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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson 'flabbergasted' by Coventry defeat

Bitterly disappointed Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he was 'flabbergasted' by his side's stunning Carling Cup exit to Coventry at Old Trafford tonight.

Although he completely changed the team which beat Chelsea on Sunday, Ferguson still named six full internationals in his starting line-up, including £34million duo Nani and Anderson.

Yet the Red Devils totally failed to impose themselves on the contest and ultimately fell to a goal in each half from Coventry's Malta international 'mosquito' Michael Mifsud, whose bite certainly left Ferguson in pain.

'I was absolutely flabbergasted by that performance,' said Ferguson.

'I did not expect that at all. I am not interested in giving reasons or mitigating circumstances. It was just a very bad performance.'

After spending the last 18 months hailing his emerging talent, Ferguson could scarcely understand what went so badly wrong.

Aside from Nani and Anderson, both of whom were major disappointments, Chris Eagles was also poor, as was Dong Fangzhou, who came closest to scoring for the hosts with a header Coventry keeper Andy Marshall pushed wide just before Mifsud fired home his second.

'We have trumpeted these young lads a lot, so what has happened tonight was a big shock for us all,' admitted Ferguson.

'You want to give these boys a chance and we have not had the opportunity to do that.

'The number of Coventry fans who came made it a real cup-tie atmosphere and maybe that was an issue for some of our players because in the first half, we were second to every ball.'

The Sky Blues' 11,000-strong travelling army was a reminder of their Premier League past.

Yet Iain Dowie's side currently find themselves in the middle of the Championship, thereby becoming the first lower league side to beat United at Old Trafford since York City famously knocked three goals past them 12 years ago.

'This will go down as a great night for Coventry,' said Dowie.

'I have been here as a player and a manager and never done that well, so hopefully this result will give us all some belief because I felt we deserved it.'

Dowie was anxious not to spend too much time reflecting on the United players who were omitted by Ferguson, preferring instead to concentrate on the men Coventry beat.

Not even the introductions of Michael Carrick and Wes Brown could halt the Red Devils' slump, with Mifsud agonisingly close to becoming the first visiting player to score a hat-trick at Old Trafford since legendary Brazilian Ronaldo.

'The big credit for us was that we forced Manchester United to make their changes early,' said Dowie.

'They had all three substitutes on within 55 minutes, which tells you something in itself.

'You are bound to benefit when you are playing a team without Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Nemanja Vidic but Sir Alex still picked a team he felt was good enough to win.

'Arsenal picked a team full of youngsters last night and they still won, so you can't argue Manchester United were anything other than a great side.'

For Mifsud it was a special night. The 26-year-old has now scored twice against both Carlisle and United in this competition, yet he is still to start a league game for the Midlands outfit this term.

'Michael can be a real pest around the box,' said Dowie, referring to the former Lillestrom player's strange nickname.

'At times he is almost too quick but he is getting calmer all the time and his finishing is improving too.'