Manchester United News TV Online

Monday, October 6, 2008

Report: Rovers 0 United 2

Goals from Wes Brown and Wayne Rooney sealed an impressive away victory as United totally dominated Blackburn Rovers on their own patch.

The Reds called the tune from start to finish at Ewood Park and, although Blackburn protested long and loud about the award of Brown's first-half goal, there was no question that Sir Alex Ferguson's side were deserved winners.

Rovers goalkeeper Jason Brown claimed that he was fouled as Brown headed in a Wayne Rooney corner, but the rookie stopper was otherwise kept busy restricting United to a respectable scoreline.

After a slow, stop-start beginning to the season, there have been signs in recent weeks that the Reds have been creeping towards top form, and this latest display is the clearest indication yet that the champions have hit their stride.

Sir Alex opted for an attacking line-up as he sought to extend a three-game winning streak, with Dimitar Berbatov and Cristiano Ronaldo selected upfront alongside Rooney, who overcame an ankle injury sustained in Tuesday's win over Aalborg.

For all the Reds' attacking talent, however, it was Nemanja Vidic who almost opened the scoring, but the Serbian centre-back couldn't quite contort to convert Rooney's deflected left-wing corner.

Ewood Park has hardly been a happy hunting ground for United in recent seasons, and Matt Derbyshire served notice of Rovers' threat after 14 minutes when his low shot forced a fine save from Edwin van der Sar.

That was the hosts' most promising piece of play, though, as United called the early tune. Darren Fletcher slid a clear opening wide and Giggs forced a marvellous save from Brown, but the Reds took the lead from the resulting corner.

As players jostled for position to meet Rooney's inswinging cross, the Rovers goalkeeper found his route to the ball blocked by Vidic - who had eyes only for the ball - and Brown was on hand to sneak a header inside the near post.

Jason Brown was called upon to save well at Rooney's feet shortly before half-time as - bar a routine save by van der Sar from Roque Santa Cruz - the Reds' dominance of possession and play continued long into the second half.

Just after the hour mark came the killer second goal. Brown burst out of defence and found Ronaldo, who outmuscled Martin Olsen before pulling back for Rooney to stylishly finish into the top corner.

A third goal in as many appearances for Rooney, who has responded perfectly to being benched against Bolton Wanderers last weekend, and he almost hit number four shortly afterwards, but his neat lob clipped the roof of Brown's net.

Berbatov, Ronaldo and substitute Carlos Tevez, who struck the post with a superb 20-yard effort, all came close to adding gloss to the scoreline, but the Reds couldn't find a way past Brown again.

Blackburn could count themselves lucky to suffer only a two-goal defeat after being bewitched by a swaggering masterclass from United. Less relieved will be those who most covet the Reds' Premier League crown, who saw the clearest sign yet that the champions are approaching top form.

Team line-ups

BLACKBURN ROVERS: Brown; Ooijer, Samba, Nelson, Warnock; Emerton, Tugay, Olsen, Pedersen; Santa Cruz, Derbyshire.
Subs not used: Bunn, Mokoena, Villanueva, Fowler, Treacy, Roberts, Andrews.
Bookings: Pedersen, Samba

MANCHESTER UNITED: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (O'Shea 71); Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs (Tevez 66); Rooney (Park 77), Ronaldo, Berbatov.
Subs not used: Amos, Nani, Rafael, Evans.
Bookings: Fletcher

Attendance: 27,000

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Boss: We were out-muscled


Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Liverpool deserved to win the game at Anfield because United failed to cope with their physical approach.

In a subdued post-match interview, the United boss accepted the Reds were second best and was unhappy with the way his side conceded both goals in the 2-1 defeat.

“My overall view of the match is that Liverpool were the far better team,” the manager told MUTV.

“They tackled us, got about us and harassed us, forcing us to make mistakes, and we didn’t cope with that well. That was the source of our defeat.”

Carlos Tevez gave United a dream start when he converted debutant Dimitar Berbatov’s cross in the third minute, and for 20 minutes United’s recent stranglehold over the Merseysiders looked set to continue.

But Edwin van der Sar gifted Rafael Benitez's side an equaliser when he failed to deal with Xabi Alonso's deflected shot and the ball rebounded off Wes Brown into the net.

And substitute Ryan Babel delivered the killer blow in the second half after Ryan Giggs failed to deal with a ball on the by-line and was dispossessed by Dirk Kuyt.

“We started excellently with a wonderful ball from Berbatov to Tevez to put us in front, and at that point I thought we were going to establish

ourselves," continued Sir Alex.

“But the two goals we lost were absolute shockers; the defending was very, very poor. People will think they are watching a Conference side when they see the highlights.

“Apart from Rio Ferdinand, we did not have one good performance on the pitch. We were out-thought.”

Nemanja Vidic was sent off late on for a second bookable offence after a physical aerial challenge on Alonso and will miss next weekend’s tough trip to Chelsea.

“I’ve seen it and he led with his elbow,” Sir Alex admitted. “But [Jamie] Carragher and [Martin] Skrtel used their elbows in every aerial challenge in the game and there were no fouls given against them.

“We had three players booked and one sent off and I don’t think that’s a reflection of United being a dirty team.”

The Reds' boss will be demanding an immediate response as United look to end Chelsea’s long unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge next weekend.

