Ryan Giggs gives Manchester United an early lead against Chelsea
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson opted for 10 changes to the team that defeated the Blues in their last league match on Sunday. Blues manager Roberto Di Matteo, on the other hand, made six changes to the Chelsea team from Sunday's match.
A dramatic game that saw United take the lead thrice in regulation play was eventually decided in extra time.
Once Di Matteo brought Chelsea big-hitters Eden Hazard, Oscar and Ramires on in the second half, it was always going to be a struggle for the United second string and especially its inexperienced defence.
United were only a few seconds away from a famous 3-2 victory when Scott Wootton bundled over Ramires in the box. This allowed Eden Hazard to equalize from the penalty spot with the last touch of regulation time.
From that moment on, Chelsea were ahead, and they eventually ran out 5-4 as the winners at the end of extra time.
Here is a look at how the Manchester United players rated in this game.
Anders Lindegaard made a return from his thumb injury for this game. There was additional pressure on the Dane with the inexperience of the back line in front of him.
Lindegaard had precious little to do in the first half, as most of the play happened in front of the Manchester United defence. Pretty much his only involvement was to face up to David Luiz from the spot after Alex Büttner tripped Victor Moses in the area.
Even though Lindegaard dived the right way for the penalty, he was beaten by a very well-struck shot by Luiz.
The second half was busier for the United stopper, who made some decent saves.
Despite conceding five goals in total, he could have done nothing for any of them. Maybe he committed too easily for Ramires' goal that won the game for Chelsea.
But other than that it, was a pretty solid performance from the Danish goalkeeper.
Rafael Da Silva was the only player on the Manchester United team who retained his place from Sunday's league game. In what was a testament to the inexperience of United's back line, he was the senior statesman in defence.
However, he found himself in an unfamiliar role after halftime, as he had to deputize at left-back. Before that, the young Brazilian had done well at right-back, both defensively and in attack.
The unfamiliar position on the left of the United defence raised expected problems as he failed to track the runs of César Azpilicueta on a couple of occasions.
Overall, though, Rafael was reasonably solid, especially during his time on the right.
What the 120 minutes of running up and down either flank does to his role against Arsenal on Saturday may be another matter altogether.
Scott Wootton got the chance to start a second consecutive League Cup game and performed reasonably well for 90 minutes.
A couple of features of Wootton's game were really noticeable in those 90 minutes. He was very good aerially and managed to win every single cross against Daniel Sturridge and Victor Moses. He was also not afraid to get stuck into challenges.
However, the latter feature effectively cost United the game. Wootton got a yellow card in the 64th minute. He continued to get stuck in and was fortunate not to be sent off for a foul on Hazard in the 83rd minute.
His concession of a penalty in the final minute of injury time was the big mistake. The challenge on Ramires betrayed his inexperience and, possibly, exhaustion.
To further compound his misery, he tried to cushion a header towards the goalkeeper in the seventh minute of extra time but only succeeded in giving the ball to Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge went on to score Chelsea's fourth goal in the subsequent passage of play and gave the Blues a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
It will be interesting to see if the 21-year-old gets more chances for Manchester United this season, especially with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones nearing their comebacks from injury.
If he does make further appearances, the way he recovers from his errors at Stamford Bridge will go a long way toward deciding if his future lies at Old Trafford.
The Manchester United Reserves Player of the Year from the 2011-2012 season served as the silk to Scott Wootton's steel at the heart of the United defence.
Keane showed enough evidence of his potential to be a United first-team player in the future. His anticipation was excellent, and his composure on the ball and passing ability reminded me a lot of Rio Ferdinand at his prime.
What especially impressed me was the way he tried to rally the team after his defensive partner's clanger handed Chelsea the lead in extra time.
Keane kept driving on with the ball from deep, trying to launch United attacks to find the equalizer.
From having watched him in a few reserve games and also in all his first team games, I have no hesitation in saying that Keane looks every inch a United player. Hopefully, he will continue to develop and take his chances in the next few years and emerge as a centre-back capable of playing regularly in the biggest of games.
