Ferguson faces decision when to choose big guns in Carling Cup

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A lack of continuity could cost Manchester United a successful defence of the Carling Cup if they continue to play their squad players during the remainder of the competition.

Alex Ferguson’s men looked on different wavelengths during the first half against an under-strength Wolves in the fourth round, with many of the players picked looking like they were playing with their teammates for the first time.

Things did improve after the break, but is still took a last-gasp strike from in-form substitute Javier Hernandez to confirm their spot in the last eight of the tournament.

Manchester United are now 7/4 to win the Carling Cup and follow up on their victory over Aston Villa last season, but the question remains when Ferguson will introduce more of his regular big names to the competition.

They picked a similar standard of side in the fourth round of the Carling Cup last year when beating Barnsley, but Nemanja Vidic and Dimitar Berbatov were both selected in the quarter finals.

The bulk of the first team were then called upon for the two-legged semi-final showdown with neighbours Manchester City, before also starting in the final.

If Ferguson sticks to the same strategy this season then there is a strong chance that the Red Devils will win the Carling Cup for the fifth time in their history and the third year in succession.

This is because the calibre of the opposition remaining in the Carling Cup is arguably less than 12 months ago, with Arsenal and Villa perhaps the only serious contenders for their crown still alive in the tournament.

Ferguson waited until the semi-finals two years ago before picking the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, but leaving out his best players until this stage this season could still prove a risky decision.

Arsenal are 3/1 to win the Carling Cup and Villa can be backed at 7/1, alongside Birmingham. See the full Carling Cup winners betting odds market.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.