“It’s going to be difficult but they are all difficult games away from home,” he added. “And if we don’t address the physical part of the game then we’ll struggle there too.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Premier League results


Saturday 13 September 2008

Blackburn 0-4 Arsenal
Fulham 2-1 Bolton
Manchester City 1-3 Chelsea
Newcastle 1-2 Hull
Portsmouth 2-1 Middlesbrough
West Brom 3-2 West Ham
Wigan 1-1 Sunderland

League: Chelsea stay top


Robinho scored on his debut for Manchester City but Chelsea came from behind to claim a 3-1 win at Eastlands and stay top of the table.

The Brazilian curled City ahead with a 20-yard free-kick in the 14th minute, but Ricardo Carvalho lashed home Chelsea's equaliser three minutes later.

Frank Lampard capped a flowing move with a superb left-foot strike to put Chelsea ahead after 53 minutes and Nicolas Anelka slid in a third.

But captain John Terry was shown a straight red card for a foul on Jo with 13 minutes left and will miss United's visit to Stamford Bridge next Sunday.

Rio dismayed by defeat


Rio Ferdinand was at a loss to explain United’s below-par display in the 2-1 defeat at Liverpool, but insists the Reds can bounce back next week at Chelsea.

The centre-back was arguably United’s best player on an unhappy afternoon as Liverpool, aided by two defensive errors, came from behind to end their hoodoo against United.

“We never really got started,” Ferdinand told MUTV. “For the first 10 minutes, before and after we scored, we looked decent and passed the ball about well.

“But after that we didn’t get close to them and they managed to get two goals. They were fortunate on both occasions but I’m sure they’ll be happy enough with that.

“All over the park they were first to the ball and you don’t deserve to win if teams are doing that to you.”

Ferdinand is already looking forward to next week’s tussle with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, a game he feels comes at an ideal time for United after the Anfield defeat.

“It’s always nice to play in big games after disappointments – you find out about your team when you’ve lost a game," he added.

“We want to go to Chelsea and give a good account of ourselves, try to take the three points and ruin their unbeaten home record over the last two or three seasons.

"There couldn’t be a better game for us than the one coming up.”

Report: L'pool 2 United 1


A day that had started so well ended in disaster for United as Liverpool earned their first league win over the Reds since April 2004 thanks to substitute Ryan Babel's late strike.

Dimitar Berbatov, making his Reds debut, set up Carlos Tevez for the opener after just three minutes. A mix-up between Edwin van der Sar and Wes Brown, which saw the defender credited with an own goal, drew the home side level, before Babel fired the winner 13 minutes from time.

Things got worse for the visitors just before full-time when Nemanja Vidic was dismissed after picking up a second booking. He will now miss the trip to Chelsea next weekend.

The big question before kick-off was who would play up front for United? Would Berbatov start or would Sir Alex stick with Wayne Rooney or Tevez? As it turned out, Sir Alex opted to field all three. Rafael Benitez had no such luxury as he started the match without the services of his two most influential players, skipper Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, who were deemed only fit enough for the bench following groin and hamstring injuries respectively.

United’s three-pronged attack was at it right from the off. With just 40 seconds gone, Rooney collected possession and slipped a pass out to Wes Brown on the right. His cross was deftly flicked on by Tevez to Berbatov who struck a first time effort which hit Martin Skrtel’s left arm, although the Liverpool defender knew little about it. Nearly the perfect start for United’s new boy.

That moment duly arrived just over a minute later as Berbatov played a vital role in giving United the lead. Anderson sent the striker galloping away on the right. Holding off the attentions of Jamie Carragher, he pulled the ball back to the onrushing Tevez who planted a curling effort past a helpless Jose Reina. Berbatov’s team-mates ran to congratulate him for his part in the goal as Anfield fell silent.

The Liverpool faithful were on their feet three minutes later though when Dirk Kuyt took aim from just outside the area after United had failed to clear the ball. But the Dutchman’s volley flew just wide of Edwin van der Sar’s right-hand post.

Van der Sar himself nearly gifted the home side an equaliser on 12 minutes when he spilled a Liverpool corner. Kuyt was quick to pounce on the mistake, but United’s no.1 recovered brilliantly to block his fellow countryman's effort from three yards.

It had been a breathless start, particularly from United. But having looked full of invention in the final third, Sir Alex's men were ultimately the architects of their own downfall as Liverpool drew level on 26 minutes in the most bizarre of fashions. Xabi Alonso’s speculative effort deflected off Patrice Evra into the path of Wes Brown who looked to have it covered. His goalkeeper decided to take matters into his hands, however, and came rushing from his line, only to see his punch rebound back off Brown and into the empty net.

Such a setback could have taken the wind out of United’s sails, but the Reds were not to be deterred. And they almost regained their advantage just two minutes later. Tevez darted to the near post and was found brilliantly by Anderson's low centre. The Argentine beat Carragher to the ball, but his flicked effort flew over Reina’s crossbar.

Liverpool finished the half on top and began the second period in much the same fashion. After a shaky 45 minutes, Edwin van der Sar was alert to the danger posed by Yossi Benayoun’s through run 11 minutes after the restart, blocking well as the midfielder took aim from a tight angle.

