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Sir Alex Ferguson may have missed Manchester United's Carling Cup victory over Scunthorpe United in order to scout Valencia, but it is reported he also took the opportunity to assess Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David De Gea.

• Should managers always be present?

Ferguson was surprisingly absent at Glanford Park as his side won 5-2 in the third round of the Carling Cup, with assistant Mike Phelan explaining the manager felt that it would be more valuable to take a look at Champions League opponents Valencia.

It was only the third time in 24 years that Ferguson had missed a United game but Phelan was adamant that the decision should not be interpreted as a mark of disrespect to the competition.

''We put a big value on the Carling Cup," Phelan said. "We've never set out to demean the Carling Cup. We're holders, we've done that two years in a row and you can see from the players' attitude that we want to keep hold of it.

"It's important after the Rangers games that we prepare properly and get a good view of Valencia, who've started their season very well. He chose to go and watch the Valencia game. We need to go there knowing what we're up against. He's the manager and he had to make a decision."

The Daily Mirror claims Ferguson's trip to Spain also acted as a scouting mission to assess first-hand the ability of De Gea, who has been in fine form for Atleti this season.

The 19-year-old produced a succession of fine saves against Barcelona at the weekend and conceded only one goal on Wednesday night as Atleti drew 1-1 with Valencia. It is reported that United have watched the Spain Under-21 international on a number of occasions.


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