After an unconvincing showing against Braga in his last appearance for Manchester United, Alexander Büttner gave his worst performance in a Red shirt in the game against Chelsea.
He was up against a tricky opponent in Victor Moses, who exposed Büttner's defensive deficiencies time and again. Never was this more evident than when Moses won Chelsea's first penalty after an unnecessary trip by the Dutchman.
For the most part, Büttner had a tough time performing his defensive duties, as he kept leaving space on the left flank every time he went forward to link up in attack.
The Dutchman's poor showing came to an abrupt end at halftime when he was substituted for Nick Powell due to a nerve injury. The news of the injury ultimately summed up what was a poor performance and reinforces Patrice Evra's position as United's first-choice left-back.
Büttner's injury also had the unfortunate consequence of moving Darren Fletcher to right-back. This was the beginning of a series of incidents that culminated in two mistakes by Scott Wootton and subsequently two Chelsea goals.
This game was the clearest indication yet that Darren Fletcher is well and truly back from the horrific time he spent recovering from his medical condition last year.
He played the first half as a defensive midfielder, shielding the inexperienced centre-backs. It was no coincidence that Fletcher's presence in midfield also yielded Manchester United's most comfortable defensive period of the game.
Fletcher was as effective as always, quietly breaking up play and linking up well with players in advanced positions with his neat passing.
Büttner's injury meant a reorganization in defence, and Fletcher took up his place at right-back. However, his absence in midfield meant Chelsea kept pressing United deeper and deeper.
The lack of a shield in front of them also caused centre-backs Wootton and Keane to chase Sturridge and Moses further up the pitch and opened up spaces behind them for other Chelsea attackers to exploit.
However, Fletcher's own performance at right-back was solid enough, even though he later had to deal with the trickery of Eden Hazard. What's more, he kept on bombing up the pitch at regular intervals, especially in the second half when United began chasing the game.
These 120 minutes of an intense game truly indicate that Fletcher is back as a viable option even for the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.
Okay, so is Ryan Giggs really turning 39 next month?
From this performance, it seems impossible.
Manchester United's grand old man (he probably won't appreciate my calling him that) put in a very good performance in central midfield for much of the game. His calm, collected passing and link play with the United players in front of him were a big part of the Red Devils' attacks.
The way he made up ground in the build-up to and calmly finished the first goal was brilliant opportunism. The way he kept up the United morale after they fell behind in extra time was also exemplary. To top things off, he buried United's last-minute penalty to reduce the arrears to one goal.
After iffy performances toward the beginning of this season, Giggs definitely bounced back in this game. No one put it better than Sir Alex Ferguson (quote via BBC Sport Website):
Ryan Giggs played the full game and he is 39 next month. He is an example to all the players on that pitch, including the Chelsea players.
The 24-year-old Brazilian was surely Manchester United's man of the match in this game.
In his 81 minutes on the pitch, Anderson pressed and harried Chelsea players every time they had the ball. For the first goal, he robbed Oriol Romeu of the ball and laid it out for Ryan Giggs to score.
Anderson's passing was a highlight of his game. His curled-through pass for Chicharito for United's second goal and his one-two with Nani for United's third point were just two highlights of a very good performance.
However, it was also clear that Anderson was struggling with his fitness after around 75 minutes of an all-action performance. If he can build on his fitness and keep performing at the level he showed Wednesday, Anderson can surely stake a claim to a first-team place in the future.
For 60 minutes, Nani showed why he is still among the possible match winners at United. He, along with Anderson, was at the heart of everything good about United's play. He was bright, inventive and full of running.
In addition, he also dropped back to help Rafael out from time to time. His contribution reached his peak when he followed up some delicious passing and movement with an impetuous finish to score United's third goal.
However, his performance after 60 minutes dropped massively, almost as if he believed the goal ended his work for the night.
From that moment on, he repeatedly lost the ball and was mostly a passenger in the game.
