SAF: Carling Cup well worth winning
Not even the knowledge Sunday's encounter with Aston Villa at Wembley will lack the raw emotion and drama of those two memorable semi-final confrontations with Manchester City last month can shake Ferguson's determination to add another trophy to his incredible Manchester United CV. So, while Wenger disputes the notion a Carling Cup win would represent the end of his Arsenal trophy drought, it is a stance Ferguson does not share. "Wembley is an occasion. It has always been that way," said Ferguson. "But the only way you can enjoy Wembley is by winning. We have got an opportunity to win something on Sunday. It is not a nice day when you lose." Ferguson did once view the League Cup as a nuisance in United's pursuit of the major prizes. Although the Red Devils did reach three finals in four years in the early 1990s, between 1994 and 2003 there was nothing. Yet this weekend, United will compete in their fourth in eight years and their third in five, confirmation of the success enjoyed by the Football League's decision to exempt teams involved in European combat to the last 32, third-round stage. "All of a sudden you find yourself in a semi-final after playing three games. Once you get to a semi-final the focus changes. It definitely makes a difference." Indeed, those two semi-final encounters will be carved into the history books. An amazing 180 minutes, full of passion and controversy, were ultimately settled by an injury-time Wayne Rooney header, a deserved United triumph against a City team desperate to make a statement of their own future intent. "I don't think the final can reach the same level of emotion as the semi," acknowledged Ferguson. "It is a different type of game." There are no 'noisy neighbours' for a start, just a team carefully pieced together by Martin O'Neill that was good enough to take four points off United this term, including that long-awaited Old Trafford victory. A grudge, if there is one, comes from the 1994 final meeting between the sides when a Villa team managed by Ron Atkinson recorded a 3-1 win that ultimately cost Ferguson a domestic treble. "I hope we are involved in a Treble this time too," said Ferguson. Although United will start favourites, their build-up has not exactly been trouble free, with both Rio Ferdinand and Anderson ruled out through injury. Ferguson confirmed Ferdinand would be missing on Tuesday, after the new England skipper suffered a twinge in his back that meant him missing the Premier League victory against old club West Ham. The United boss hopes to have Ferdinand back in a couple of weeks. For Anderson, who hobbled out of United's Carrington training base on crutches this lunchtime, the absence will be far longer after scans revealed he suffered a ruptured cruciate knee ligament as he stretched to make a pass during the first-half of the Hammers' clash. "It is strange, when you see cruciate injuries it is usually something simple," said Ferguson. "He stretched out for the ball and his knee just popped. "We have assessed the situation and know he needs the operation. "That will be done in two weeks' time in Portugal once the swelling has gone down. "He will be out for six months and hopefully that should have him about right for the new season." As the more recent trend has been for nine months on the sidelines, Ferguson's estimate would appear optimistic. Certainly though, the Brazilian is out of the World Cup reckoning, which was becoming an issue for him, while Ferguson will have to find someone else to replace Michael Carrick when the midfielder is ruled out of the March 10 Champions League meeting with AC Milan through suspension. Rafael, Darron Gibson and Jonny Evans are among the younger members of Ferguson's squad likely to be included this weekend, although it would be a surprise if last season's penalty shoot-out hero Ben Foster was handed the chance to repeat his heroics as United look to reach another notable milestone by retaining a cup competition for the first time in their illustrious history.