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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 09:57 GMT
Changing priorities
By John May

Former Manchester United defender Gary Pallister
Pallister played in three League Cup finals for Man Utd
Former Manchester United defender Gary Pallister says the prospect of another trophyless season has changed the club's attitude to the Carling Cup.

Pallister says United will be desperate to beat Wigan and lift a trophy they have previously treated indifferently.

He told BBC Sport: "It would have been considered a lesser priority at the start of the season.

"But it's suddenly become a big competition as it's the only one they can still realistically win."

United, who are out of the Champions League and FA Cup and 12 points behind Chelsea in the Premiership, face the prospect of a second successive season without a trophy.

Pallister says that scenario is "unthinkable" for a club of United's stature.

The former England international also feels there is pressure to deliver a first trophy for the Old Trafford club's new owners, the Glazer family.

Pallister said: "With the Glazers taking over, they will want to see a piece of silverware in the cabinet.

"If United were to lose to Wigan they will be open to a lot of criticism, and while winning the Carling Cup is not going to wipe out the disappointment of the season, it will help along the way."

They're out of everything else and they're not realistically going to catch Chelsea
Former Man Utd defender
Gary Pallister

Pallister played in three League Cup finals during his time at Old Trafford and claims United's attitude toward the competition was often ambivalent.

He said: "We always realised it was a lesser priority. Even back then, Sir Alex decided to use it as a means of blooding young players and he still does.

"It's the same with the FA Cup. If they play a lesser team, then I think you'll see him help out younger players who are doing well in the reserves, and that's also been the case.

"I think Sir Alex always begins every season with a view that he wants to land a trophy.

"The Carling Cup would have been one of the lesser trophies they would have targeted this season behind the Champions League and the Premiership title, but it's a question of prioritising now.

"They're out of everything else and I don't think they're realistically going to catch Chelsea."

United's record in the League Cup competition is less than impressive. They have lifted the trophy once, and been beaten finalists four times.

After the competition's foundation in 1961, it took United 22 years to reach their first League Cup final.

United's policy of fielding under-strength teams backfired when they suffered the ignominy of tumbling out to York City over two legs in October 1995.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson ponders Man Utd's defeat by York City in 1995

Pallister also feels the United players will be keen to salvage something from a poor season.

"It's important to the players to win something. Let's not forget that these guys are professionals who are in the game to win trophies, and that's what drives them.

"They suffered a huge disappointment in the last season's FA Cup final when they completely dominated Arsenal before losing out on penalties.

"They won't want to slip up this time, and while they're firm favourites, Wigan have proved they can compete with the best teams in the Premiership.

"Any final is a big occasion, and a lot of the players who will play on Sunday won't have been involved in the earlier rounds.

"But Sir Alex will go with his strongest available team on Sunday, and this is one League Cup tie United certainly won't be treating lightly."



Links to more League Cup stories


 

SEE ALSO
Wigan handed extra final tickets
21 Feb 06 |  League Cup


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