Owen Hargreaves entered the fray on 66 minutes, but it was United’s other second half arrival, Ryan Giggs – a half-time sub for the injured Michael Carrick – who went closest to putting the Reds in front again. Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard – on for Benayoun – sold Alonso short 25 yards out. Giggs nipped in, before hitting a superb dipping volley which was well tipped over by a back-pedalling Jose Reina.

It was a rare sight of goal for United who were second best to a Liverpool side that grew in confidence as the game wore on. Having tasted defeat against the Reds in five of the last six games at Anfield, there was a real determination about Benitez’s side to turn the tide.

That looked to be on the cards when Babel became the first Liverpool player to find the net against United in the league since Benitez took over. Ryan Giggs failed to put the ball out for a corner when he had the chance, allowing Mascherano to slip the ball to Kuyt. His cross fell to substitute Babel who, despite hitting his shot into the ground, made it 2-1 in front of a euphoric Kop end.

United’s misery was compounded by the

late dismissal of Vidic, who picked up his second booking of the game for a full-bodied, arm-led challenge on Alonso. Kuyt went close to grabbing a third in injury time but was denied by van der Sar, while Rooney fired wide with seconds left as United desperately searched for an equaliser. It wasn't to be this time.

A defeat is hard to take at best of times, but losing to your fiercest rivals in the manner United did hurts more than any other.

Team line-ups

LIVERPOOL: Reina; Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio; Benayoun (Gerrard 68), Alonso, Mascherano (Hyypia 87), Riera (Babel 71); Kuyt, Keane.
Subs not used: Cavalieri, Torres, Ngog, Dossena

UNITED: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick (Giggs 46), Anderson (Nani 78), Scholes (Hargreaves 66); Berbatov, Rooney, Tevez.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, O’Shea, J. Evans, Fletcher

Booked: Tevez, Vidic, Nani. Sent off: Vidic

Attendance: 44,192

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

King Carlos: August's star


Carlos Tevez has edged out Darren Fletcher to claim ManUtd.com’s Player of the Month award for August.

The Argentine striker may not have found the net last month, but he couldn’t fail to impress supporters with his tireless running and unselfishness in front of goal.

Tevez scooped top spot with 49 per cent of the votes. Fletcher, who scored in the Reds’ opening two league games, finished with 39 per cent, while defenders Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra shared the remaining votes.

Ex-Reds defender David May has blown away by Tevez's start to the season.

“He’s come back from the summer break more energetic than ever,” May told ManUtd.com.

“He’s like a breath of fresh air – his work-rate’s tremendous and he’s really stood out. You don’t associate hard work with too many centre-forwards but we’re blessed to have Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney, who will both work their socks off for you.”

As for Tevez’s failure to find the net so far this term, May isn’t bothered.

“People say he doesn’t get enough goals but he scored 19 last season and if he can get that many again I think Sir Alex will be delighted.

“He gives you so much on the pitch without putting the ball into the net. He’s unselfish and his interchange play, especially with Rooney, has the potential to rip defences apart.”

Player of the Month: August 1. Carlos Tevez (49%) 2. Darren Fletcher (39%) 3. Nemanja Vidic (7%) 4. Patrice Evra (5%)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Campbell's United wish


Fraizer Campbell is settling into life at Tottenham Hotspur, but he’s still determined to make his mark at Old Trafford.

The 20-year-old, who was in action for England U21s at Wembley on Friday night, moved to White Hart Lane on a one-year loan deal as part of the Reds’ capture of Dimitar Berbatov last week.

He joins Darren Bent and summer signing Roman Pavlyuchenko as Spurs’ leading striking options and will hope to gain at least a spot on Juande Ramos’ bench when Tottenham host Aston Villa on Monday 15 September.

But although this is Campbell’s second long-term loan in as many years, the speedy striker claims his future still lies at Manchester United.

“I’ve had various meetings with Sir Alex and he assures me I’m in his plans for the future,” Campbell said.

“Hopefully I can get some experience, come back and get a place in his team.”

If Campbell enjoys the same kind of success at Spurs as he experienced last season at Hull City, he may well get his wish.

He netted 15 times in 34 appearances for The Tigers, as Phil Brown’s side roared to a historic promotion.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

FIFA World Cup qualifiers

European Groups

1 - Malta 0-4 Portugal
3 - Slovakia 2-1 N. Ireland
6 - Andorra 0-2 England
7 - Austria 3-1 France
7 - Serbia 2-0 Faroe Islands
8 - Montenegro 2-2 Bulgaria
8 - Georgia 1-2 Rep of Ireland
9 - FYR Macedonia 1-0 Scotland

South American Group

Argentina 1-1 Paraguay

Internationals: Tevez off


Carlos Tevez and ex-United defender Gabriel Heinze both had a night to forget as Argentina's World Cup qualifying campaign stuttered on home soil.

Reds striker Tevez was sent off after just half an hour, for a second bookable offence, after Heinze had gifted Paraguay the lead with an own goal in the 12th minute. And although Argentina eventually equalised through sub Sergio Aguero, set up by Barcelona's Lionel Messi, coach Alfio Basile was bemused.

Basile moaned: "We had the worst luck and the sending off of Tevez knocked us back. It was a strange match but I was not happy with the (1-1) draw because I believe we deserved to win."

