WEMBLEY COUNTDOWN: How Spurs can win the Cup, by GARY MABBUTT
PUBLISHED: 14:18 28 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 07 September 2010
ARSENE Wenger admitted last week that Manchester United look untouchable and to be honest he said something a number of us have been thinking for some time. United have been so solid and so consistent this season and their defence has been absolutely ou
ARSENE Wenger admitted last week that Manchester United "look untouchable" and to be honest he said something a number of us have been thinking for some time.
United have been so solid and so consistent this season and their defence has been absolutely outstanding - 14 clean sheets in the Premier League before finally conceding a goal in Saturday's 2-1 win over Blackburn.
But I believe Tottenham will again rise to the occasion of a Wembley final and shock the quadruple-chasing European champions in Sunday's Carling Cup final.
And the reason? Sir Alex Ferguson has said he will stick with the same team that played in most of the earlier rounds of the competition at Wembley.
That team, so far, has been a mixture of young, second-string reserves, sprinkled with more experienced players.
The likes of Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson and Danny Welbeck are all excellent players but I feel the pressure of playing in a cup final, in front of a full house at Wembley will be too much for them.
In fact, I feel we actually have a better chance this time round against United than we had against Chelsea last year.
I was very surprised at Chelsea's team selection for the final - Joe Cole on the bench and Nicklas Anelka playing out wide - and possibly United will not field their top team.
However, the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and two of our former players Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov have all featured for the Red Devils during the earlier rounds.
But whichever team Sir Alex opts for, we will have to be on top of our game to retain the trophy. And Harry Redknapp has to get his team selection spot on. Of course, Harry has to see the bigger picture - his remit is to preserve our Premier League status and we have vital league games before and after the final. And in between is tonight's Uefa Cup last 32 second leg with Shakhtar Donetsk at the Lane.
Harry's selection has been made more difficult because so many of our first-choice players are ineligible or injured.
Robbie Keane, Wilson Palacious, Pascal Chimbonda and Carlo Cudicini all played for other teams in earlier rounds of the Carling while Jermain Defoe, definitely, and Ledley King, possibly, will not be fit in time.
It looks like Harry will opt for Roman Pavlyuchenko as the lone striker, with Luka Modric playing just behind, in a five-man midfield.
He has many options on then left - Aaron Lennon, David Bentley and Gareth Bale.
But I feel he could opt for young Jamie O'Hara, who has impressed with his never say die attitude as much as his skill.
Bentley has had a difficult time since joining from Blackburn Rovers.
If you watched him in the game against Arsenal at The Emirates when he scored that fabulous goal, you would say "wow - what a player". But then in other games he has been disappointing.
Both he and Jermaine Jenas are players who can boss games. But they need to do it consistently - not every five games.
Harry may also have to choose between Ledley and Michael Dawson to partner Jonathan Woodgate in central defence. Dawson has done incredibly well and has grown in statue this season. Ledley, as we all know, has his his fitness problems but he was probably man of the match against Chelsea in the final.
It is not a bad decision to have to make. Harry is saved having to make another hard call in goal - Cudicini is ineligible which gives Heurelho Gomes the chance to reclaim the No.1 shirt.
The Carling Cup may not be the most important competition for Sir Alex or many of the top managers. But if I was a manager I would play my strongest team in the cup competitions to keep continuity and momentum going.
In my experience players love to play and want to play in those types of games - and win trophies. The only people who devalue the competition are the managers who talk about rotation.
When you are a young player growing up, your dream about playing at Wembley. Indeed, I remember being a six-year-old and every time I scored a goal I was scoring at Wembley in the cup final.
The Tottenham fans were magnificent at Wembley last season - I feel we won that contest 6-0 - and I'm sure it will be the same on Sunday.
Every club wants to win some silverware - we are just 90 minutes away- and victory will also guarantee us European football again next season.
The bookies and the rest of the football world may make us rank outsiders but cup finals are a one-off and usually it's down to the attitude on the day.
As I said, we have that winning Wembley experience to call on and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for another 2-1 success.
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