It was revealing that Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out Nani lost the ball just before Chelsea got the penalty in the fourth minute of injury time. Somehow, Sir Alex's words did not engender the feeling that he was happy with Nani after the game (quote via BBC Sport):
Nani tried to beat a player, lost the ball and we've got a penalty against us...If you are winning 3-2 in the final seconds of the game then you should see it out. Nani is an individual. He wants to beat men and we are not going to discourage that.
Danny Welbeck played against Chelsea more as a left winger than an out-and-out striker. Even then, he continued some of the good form he has shown recently.
Welbeck constantly made a nuisance of himself for the Chelsea defenders by drifting inside and linking up with his teammates. He consistently showed some good touches as United focused on playing around the Chelsea defence to create goalscoring opportunities.
However, Welbeck took little advantage of goalscoring opportunities for himself, due to his position on the left. He did strike a couple of on-target shots, but they were nothing special and were easily saved by Blues 'keeper Petr Cech.
The main drawback with his game was that he failed to provide Alex Büttner with sufficient help against Victor Moses in the first half.
In the second half, as United dropped deeper against Chelsea pressure, he was able to discharge his defensive duties more effectively.
Welbeck was ultimately replaced in the 97th minute, possibly with a view to a role against Arsenal on the weekend.
There is something about Chelsea that Javier Hernandez just loves.
After scoring the winner against the Blues on the weekend, Chicharito scored another goal against them from a classic "off the shoulder of the defender" run.
This time around, he wasn't even offside when he scored!
Chicharito extended his record against Chelsea to six goals from nine appearances (three of which came as a substitute). He ploughed a lone furrow up front on his own—something that saw him not being involved in the game for long periods.
However, when he did get on the ball, he was alert and effective.
It seems as if the zip is back in his play: His movement is back to its best, and he is back in goalscoring form. In addition, his passing, physical strength and link-up play have been the best they have ever been in his Manchester United career.
A big reason for a reduction in United's attacking threat in the second half was that they began to drop deep and failed to get the ball up to Chicharito.
However, the Mexican didn't let his shoulders drop and kept working hard to get his team back into the game.
Nick Powell is going to be a big, big player for Manchester United.
And let no one doubt that!
For 75 minutes on Wednesday, he played as central midfield for United and did not look out of place. His first contribution after coming on at halftime was to test Petr Cech with a very good long-range shot, who could barely keep it out of the net.
Powell had a really good 25 minutes after coming onto the pitch. It was his drive, as well as his initial pass to Chicharito on the left wing, that started the Manchester United move for Nani's goal.
According to whoscored.com, he had three key passes in the game, second only to Anderson and Giggs on the United side.
His passing was neat and assured. Even his defensive work and ability to get stuck in under pressure shone through.
Powell's performance leaves fans asking to see more of him and the promise of him emerging as United's midfield lynchpin in the years to come.
Ryan Tunnicliffe came on for Anderson 81 minutes into the game as Manchester United looked to close out their regulation-play win. While that did not happen, Tunnicliffe impressed with his desire and work-rate in the 50 minutes of playing time he got.
Like the other youngsters on show, Tunnicliffe showed a very good comfort level with the ball and always looked to begin moves by finding his teammates. In addition, he also showed a willingness to get stuck in with some meaty tackles.
Unfortunately, the search for an equalizer in extra time meant that Tunnicliffe often found himself outnumbered against an advancing Chelsea attack; United lost a fifth goal to Ramires at the end of such a counterattack.
Overall, Tunnicliffe showed enough desire and ability to earn more chances to play for the Manchester United first team in the future. If United can secure an early passage into the UEFA Champions League knockout stage, his name might be one of the first in Sir Alex Ferguson's squad-rotation plans.
Sir Alex Ferguson sent on Federico Macheda for Danny Welbeck 97 minutes in, with Manchester United trailing 4-3. It seemed to be a move with an eye on Saturday's EPL game against Arsenal.
United fans would have hoped for yet another Macheda moment from the Italian once he came on with 23 minutes to play.
However, he was unable to add an edge to United's attacking play.
He had some neat touches and some good interplay on the wings. However, he didn't really contribute in terms of goalscoring and didn't make enough of an impact from the bench.