The result in Buenos Aires saw Paraguay stay top in the South American group, two points clear of Argentina.

The first World Cup qualifiers in Europe brought mixed fortunes for United's internationals. Wayne Rooney was on the winning side after 90 minutes in an England shirt, thanks to two goals from Chelsea's Joe Cole against Andorra. There was no place for Wes Brown, however, with Portsmouth's Glen Johnson preferred at right-back and Everton's Jolean Lescott deputising for Rio Ferdinand in the centre.

John O'Shea was also a winner, playing the full match at centre-back as the Republic of Ireland beat Georgia 2-1 in neutral Germany. But two United team-mates tasted defeat on their travels - Jonny Evans' Northern Ireland lost 2-1 in Slovakia while Darren Fletcher was in the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Macedonia. Evans and Fletcher both played 90 minutes.

Patrice Evra also played a full game but had no luck in the number 13 shirt for France as they suffered a shock 3-1 reverse in Austria. Dimitar Berbatov was also heading for defeat with Bulgaria until Blagoi Georgiev made the final score in Montenegro 2-2 with an injury time equaliser.

Nani had no such trouble however with Portugal. The United winger, on from the start, scored the final goal in the 78th minute as Carlos Queiroz's men cruised to a comprehensive 4-0 win in Malta.

Nemanja Vidic also got off to a winning start in the World Cup qualifiers, completing 90 minutes on the field as Serbia beat Faroe Islands 2-0.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ronaldo to give all for United


Superstar to put heart and soul into Red Devils

Cristiano Ronaldo insists he will put his heart and soul into helping Manchester United achieve success this season.

The Portugal international upset many fans over the summer after initially refusing to confirm he wanted to stay at Old Trafford after being linked with Real Madrid.

However, despite Real's hopes of prizing the superstar away from Sir Alex Ferguson's grasp, The Red Devils stood their ground.

Ronaldo, who is nearing his long-awaited return following ankle surgery, has now conceded he was 'naïve' with his comments over the summer.

The 23-year-old has admitted that had United not beaten Chelsea on penalties in the UEFA Champions League final then he would not have wanted a fresh challenge.

Naive

"What I said publicly, which was maybe a little bit naïve, I take total responsibility for," he told Inside United magazine.

"I just said what I thought: I have a dream of playing at Real and I thought it was time to move on. People can't be upset about me fulfilling a child-hood dream.

"I knew Real were interested in me and they had, allegedly, made a substantial offer. For a while, I wanted United to accept.

"If we hadn't been European champions, I probabley wouldn't have thought about going to Madrid. I never wanted to go against United's will.

"I'm 100 per cent professional and have always given my heart and soul to this club.

"If one day I leave, I want to do it knowing I did everything I could to help the club win as much as possible."

Keane backs Berba move


Spurs old boy hails former team-mate

Berbatov completed a long-protracted move to Manchester United on transfer deadline day and Keane is confident Sir Alex Ferguson has conducted an astute piece of business.

While Keane admits it is a great move for the Bulgaria international, he is confident it is an even better one for United.

He said: "It was no secret that he was going to go there, everybody knew that Berba was going to go to Manchester United.

"It's a fantastic move for him, but it's a massive one for Man United because he is a top, top player.

Massive addition

"I have seen that at first hand and he will be a massive addition to the Man United squad."

Asked if he had sympathy for his former club, who desperately tried to hang on to the player before finally admitting defeat, Keane said: "I am sure Berba wants to be a better player and he wants to win things, and I think that's the reason he want to Manchester United.

"But Tottenham have brought in a lot of quality players also."

Fergie does not fear City


United boss not concerned by takeover

Sir Alex Ferguson has played down the threat posed by local rivals Manchester City.

City are expected to become a major force in English football after agreeing a takeover deal with the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment (ADUG).

They have already signed Robinho for a British record transfer fee but Ferguson insists he is not too concerned by the dramatic developments.

Chelsea have spent heavily since Roman Abramovich bought the London club five years ago but Manchester United have won back-to-back Premier League titles and Ferguson is now ready for City's challenge.

"I can't be worried," Ferguson told reporters after a meeting of top coaches at Uefa headquarters in Switzerland.

"We have a good setup ourselves and we've been working to build up the team we've got, so we just have to carry on.

"There are always challenges in football, some years ago it was Chelsea and some years ago it was Arsenal and wherever the challenge comes from we have to accept it. So it doesn't change anything."

Ronaldo talk

City officials have spoken about signing Cristiano Ronaldo for a colossal fee in the region of £135million but Ferguson was amused by the suggestion.

"They can talk," said the United boss.

Ferguson accepts that City boss Mark Hughes will now come under pressure to deliver success to the club.

Asked if he would have liked such responsibility as a young coach, Ferguson replied: "For a young manager it must be difficult.

"You can't judge it from when I started, it is a completely different world now. I am at the tail-end of my career. I've been through all these changes so it doesn't faze me."

World Cup weekend


The road to South Africa 2010 starts for numerous United players and one ex-Reds coach this weekend.

Nani is in the squad for Carlos Queiroz's first World Cup qualifier as Portugal boss, but Cristiano Ronaldo is continuing his rehab at Carrington.

