Duo carrying the load

Fate of United and City's seasons depends on the performances of Rooney and Tevez as both former striker partners are in form.

MANCHESTER // The fortunes of Manchester United and City this season could hinge on the performances of Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez. That was the message emanating from Old Trafford following an exciting and emotional end to their Carling Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.

Rooney's injury-time winner gave holders United a 3-1 second leg success, 4-3 on aggregate, to seal a Wembley showdown on February 28 with Aston Villa. The League Cup is a competition where the England international has not figured much and his last goals were in the 2006 final win over Wigan. But his teammates appreciate how crucial he is to their hunt for more honours. Darren Fletcher said Rooney "does the work of two players" up front.

Michael Carrick, on target alongside Paul Scholes on Wednesday, added: "He is awesome. When I first came to the club, I thought he was a great player, but three years on he's improved again. "He just gets better and better. He's taken on more responsibility up top and not only is he scoring goals, he's creating them for others. He's doing everything you could possibly ask of him. Let's hope it continues until May."

City hope that will be the case with Tevez too as they switch their sights to the FA Cup and a top four finish in the Premier League. Like Rooney, the Argentine has revelled in a lone attacking role under new manager Roberto Mancini. The pair's form has been impressive. Tevez's flick, that almost took the game into extra time, was his 14th in 12 games. But Rooney delivered the decisive blow for the Reds - just like Michael Owen did in the league game back in September - with his 21st goal of the season.

That hurt Tevez as three goals in the two legs against his former club produced no reward. He faced a hostile crowd upon his return. He said: "There were nearly 80.000 people swearing at me for 90 minutes and it just makes me feel stronger. "I can look anyone in the eye and what I do is OK. I'm angry to lose again in the last minute, but that's football." As they try not to dwell on their disappointment, the City full-back Javier Garrido said they had shown they could compete with United and can end their 34-year wait for a major trophy.

The fact Ferguson put out another strong side, rather than reserves, also highlighted the threat of their neighbours. Garrido added: "That shows he's not scared, but he's got it in his head that we have the quality in our team. The belief is in our team to challenge, definitely. You need time to get into the top four, but we are doing well in the league and we have to keep going." Robinho's loan move from City to his former club Santos was confirmed last night after the two clubs today reached agreement on the deal.

City confirmed in a statement on their website that the Brazilian club will pay all of the player's wages and bonuses for the period, which begins immediately and ends on August 4. Manager Roberto Mancini said: "Robinho is someone who needs to be playing regularly and we wish him well for the period of his loan." @Email:akhan@thenational.ae