Fergie slams lacklustre United
Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to wield the axe after acknowledging he was shocked by Manchester United's abject performance against Leeds United this afternoon. Jermaine Beckford's first-half goal not only gave Leeds a famous 1-0 victory at Old Trafford, it also consigned United to their first third-round FA Cup exit, and their first defeat by lower league opposition in the most prestigious domestic cup competition since they were beaten by Bournemouth in 1984.
Ferguson could offer up no excuse, or explanation, for his side's defeat. However, having declared he would rely on many of the younger players involved this afternoon for the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at Manchester City on Wednesday, the Scot has had an immediate change of heart.
"We have a semi-final on Wednesday night and a lot of these players today won't be playing," he said. "You have to view that performance in its right light.
"I am shocked by the performance because our preparation for the game was very good. But we never got going. The quality of the passing and whole performance was bad."
The paucity of the home side's performance was so bad that one irate fan rang United's own in-house TV station MUTV to demand Ferguson's head. However, the caller's vicious attack on Ferguson's squad will only be put in context if United put this setback behind them, as they have tended to do so often down the years.
"Leeds had far bigger appetite than us," said Ferguson. "Human beings can always surprise you, but we didn't expect that today. We didn't start right, Leeds got their goal and it was something to hold on to. We spoke about Beckford's pace up front and we were caught napping."
Ferguson excused only substitute Antonio Valencia from criticism, which presumably also included Michael Owen, who had a couple a decent chances to pull United back on level terms, but failed to take them. Certainly a defence from which Nemanja Vidic pulled out after apparently complaining of an injury in the warm-up performed well below par.
Wes Brown found himself isolated when Jonathan Howson launched his long ball down field, with Beckford getting away with a heavy first touch by toeing the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak, who had been slow to react.
"I don't think any of them can say they had a good day," said Ferguson. "It took us ten minutes to find him, but only Valencia can say he had a good performance. You have to get over these kind of results quickly. We have to make sure we are ready for Wednesday."