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Manchester City
Crystal Palace
3
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2
1
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1
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
Read
By ESPN Staff

Ferguson tips match-winner Lee for success

Sir Alex Ferguson has predicted a bright future for teenage defender Kieran Lee after the youngster spared Manchester United from Carling Cup embarrassment at Crewe on Thursday night.

The holders seemed certain to be taken to penalties by their League One opponents until Lee strode on to Alan Smith's through-ball two minutes from the end of extra time and beat former United trainee Ben Williams with a clinical finish.

• Gary Neville talks about Man United's form and title chances. Video

It was the perfect way for the Stalybridge-born 18-year-old to mark his Red Devils debut and Ferguson believes he can develop into a top player.

'Without question, Kieran is a good player,' said Ferguson.

'He has good ability, all he needs is time to develop.

'He showed great awareness to make the run for the goal and it saved me from embarrassment because I never win penalty shoot-outs.'

Lee's performance, allied to the victory, were among the few positives Ferguson could take out of a generally poor performance, when much better was expected from a starting line-up containing seven full internationals.

'Maybe some of the older boys found it difficult to get motivated and I also have to take into consideration Gabriel Heinze needs games and Mikael Silvestre is only just back from injury but it was a really disappointing performance,' he said.

'There was a careless attitude across the whole team and they have to share responsibility for that.

'Crewe were the better team and were very unlucky, it is simple as that.'

United's reward for victory is a fourth-round trip to Coca-cola Championship outfit Southend, although they will need to improve if they are to advance into the quarter-finals.

Although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put the visitors in front with his sixth goal of the campaign, United were never entirely comfortable even if some of the fire had appeared to go out of Crewe's play before Luke Varney drew them level.

Crewe boss Dario Gradi could only express his frustration at the end, admitting he had already started preparing for penalties when Lee struck the fateful blow.

'I didn't really see the build-up to the goal because I was about to bring Luke (Rodgers) on for the penalty shoot-out. Some good that did,' reflected Gradi.

'I really felt we could win it. We were still making chances.

'Yes, there were a few tired legs but we were doing well and I certainly did not expect us to concede in the last two minutes.'