Ever since Liverpool legend Alan Hansen wrote off Manchester United's title chances in 1995 with the dismissive claim that "you never win anything with kids", Sir Alex Ferguson has seemed determined to prove him wrong at every chance. United manager Ferguson was back at it as the Premier League leaders held their nerve, despite fielding a team packed with youngsters, to win the League Cup final after a penalty shoot-out against Tottenham Hotspur.
A mature display from centre-back Jonny Evans was at the heart of United's ability to subdue Tottenham, while reserve keeper Ben Foster kept a cleansheet and then saved Jamie O'Hara's penalty in the shoot-out. Darron Gibson gave a commendable performance alongside Paul Scholes in midfield and only gifted teenage forward Danny Welbeck failed to shine, but his time with surely come.
Hansen was made to eat his words all those years ago as Ferguson's decision to give a group of unknown youngsters their chance paid off in spectacular fashion. David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and brothers Gary and Phil Neville established a United dynasty that rules to this day. The Scot believes in the sink-or-swim method when it comes to discovering if his prodigies have what it takes to survive at the highest level, because he knows there is no substitute for the experience of playing and succeeding in this kind of showpiece.
Welbeck and Gibson were making only their sixth starts for United and neither has made a starting appearance in the Premier League. Yet the talk has been of a new emerging crop of kids capable of emulating Beckham and company. But producing influential performances against the likes of Derby County and Blackburn Rovers earlier in the competition is one thing. Taking on a team of motivated international at the historic home of English football is quite another.
Welbeck, scorer of a sublime goal in the FA Cup at Derby earlier this season, had a golden opportunity to banish any butterflies in the opening minutes when Scholes' long pass sent him clear on goal. The 18-year-old forward's pace and power could be a potent mix in years to come for United, but he has still to harness his talents and allowed the chasing defenders to clear the danger.
Confidence dented by that early miscue, Welbeck faded from view and it was no surprise when Ferguson replaced him with Anderson after 56 minutes. Gibson, a rangy Irish midfielder with the build of a rugby centre, filled in capably for Michael Carrick and underlined his ability with a fierce swerving shot from long-range that flashed past a post in the first half.
Evans, the 21-year-old centre-back, cut a composed figure alongside Rio Ferdinand. Time and again he snuffed out the danger, as Tottenham advanced menacingly down the right flank. Evans is comfortable on the ball as well and almost set up the opening goal in the second half with a shot that Carlos Tevez prodded just wide.
Gibson had held his own in midfield, but before the start of extra-time Ferguson decided to replace him with the peerless Ryan Giggs. The aging midfielder scored in the shoot-out, but fittingly it was Foster - a potential regular England keeper of the future - who helped United win in the shoot-out.