It’s never a good game when United lose but, amid disappointment and controversy, punters’ should remember that the first leg of this Carling Cup semi-final was a cracker. Manchester derbies are fast becoming the most hottest clashes in England and that can only be a good thing.

As for this Wednesday: it’s only half-time, we’re one down with 90 minutes to play in front of 75,000 screaming Reds and we’re famous for being the comeback kings of European football. Back United at 1.75 (8/11) to win the match and 1.98 (evens) to reach the final. The Carling Cup, like the Premier League, is our trophy.

Saturday’s 4-0 win over Hull got the defeat out of the players’ systems. Wayne’s four and Rio’s return are the feel good stories which set the Reds up nicely for Wednesday.

They’re calling the last 10 minutes of the first leg the Alamo across town. No wonder; under sustained late bombardment, City looked flimsy, United’s wide men had the beating of their full backs and Vincent Kompany and Micah Richards were lost when Owen and Rooney worked the ball between them. If it wasn’t for Shay Given, United would have won.

If United pick up where they left off, they will get an early break-through. Nobody would bet against Wayne scoring the first goal so have a punt on him but put a small stakes wager on Darren Fletcher too. This is what you might call a “hunch bet” but, although the Scottish dynamo has been quiet of late, he’s a big game player and will drive the Reds on Wednesday.

The Reds will go in ahead at the break before adding more in the second half. It might not be a deluge though as, with one eye on next Sunday’s crucial trip to Arsenal, the manager might withdraw players and get men behind the ball. Back 2-0 at 9.4 (17/2) in the Correct Score market and ManUtd/ManUtd at 2.84 (15/8) for a Half-time/Full-time bet.

Rio was commanding against Hull. He has a score to settle after Craig Bellamy beat him to score for in the league match back in September so you can expect Rio to be up for this one. Gary Neville would relish the chance to put Carlos Tevez in his place and the manager may opt for his experience to nullify Bellamy out wide. It goes against the form, which means you might get a decent price, so back the United clean sheet and Under 2.5 goals at 2.06 (21/20).

We should be going to Wembley with money in our pockets so, with the final against Aston Villa – a team United always beat in Cup competitions – in mind, back the Reds to win the Carling Cup at 3.0 (2/1). That price should be snapped up now as it will narrow after we win on Wednesday.