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United defend League Cup title

Published:Monday | March 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

WEMBLEY, England (AP):

Wayne Rooney scored his 28th goal of the club season as Manchester United successfully defended the League Cup with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa yesterday.

Substitute Rooney sent a powerful header over American goalkeeper Brad Friedel in the 74th minute to settle the first meeting of US-owned clubs in an English final.

"I had a little bit of a sore knee for a couple of weeks and I felt it in the game," Rooney said. "I'm delighted to score the winning goal in a Wembley final for the first time."

James Milner had put Villa ahead from the penalty spot after five minutes, but Michael Owen quickly levelled for the English champions.

Prevailing in the 50th League Cup final provided Alex Ferguson with his 26th title since joining United in 1986.

Yet a sign of where England's second-tier knockout competition fits on Ferguson's priority list was evident in Owen being selected to lead the attack from the start, over the in-form Rooney.

Ferguson's plans seemed to be unravelling when Gabriel Agbonlahor latched onto Ashley Young's long ball only to be hauled down by Nemanja Vidic.

Goalscoring opportunity

Despite not even booking the Serbian for denying a goalscoring opportunity, referee Phil Dowd pointed to the penalty spot and Milner slotted the ball into the bottom right corner, sending Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way.

"We started really well," Friedel said. "Perhaps it's unfortunate we weren't up a man from the start."

The 30-year-old Owen scored 12 minutes into his first Wembley final. Dimitar Berbatov stole the ball off Richard Dunne and while the Villa centre back caught up with the advancing Bulgaria forward, his tackle pushed the ball toward Owen, who struck the ball beyond Brad Friedel.

significant contribution

It was Owen's last significant contribution to the final. As has been the story of his recent career, Owen was forced off with a hamstring injury in the 42nd - another sign for both Ferguson and Capello of the forward's ongoing fitness struggles.

"I didn't think of who was watching. It was a real chance for me because I haven't started too many games," Owen said. "I just want to play for Man United and if that gets me recognition, then great. I've been to many World Cups and European Championships. If I don't go, it gives someone else a chance."