Saha on target as reserves rediscover United?s firepower

Manchester United 2 - Crystal Palace 0

Manchester United's reserves answered Alex Ferguson's call for the goals that had been missing from his first-choice side's Premiership performances of late to take their place in the last eight of the League Cup.

Louis Saha and Kieran Richardson were the scorers against an equally understrength Crystal Palace, who kept nagging away in the second half without suggesting they could snatch back the tie.

If United could not, by the admission of their manager, get themselves up and eager for the mundane business of a Manchester derby, what chance had they of doing so for a League Cup tie against Crystal Palace? It was a different set of players who had the chance to answer that question with 10 changes from the side that started and failed to fire against their neighbours.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney were rested and, with Alan Smith suspended, it meant a chance together up front for Louis Saha and David Bellion.

Palace's Iain Dowie underlined the fact that there is nothing unusual about any of this by leaving out the Premiership's second leading scorer, Andy Johnson, and the highly rated Wayne Routledge.

Bellion and Kieran Richardson fashioned the first shooting chance of the game for Darren Fletcher, but his effort was blocked. Apart from that, a line-up that was still stuffed with internationals was slow to strike any sort of rhythm.

Palace had a rather better opportunity after 18 minutes when their Hungarian striker, Sandor Torghelle, was one-on-one with Tim Howard but shot straight at the goalkeeper.

There was another worrying moment for United when Tom Soares showed his pace in a run from deep and had to be dispossessed by a well-timed tackle from John O'Shea, forming an imposing central defensive partnership with Wes Brown.

As the midpoint of the first half approached, United suddenly burst into life. Quinton Fortune, making his comeback from injury and left-back, directed an early ball to the far post where Saha, who had only just recovered from being fouled from behind by Darren Powell, timed his jump to take the ball on his chest, drew away from two defenders and slotted calmly into the net by the foot of the upright.

There was another warning for United when Soares' run and squared ball set up Torghelle. Howard tipped the shot around the post, but then had to be bailed out by Kleberson on the far post when he failed to deal with the corner. Another piece of chest control gave Saha another chance, before Eric Djemba Djemba's acrobatic effort flashed a yard or two wide.

Seven minutes before half-time, United's second string struck for a second time. Djemba Djemba carried the ball upfield with no Palace player much interested in stopping him and Richardson cut in from the right to shoot left-footed from outside the area - a shot which Julian Speroni should have saved.

Having done what their manager had asked of them by showing their senior colleagues the way to goal, United visibly relaxed after that, to the point of indulging in a spot of showboating.

As Palace threatened to get back into the game in the second half when Howard saved well with his feet from Dougie Freedman and Brown cleared the follow-up effort from the half-time substitute, Vassilis Lakis, off the line. The visitors had a couple of other glimmers of opportunity but could not find the strike that would have put pressure on United.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Howard; P Neville, Brown, O'Shea, Fortune; Fletcher, Djemba Djemba, Kleberson (Spector, 79), Richardson (Eagles, 79); Bellion (Rossi, 86), Saha. Substitutes not used: Ricardo (gk), Ngalula.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2); Speroni; Butterfield (Shipperley, 76), Powell, Hudson, Borrowdale; Derry, Leigertwood, Danze (Lakis, h-t), Freedman; Soares, Torghelle (Kaviedes, 69). Substitutes not used: Kiraly (gk), Boyce.

Referee: S Dunn (Gloucestershire).

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