First silverware for Rooney but Van Nistelrooy misses the party

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The Independent Football

They also did so without Ruud van Nistelrooy, who was consigned to the bench by the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. The Dutch striker stalked off at the end, 30 yards ahead of the other United players, head bowed, after they had collected their winners' medals.

Ferguson professed ignorance of that - "I was not aware of it," he said - adding that Van Nistelrooy's replacement Louis Saha "deserved to play in the final." He added: "Ruud only came on in the second leg of the semi-final [against Blackburn Rovers]. The top scorer in the League Cup has been Louis Saha and that is the reason he played. He scored five goals and he deserves to be in the side. If you keep overlooking players then you create a problem for yourself. That guy is in incredible form."

So is Rooney. The 20-year-old England striker scored twice in winning his first medal and said that "hopefully, there will be many more". Neville said it was "desperately important" that United won. "We have taken a lot of criticism," he added. "And rightly so."

It was the 26th final for Ferguson and his celebrations at the end appeared as much in relief as enjoyment. "A cup is a cup," he said. "One thing you will always miss if you don't play in a cup final is the atmosphere. It was fabulous. A great final. The attitude made it a great final."

Ferguson said the 4-0 scoreline "was a bit unfair" for Wigan. "They had a good day, they had some chances. They never stopped having a go and that is to do with Paul Jewell's attitude to management."

Jewell has lost four successive matches to United by the same score, with Wigan and Bradford City.

"We were playing against one of the best players in the world - if not the best player in the world - in Wayne Rooney and a team who some people say are in decline," he said.

"United played better than us - they're a better side than us. Everything had to go for us; they had to have an off day and we had to play to our maximum, and it didn't happen."