Bebe set for Man United debut in League Cup

Bebe will make his highly anticipated Manchester United debut in the League Cup on Wednesday, more than a month after manager Alex Ferguson signed the unproven Portuguese striker without seeing him play.

Ferguson has been forced to fend off critics who have questioned the wisdom of paying 7.4 million pounds ($11.5 million) for a player who has never featured at a higher level than the Portuguese third division.

The 68-year-old manager didn’t even bother watching videos of Bebe in action before the transfer from Vitoria Guimaraes was completed last month, relying instead on the recommendations of former assistant manager Carlos Queiroz and United’s scout.

Some English papers have already branded Bebe an expensive flop based on his appearances for United’s reserve team.

But Ferguson is ready to include Bebe in the first team for the first time as United begins its League Cup defense at second-tier side Scunthorpe in the third round.

"A lot of my young players will play. Bebe is training very well," Ferguson said Tuesday. "He’ll be involved tomorrow night."

And Lisbon-born Bebe has appealed for patience.

"I am going to be a brilliant player for Manchester United," he said. "After a couple more games I will be better. I have to be fitter because it’s a different type of football in England."

Bebe left Estrela Amadora three months ago after the team gained promotion to Portugal’s second division, but only featured in six friendlies for Vitoria Guimaraes before being lured to United.

"I can play on both sides, on the left and the right," Bebe said. "It doesn’t make any difference which side."

The Premier League’s leading teams use England’s second-tier knockout competition to give young players vital first-team experience.

"It allows me to keep everybody happy in terms of giving people games and we’ve reached the last two finals, which has its obvious advantages," Ferguson said. "Playing at Wembley and competing for medals on the big stage is terrific for players’ development."

United beat Aston Villa 2-1 in last season’s final to win the tournament for the fourth time and the Birmingham club’s third-round match against Blackburn on Wednesday will see Gerard Houllier take charge for the first time.

Houllier was named Villa manager on Sept. 8 but has had to wait to officially take over because of contractual issues with the French Football Federation.

Sol Campbell, the 36-year-old former England defender, is set to make his Newcastle debut at Premier League champion Chelsea.

In another all-Premier League match, out-of-favor Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given is due to make his first appearance of the season at West Bromwich Albion.

Liverpool could hand Australia keeper Brad Jones his first appearance since joining from Middlesbrough last month in the home match against Northampton.

In Wednesday’s other fixture, Wigan hosts Lancashire rival Preston.