UNITED'S double pre-match con trick looked a likely winner but it was last summer's bluff that caught up with them at Eastlands. The Reds probably hoped when they made their pitch for Carlos Tevez that the lure of Old Trafford and its silverware riches might outweigh everything else - it didn't and it rebounded on them last night. But it looked initially that Sir Alex Ferguson and Co had pulled a couple of fast ones that would prove to be key in the battle for Wembley. Those from the Old Trafford camp who spoke in the build up to this derby had been at pains to dismiss the tie as more important City than United - it was a bluff. Fergie had canvassed the theory as often as he could that he was going to reward his kids by handing them another Carling Cup test. He claimed he would play a "strongish" XI - it was a bluff. To seriously suggest that anyone at United who had even an inkling of what this one meant to the fans would shrug their shoulders and say "never mind" if the Blues were to reach Wembley via the local route was ridiculous. And as for a strongish line-up you can forget the "ish" this was as strong as Fergie could lay his hands on. For the majority of the first half it looked like Mancini and Co had bought the con hook, line and sinker. It also looked like they believed that the League Cup holder's form of late was in for the duration. Confident The nervous and fragile Reds were no more and this was a side confident in everything they did. They were largely in command and the passing was as crisp as it had been for a long while. The icing on the cake came early with Ryan Giggs' 16th minute goal. City's left back role is notoriously an Achilles heel and United were fortunate to have one of their form men of the campaign, Antonio Valencia, attacking that weak area. Even though the Blues doubled up to protect that flank Valencia powered past Bellamy's effort and drilled in a nightmarish low cross. Wayne Rooney
got a touch, Given deflected it and Giggs would score such a tap in even when he's drawing his pension. Unfortunately it turned out to be a rare chance created as United's possession dominance failed to amount to anything as easy as the opening goal. Fergie's one nod to youth was to name Brazilian teenager Rafael. On fitness and form he was there on merit but ironically it proved to be United's undoing. The right back was sensational at Eastlands last season up against Robinho but the in-yer-face irritation that is Craig Bellamay is a different kettle of fish. It all got too much for the youngster and his messy effort to stop the Welshman handed the Blues their lifeline. Carlos Tevez's penalty was enough for the old anxious Reds to return. It won't be a popular theory but it is an obvious one to say that if the Reds had had the added attacking verve of their old boy to bolster Rooney then this would have been a different story. United's nervousness was evident in their off the pace botched efforts to clear Bellamy's corner that led to Tevez's second. Nobody seemed to have the urgency to sense the danger. Had they been brainwashed into thinking that Tevez wasn't that good in the area? When it comes to pocket battleship live wires the Reds still have Rooney and his second half personal fight with Shay Given showed this semi is not over by a long chalk.