Sir Alex Ferguson praised Manchester United star who ‘saved me from embarrassment’ but only played three times

Sitting at the top of the Premier League table and 56 places above Crewe Alexandra in the English football pyramid, Manchester United shouldn’t have faced any difficulties against League One Railways.

But after beating Liverpool 2-0 in the Premier League at Old Trafford on 22 October 2006, United, just three days later, nearly collapsed in the League Cup third round at Gresty Road, avoiding by little one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition. Such was the level of superiority of the Reds, that ex-manager Sir Alex Ferguson, like most Premier League managers when faced with opposition from the lower leagues, felt he was within his rights to make changes. on a large scale, and asked his fringe players to get the job. done with minimal effort.

And after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who faced competition from the likes of Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha for a starting job at the time, put the Reds ahead on 26 minutes, they were well on their way to getting the job done without too much fuss

However, following Luke Varney’s equalizer with 17 minutes of regular time remaining on the clock, United were suddenly in danger of suffering one of their most embarrassing results of the Ferguson era. While the Reds had beaten Liverpool in the build-up to the trip to Crewe, the home side had, four days earlier, lost at home to Blackpool. United should have been winning at a canter.

But after the match had gone to extra time and the prospect of a penalty shootout loomed, injecting more confidence into Crewe’s veins, Ferguson and United were saved by 18-year-old senior debutant Kieran Lee. The right-back, who had come off the bench to replace David Gray four minutes after Varney’s equalizer, latched on to Alan Smith’s excellent pass, charged into the field and scored a composed effort, which Solskjaer would have felt proud, past the goalie Ben. Williams in the 119th minute.

It was a moment that every young man at United dreams of, but very few have experienced. The feeling of scoring on your senior debut with a club of the stature of the Reds must be overcome. But while it was a moment for Lee to treasure, Ferguson was relieved to have avoided the spot-shooting lottery.

“Kieran is a good player for sure,” Ferguson said, speaking after the game. “He has good skill, all he needs is time to develop. He showed great awareness to run for goal and that saved me from embarrassment because he never won the penalty shootout.”

Unfortunately for the academy graduate, however, his heroism that October night did not prove to be a defining moment in his United career. The now Bolton Wanderers player, who has since morphed into a central midfielder, made just two more appearances for United before leaving the club to join Oldham Athletic in July 2008.


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