John O'Shea should start on Saturday evening when the Republic of Ireland begin their campaign under Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni. The away match against Georgia is being played on neutral ground in Mainz, Germany for security reasons.

O'Shea is in the same qualifying group as new United team-mate Dimitar Berbatov - they will face each other in late March 2009 but firstly Berbatov's Bulgaria travel to Montenegro in search of three points.

Also sharing a group are Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, the defenders who both joined the Reds in January 2006. Evra hopes to feature in France's match in Austria while Vidic's Serbia are expected to make a winning start against the Faroe Islands.

Wes Brown and Wayne Rooney could play against Barcelona in Andorra but Rio Ferdinand was ruled out on Friday afternoon due to a back injury. Fortunately the Reds centre-back is expected to be fit for the second game against Croatia in midweek, three days before United travel to Liverpool.

Finally for Europe, Jonny Evans' Northern Ireland and Darren Fletcher's Scotland are both away, taking on Slovakia and Macedonia respectively.

South America

Qualifying in South America is already well underway - Argentina's match on Saturday will be their seventh. Carlos Tevez and co can go top of the 10-strong group if they beat leaders Paraguay in Buenos Aires.

Other Internationals

Young United players called up by their countries include Ben Amos and Danny Welbeck (England U21), Craig Cathcart and Corry Evans (N. Ireland U21), Ron-Robert Zieler (Germany U20), Conor Devlin and Chris Curran (N. Ireland U19). Unfortunately Danny Drinkwater had to withdraw from England's U21 squad due to injury.

Online betting for all qualifiers and the outcome of World Cup 2010 is available at www.manutd.com/bet. Odds include 7/2 for Rooney to score the first goal against Andorra and 5/1 for Brazil to win the tournament in two years' time.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ole backs Berbatov buy


If it takes one to know one, then nobody should doubt Ole Solskjaer's assessment of Dimitar Berbatov as a quality striker.

Solskjaer's goalscoring exploits spanned 11 years at United before injury forced him to retire and take up his current post as reserves coach. His career included, of course, the epic campaign of 1998/99 when Sir Alex Ferguson rotated four top strikers in winning three major honours.

"I've often wondered how he's done it, with all the internationals he's had," said Ole, referring to the boss' knack of keeping players happy in a large squad.

"But he's always rotated people and I'm sure we'll see great performances from the front four again."

Berbatov's arrival this week as the fourth senior striker - or fifth if you include both Ronaldo and Manucho - had Solskjaer's seal of approval.

Ole told MUTV: "The saga lasted all summer but we were always confident we'd found the right one.

"I think he's the right one. His performances for Spurs have been great. I knew he was a good player when he played against us for Bayer Leverkusen.

"We're delighted we've got him."

Giggs pleased by Phelan promotion


Ryan Giggs believes Mike Phelan's promotion to assistant manager at Old Trafford is an "excellent appointment" by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Phelan had held the position of first team coach, subsequently taken up by Rene Meulensteen, since 2001 having spent five years at Old Trafford as a player during the late 80s and early 90s.

Sir Alex described Phelan as "a very talented and professional coach" after appointing him his No.2 and Giggs was quick to echo those sentiments.

"I played with Mick and know him well," explained the 34-year-old. "You always trust the manager with these things, but it is an excellent appointment.

"Mick knows the club well, has a very good relationship with the players and is a very good coach."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rio doubtful for England opener


Rio Ferdinand is doubtful for England's World Cup qualifier against Andorra this weekend after missing training on Wednesday.

The Reds defender, who has 69 caps for his country, sat out the session at London Colney because of a stiff back, a problem which also affected him on United's pre-season tour of South Africa in July.

England are hopeful Ferdinand will shake off the injury in time for the game in Barcelona's Olympic Stadium on Saturday, but if he fails to recover his place could be filled by Reds team-mate Wes Brown.

Brown trained on Wednesday after previously resting his knee as a precaution and could slot into Ferdinand's centre-back role against the European part-timers, alongside Chelsea captain John Terry.

England are already missing Owen Hargreaves (knee) and Michael Carrick (ankle), but Wayne Rooney is expected to start up front alongside Jermain Defoe.

Rooney has played in only 15 England games since March 2006, scoring three goals, but Defoe has backed the Reds' frontman to rediscover his goalscoring form for his country.

The Portsmouth striker said: "Wayne is only going to get better. Maybe you could say the expectation on him has been unfair but he has set such high standards, by doing so well in his career.

"But he is at a great club, he is still young and he is still learning."

Giggs: We're still tops


Despite the dramatic events across the city at Eastlands, Ryan Giggs insists United are still the biggest club in world football.

On a hectic last day of the summer transfer window on Monday, Manchester City announced they had been taken over by Dr Sulaiman al-Fahim and his Abu Dhabi United company and later revealed the stunning last-minute capture of Real Madrid attacker Robinho for £34.2million from under Chelsea's noses.

Giggs admits to being intrigued by the recent goings-on at City, but maintains his stance that United's history and tradition sets them apart from the rest.

"City have the richest owner in the world but I still see United as the biggest club in the world," insisted the winger.

"United have a status and history that it has taken years to build up. It stretches back to the Busby Babes, to players like Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best. It will be very interesting to see what happens at City, but what we have at United is very special.

