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Arsenal's youngsters on fire in Cup win

September 24, 2008 08:35 IST

Arsenal's future looks to be in safe hands after a largely teenage side produced a sparkling display to thrash Championship (second division) Sheffield United 6-0 in the third round of the League Cup on Tuesday.

Nineteen-year-old Mexico striker Carlos Alberto Vela led the way with a hat-trick, while 16-year-old Jack Wilshere ran the midfield in a performance that must left manager Arsene Wenger purring.

Manchester United needed two late goals to beat 10-man Middlesbrough 3-1 at Old Trafford while Liverpool, showing 11 changes from the team who drew with Stoke City at the weekend, beat League One (third division) Crewe 2-1 at Anfield.

Gianfranco Zola, who got off to a winning start in his new role as manager of West Ham United at the weekend, tasted defeat on Tuesday when a Hayden Mullins own goal gave Watford victory at Vicarage Road, while Fulham were also on the wrong end of an upset when they lost 1-0 at Burnley, also from the Championship.

Sunderland and Stoke both needed penalty shoot-outs to get past third division Northampton and second division Reading respectively.

Wenger's policy of playing youth players in the League Cup took Arsenal to the semi-finals last season and he had already said he intended to stick with it this year.

Aside from 23-year-old goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianksi, Tuesday's team had an average age of 19 and the youngsters rewarded their manager's faith by tearing United apart.

Nicklas Bendtner, one of the most experienced players in the team at the age of 20, got the first two goals, both after sweeping passing moves.

Vela's treble included an exquisite chip that delighted the Emirates crowd while Wilshere capped a fine individual display by turning sharply and firing in the fifth.

"It was a great Arsenal performance. I'm very happy and very proud tonight," Wenger told Sky Sports.

"You could see that Vela is a clinical finisher."

Cristiano Ronaldo marked his first start of the season by heading Manchester United into the lead at Old Trafford but Adam Johnson nodded an equaliser after 56 minutes.

Middlesbrough had Emanuel Pogatetz red carded for a bad foul on Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Possebon after 72 minutes and some poor defending then opened the door for Ryan Giggs and Nani to secure United's progress.

On Wednesday holders Tottenham Hotspur, currently bottom of the Premier League, visit Newcastle United while 2008 runners-up Chelsea are at Portsmouth.

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