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Ferguson talks up value of Carling Cup

Sir Alex Ferguson insists he will continue to use the Carling Cup as an opportunity to give his Manchester United fringe and youth players some match time, and believes that whether they win or lose at Scunthorpe on Wednesday, the experience will still be a valuable one.

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United head to Glanford Park as Carling Cup holders, having disposed of Aston Villa at Wembley last season and are looking to become only the fourth side to win the competition three years in a row - after Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool - having also beaten Totttenham, on penalties, in the 2009 final.

Ferguson has attracted some heavy criticism over the years for the way he has approached the League Cup - often using it as a platform for experimenting with his inexperienced youngsters.

Successive shock early exits to Southend and Coventry in 2006 and 2007 led many to question Ferguson's philosophy, but the United boss claims that even those results could not detract from the positive experience of his young guns playing competitive matches.

"The Carling Cup has served us well over the last few seasons,'' Ferguson told United's official website. "It allows me to keep everybody happy in terms of giving them games and reaching the last two finals has obvious advantages.

"But, in retrospect, going out in the early rounds - like we did against Coventry and Southend - are good experiences, too, even if we would always prefer to win.''

There will be some experience in United's line-up this evening, notably Michael Owen, who is expected to make his first start of the season.

Rio Ferdinand's lack of recent match practice hints at an involvement as well if he has shaken off the virus that forced him to miss Sunday's win over Liverpool.

However, most interest will surround new arrival Bebe, who is pencilled in for some involvement after missing the reserve-team encounter at Bury on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old arrived at Old Trafford via an unconventional route, with eyebrows raised at how a player who was signed by Vitoria Guimaraes on a free transfer after Portuguese third-tier outfit Estrela da Amadora failed to pay his wages, should suddenly be worth in excess of £7 million.

In addition, Ferguson claimed the forward's fitness levels were not high enough on his arrival at Old Trafford, having admitted he took a punt on Bebe without actually seeing him play.

That problem has seemingly been rectified, so Bebe is set to be exposed to the pressure of being a United player in a game Ferguson does not expect to be easy.

"They are a handful on their own ground,'' Ferguson told Key 103. "We know what it will be like but we have experienced this kind of situation before and did well at Barnsley last year, so hopefully we can do the same again.''

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