"You see it when we go abroad in pre-season, you appreciate how popular United is. We have fans in India, China, South America. That popularity is a result of our history. Money can't necessarily get you that.

"A lot will depend on the players they buy, how quickly they gel and how they handle the attention," he added, in response to being questioned about whether City can break into the top four.

"People have been asking for a long time now if somebody can break into the group. People will expect that club to be City and there will be a lot of pressure on them each season now. Everybody's attention will be on Manchester."

While City made most of the headlines on transfer deadline day, United made news of their own after securing the services of Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham.

"With the transfer window, as a player you follow what's happening like a fan," admitted Giggs. "You're completely in the dark about the situation, just hoping that the player will sign. So, I was delighted when the deal went through.

"I played against Berbatov last season and he stood out, really impressed. He has great technique and will provide a physical presence that we're missing up front. With Louis Saha gone, centre forward was perhaps the one area where we were weak."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Assistant manager appointed


Sir Alex Ferguson has announced that his new assistant manager will be former United midfielder Mick Phelan.

Succeeding Mick as first team coach is skills development expert Rene Meulensteen. The appointments, which take place with immediate effect, have been made following the departure in the summer of Carlos Queiroz to manage the Portuguese national team.

Sir Alex Ferguson told ManUtd.com: "I am delighted that Mick and Rene have agreed to fill these important positions.

"Mick knows Manchester United inside out, having been associated with the club for the best part of 20 years. He is a very talented and professional coach, whose ability and contribution to the club’s success has often been understated.

“Rene brings different ideas and experience to the role of first team coach. I believe the two will provide an excellent team to continue the club’s willingness to try new ideas and constantly drive for success in an increasingly competitive game.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

City ponder £135m Ronaldo bid


The new owner of Manchester City, Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim, has intimated that Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment (ADUG) could back a £135million bid for Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo in January.

The agreement of an ADUG takeover deal at Eastlands was announced on Monday and was followed by the shock capture of Real Madrid forward Robinho for a British record fee of £32.5million.

Chief executive of Hydra Properties, Al-Fahim is reportedly 10 times richer than his counterpart at Chelsea, Roman Abramovich, and he has revealed there are plans to bring in a 'minimum 18' players to the club.

"Ronaldo has said he wants to play for the biggest club in the world, so we will see in January if he is serious," Al-Fahim said in The Guardian.

"Real Madrid were estimating his value at $160million (£90m) but for a player like that, to actually get him, will cost a lot more; I would think $240million (£135m). But why not? We are going to be the biggest club in the world, bigger than both Real Madrid and Manchester United."

It is also reported City will look to target the likes of Liverpool striker Fernando Torres and Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas as the club aim to build a side capable of achieving success in Europe's most prestigious competition.

Al-Fahim added: "We want a team who can win the UEFA Champions League. We're not just going to spend money on anyone, but if we can get the biggest players in the world, and of course if the manager wants them, then we will get them."

Dimi: I play to entertain


New signing Dimitar Berbatov explains why he shunned offers from United's rivals to wear the red shirt...

It feels fantastic to be a Manchester United player. It was a long battle but in the end I'm very happy to be here at the greatest club in the world. Hopefully I’ll play my part in the team and we win many trophies as well.

I always believed I would end up here. I was going through very difficult times but I always believed that things were going to happen and in the end they did. Now I'm the happiest guy in the world.

The red shirt is a really, really big thing for me. The people around me, my really close friends know that I play to enjoy, to entertain the fans. I don’t play for the money. If I wanted to play for the money, I would accept Manchester City's offer or Chelsea's. I want to play for the biggest club in the world and that’s why I’m here. I’m thankful for everybody, for the help they have given me and for the work they did.

I hope I can play my part and help United win more trophies because that's an important thing in football. And of course, I hope I’ll enjoy the football with the players we have here.

I’m 27 and now is my time. This is maybe the last step in my career. I’m at the biggest club in the world and here I can develop in the way I want, the way I always wanted. That’s the most important thing for me.

I have been handling expectation and pressure through all my life. I’m not scared, that’s why I’m here. The most important thing is to enjoy myself, to help the team win more trophies, entertain the fans and if I do that, if I show my ability like I did at Tottenham, I don’t think there'll be any problem.

Our next game (Liverpool) is the type of game we live for. I think it's the biggest game and I can’t wait to play.

Sir Alex: Berba's well worth it


Fans were on tenterhooks on transfer deadline day waiting to see if Dimitar Berbatov would sign for United. But for Sir Alex Ferguson the wait had been even longer, admitting that he came close to signing the player in 2006.

Tottenham had already made their bid for the striker and United's last-minute intervention was too late to secure the Bulgarian's services from Bayer Leverkusen.

Berbatov went to White Hart Lane for a reported £10.9million fee. United have paid significantly more than that for a player who has shone in the intervening two years. But Sir Alex believes the fee is money well spent.

"We tried to get him when he was at Leverkusen, but we only had a few days to get it done," the boss told MUTV in an exclusive interview to be aired at 18:30 BST Tuesday.

"Tottenham had already made a bid. Unfortunately, we hadn't moved at the right time two years ago. Now we've managed to get him. It's cost us a bit more money, but he's worth it."

