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Covering last night's match from the Old Trafford press box,'s Steve Bartram was impressed by the way United's youngsters played their part in Carling Cup progress...

Next week, the stars of the Carling Cup win over Middlesbrough will probably be back in action in the somewhat less stimulating surroundings of the Marston's Arena in Northwich.

For the likes of Danny Welbeck, Rafael Da Silva and Ben Amos, it will be more a test of professionalism than playing ability - but it's an examination they'll almost certainly pass with flying colours.

As old-head Ryan Giggs said after last night's match, the young lads showed that they have the mental approach to compliment their undoubted skill, and the swaggering way in which Boro were overcome bodes well for the future.

Behind the scenes, there's genuine excitement about the Reserves this season, with a raft of exciting, attacking-minded young talents coming through, so it's little surprise that there was such a sense of expectation at Old Trafford last night.

The goals came from Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, but it was the teen talents who stole the show. Welbeck (17), Rafael (18), Amos (18) and Rodrigo Possebon (19) all took to the task with a youthful vigour which whipped up a real buzz among the crowd.

The obvious negative of the evening was the horrendous challenge by Emanuel Pogatetz on Possebon, but otherwise it was a perfect evening as each newcomer went about their respective jobs with great professionalism.

Amos commanded his area, Rafael charged up and down the right flank, Possebon won and gave the
ball, Welbeck linked up the attack and terrorised the visiting defence. Each lad did their job, but also showed the impudence of youth with a host of cheeky flicks and tricks which enraptured the crowd.

The last two seasons have seen early Carling Cup exits against Southend and Coventry, where stage-fright or an off-night have seen the Reds' youngsters punished and denied the chance to further sample first-team action.

Had the Reds crashed out again last night, Sir Alex may have opted to send one, two or a handful of his youngsters out on loan for vital senior experience. Having overcome Gareth Southgate's side, however, United fans will see more glimpses of the rough diamonds coming through the ranks, and a long Carling Cup run would provide the perfect platform.

In the meantime, it's back to the Reserves. Having made the step up so seamlessly, I wouldn't bet against the Reds' young guns putting on another memorable show against Wigan next Thursday as they continue to push for more regular tastes of first-team action.

The views expressed in 12 O'Clock Blog articles are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Manchester United FC.{83A644F4-1A7E-48B9-AF95-4605613A9A18}&newsid=6619058&page=1
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