PRESS BOX VIEW ? TELEGRAPH

Last updated : 09 January 2006 By editor

From The Daily Telegraph:

‘Manchester United, residing 104 places above Burton on football's food-chain, were not beaten, but they were embarrassed here. The second-half sight of Sir Alex Ferguson desperately turning to two subs costing £42 million, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, encapsulated the scale of the achievement by Burton's band of free transfers and loan signings. Nigel Clough's neat side thoroughly deserve their Jan 18 trip down the boulevard of Burton dreams to Old Trafford.

The Staffordshire public thrilled to the composure and commitment of Clough's men. "We're proud of you," came the chant, ringing out again and again. Burton's players kept responding to the exhortations, kept sweating unstintingly for the cause.

No one hid. No one shirked a tackle. No one failed to track his man. Each player knew this was his moment in the limelight and was honour-bound to shine. Before the watching world, with 70 countries taking pictures live, here was a team called United against a united team, every one of Clough's players producing the shift of their lives. So frustrated did United's fans grow that by half-time they were chanting "Fergie, Fergie, sort it out". How the rest of the Pirelli Stadium laughed.

Bereft of leaders and urgency, seemingly unconcerned about the importance of a trophy their predecessors had lifted 11 times, Ferguson's side rarely put Deeney under sustained pressure until late on. Rooney's arrival gave United a better attacking focal point, but really only Gerard Pique and Phil Bardsley embellished their reputations. Kieran Richardson even struggled to stand up in the first half.

United did lose Park Ji-Sung to a knee injury during the kick-in, but Ferguson still deserves all the brick-bats for taking the competition lightly. His big guns were absent, or kept on the bench for an hour. A weakened side, even taking into account the welcome sight of a returning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was risky against opponents as vigorous as Clough's side.