Fans in the UK can watch exclusive interviews with Sir Alex, David Gill and Dimitar Berbatov on MUTV at 18:30 BST on Tuesday.

Recorded moments after the Bulgarian signed his four-year Reds deal on Monday night, the interviews are truly world exclusive and a must-see for every United supporter.

Sky and Virgin UK customers can subscribe to MUTV now by calling 08708 48 68 88.

United fans worldwide can also watch interviews with Dimitar Berbatov, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill on MUTV Online, on demand from 18:30 BST.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Reds sign Berbatov


Manchester United are delighted to announce the signing of Dimitar Berbatov.

The Bulgarian international striker, 27, has signed a four-year contract after joining from Tottenham Hotspur for an undisclosed fee.

As part of the deal, United striker Fraizer Campbell will spend the rest of the 2008/09 season on loan at White Hart Lane.

Upon becoming a United player, Dimitar told ManUtd.com: "Joining Manchester United is a dream come true for me. I look forward to playing my part in helping this club win more honours in the years to come."

Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted to finally capture the elegant striker and admitted: "This is a key signing. Dimitar is one of the best and most exciting strikers in world football.

"His style and ability will give the team a different dimension and I’m sure he will be a popular player with the fans."

Saha completes Toffees switch


Louis Saha has completed his move to Everton after signing a two-year deal with the Toffees.

The striker, who also has the option of a third year at Goodison Park, successfully passed a medical over the weekend and has joined for an undisclosed fee. He will wear the No.9 shirt for his new club.

The 30-year-old netted 42 goals in 124 appearances for the Reds during his four-and-a-half-year career at Old Trafford, including a debut strike against Southampton in January 2004. But after a promising start he endured a torrid time with injuries and spent prolonged periods on the sidelines.

Saha is looking forward to the challenges ahead with his new club, but admits he is sad at the way his time at Old Trafford ended.

"I am quite disappointed my time with United has finished like this, with so many injury problems," he told the official Everton website. "But I am very happy a club of Everton's stature have shown they are interested in me.

"There is European football for one thing, and I was very impressed when I spoke to their manager David Moyes. He told me exactly how he wanted me to play. He was very honest with me.

"I also spoke to Sir Alex Ferguson and he said it would be good for me to sign for Everton because I would get the chance to play more than at United. He also thought it would help my fitness if I was playing every week."

Everyone at Old Trafford would like to wish Louis all the best for the future.

O'Shea: I'll remain a Red


John O'Shea insists he is happy to stay at United for as long as Sir Alex Ferguson wants him in his squad.

The versatile Irishman has frequently attracted interest from other clubs seeking to whisk him away from Old Trafford.

Transfer deadline day will see plenty of activity on Monday, but rather than follow the lure of cementing the position of first-choice first-teamer elsewhere, O'Shea is intent on staying in Sir Alex's plans.

"I’ll be here hopefully as long as the manager wants me," he said. "That’ll be the case for me. It’s a squad game and who’s to say that if I went to a different team it wouldn’t be the same?"

The Republic of Ireland international knows competition for places is fierce in a squad of United's strength but, for O'Shea, little competes with the challenge of trying to make it into the Reds' line-up.

"I’m at Manchester United and I’m happy doing what I do," he says.

"It’s a case of when I get the chance I’ve got to make sure I give the manager a difficult choice to leave me out of the team. That’s the challenge I face every time I play."

Boss picks out Tevez display


Carlos Tevez's tremendous performance was the silver lining in the cloud of defeat for United in the UEFA Super Cup final.

Sir Alex Ferguson picked out the striker's display as a highlight, saying: "I thought Tevez was the outstanding player on the pitch, I thought he was fantastic, our best player."

The Argentinian's tenacity helped the Reds to come back from two goals down against Zenit St Petersburg and almost take the game into extra time. He was at the heart of virtually every attack, creating chances including the one converted by Nemanja Vidic.

"I thought we had the best chances throughout the match," added Sir Alex.

"There was one in the first half for Wayne Rooney, and some in the second half when we were 2-0 down. That was when we played probably our best football.

"I think it was an open game, I think both teams did very well. The players have put a good effort in on a warm night and there were a lot of tired players at the end of it."

Sir Alex was gracious in defeat and said fans enjoyed an entertaining spectacle.

"I think it was a good, open game and both teams put a lot of effort in on a very hot night. We congratulate Zenit St Petersburg on their victory.

"They're a very good team with good movement. They’re strong. I think they’ll have a good chance [in the Champions League]."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Title rivals drop first points


Two of United's main challengers failed to take full advantage of the champions' absence from league action this weekend.

Liverpool and Chelsea were both held to draws on Sunday, thus ruining the only 100 per cent records still remaining in the Barclays Premier League.

Liverpool fired blanks at Aston Villa but manager Rafael Benitez insisted he was happy with the 0-0 scoreline. Luis Felipe Scolari made similar noises after his Chelsea side drew 1-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur, despite throwing away a lead created by Juliano Belletti. Darren Bent equalised on the brink of half-time to bag Spurs' first point of the season.

Arsenal were the only team from the so-called 'big four' to win this weekend but they did so in style, overwhelming Newcastle 3-0. The Gunners lie fourth, just behind Mark Hughes' Manchester City who also won 3-0, at Roy Keane's Sunderland.

