brown, Taylor.

Manchester United (4-2-4): Amos; Valencia, Carrick, Fryers, Fabio; Park, Giggs (Pogba, h-t); Diouf (Welbeck, 70), Owen, Berbatov, Macheda (Cole, 77). Substitutes not used De Gea (gk), Brown, Keane, Thorpe.

Referee M Jones (Cheshire).

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