United are ninth but can now leapfrog Liverpool by beating them away on 13 September.

Neville backs Euro repeat


Backed by a squad bursting with youthful vibrancy, Gary Neville is confident United can reprise last season's Champions League glory.

No side has successfully defended the European Cup since AC Milan almost 20 years ago, but the Reds' club captain sees no reason why his side can't buck the trend.

"It’s a big challenge to win the Champions League in any season," he said. "The way the team’s set up, with the players that we have now, the way we attack is unpredictable.

"From an onlooker's position for me last season, that was the biggest change. We’ve got some players upfront who can change games and you don’t know where on the pitch they will pop up.

"We’ve got a young squad, generally, and there’s reason why we can’t go and do it again. We have to reach our standards and levels of consistency that we reached last season, and if we do that then we’ll have a great chance."

Last season's success in Moscow has brought extra games in the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, but Neville is excited, rather than wary, about the challenges that this season brings.

"This is the biggest challenge for any player at the club, and it’s one I’m looking forward to," he said. "Winning the Champions League last season means we enter competitions like this.

"It’s an exciting season for us all to look forward to. Obviously it means plenty of games, but we’ve got a big squad and we’re going to need that throughout the season with the amount of games that we’ve got."

Saha set for Toffees switch


United have agreed terms with Everton for the sale of striker Louis Saha, subject to a medical.

An announcement on Everton's official website confirmed the Frenchman has been offered a two-year deal - with the option for a third year - and is set to sign for an undisclosed fee.

Saha's proposed switch to Goodison Park will be completed subject to a medical.

The 30-year-old has fired 42 goals in 124 appearances for the Reds, despite enduring a torrid time with injuries since joining in January 2004.

Last season's double-winning campaign was a bitter sweet one for the Frenchman. He returned from a knee injury in September 2007 to fire the winner against Sunderland and a victory-sealing spot-kick against Chelsea (in the league), but was largely unavailable at the business end of the season.

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted on Thursday that he was "less optimistic" about bolstering his squad, most probably with a new striker. But Saha's expected departure may see the Reds step up their hunt for a new front man before the transfer window closes on Monday.

Ronny named Europe's best


Cristiano Ronaldo has added yet more personal accolades to his already bulging collection after being named the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year at an awards ceremony in Monaco.

The winger was also named Forward of the Year and received his prize from Portuguese legend Eusebio.

Ronaldo netted an incredible 42 goals last season, including the opener in the Champions League final in Moscow which ensured he finished as the tournament's top scorer.

The 23-year-old is the second United player to win the award after David Beckham in 1999 and he was understandably delighted with his latest personal triumphs.

"I feel very proud to have won these awards," he said. "Manchester (United) had a great season and I scored many goals.

"As a winger, to be named the best forward is fantastic. It is very good for me and gives me more ambition to become better. Thanks to my team-mates and those who voted for me."

The other categories were surprisingly dominated by Chelsea.

Petr Cech beat Edwin van der Sar, Manuel Almunia, Manuel Neuer and Pepe Reina to the goalkeeper prize, while skipper John Terry saw off competition from Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Carles Puyol and Jamie Carragher to win the best defender award.

Frank Lampard picked up the midfielder accolade ahead of Paul Scholes, Michael Essien, Cesc Fabregas and Steven Gerrard.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Report: United 1 Zenit 2


Zenit St Petersburg lifted the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco, despite an admiral Reds resurgence in the second half.

United were 2-0 down after 59 minutes before a rare Nemanja Vidic strike buoyed Sir Alex’s men. John O’Shea twice went close to forcing extra time – and Paul Scholes even found the net – but the UEFA Cup holders hung on to register a 2-1 win.

Scholes’ effort, it must be said, was more a moment of madness than a valid strike on goal. In the 89th minute, the Reds’ midfielder slapped the ball in with his hand and was duly shown a second yellow card for his attempt to deceive referee Claus Bo Larsen. Scholes will now miss United’s opening group stage fixture in this season’s Champions League competition.

Sir Alex, who would have become the Super Cup’s most successful ever manager had United won, was dealt his first blow on Thursday evening when England midfielder Owen Hargreaves felt his knee flare up again during training.

As a result, the Reds’ central midfield berths were occupied by Anderson and Scholes. The Reds’ boss also found room for Nani and Gary Neville, who were in urgent need of minutes on the pitch. They were both busy in the opening stages – Neville getting forward down the right wing, Nani employing his silky skills out on the left.

But it was Zenit St Petersburg striker Pavel Pogrebnyak who had the game’s first real chance. The 24-year-old, who finished top scorer in last year’s UEFA Cup, found himself unmarked 12 yards out but fired his shot well over Edwin van der Sar’s goal.

The Russian side were skilful and sharp, and particularly dangerous down the right flank. Full back Aleksandr Anyukov strode forward at every opportunity and proved a real handful for Patrice Evra. Anyukov’s desire to attack was so strong, Evra had to temper his own trademark forward runs.

After a quiet spell, the game came alive 10 minutes before the break. First, Wayne Rooney forced a save from Vyacheslav Malafeev after stunning work from Carlos Tevez down the right side. Two minutes later, it was van der Sar’s turn to shine as he saved by his post at point-blank range from Croatian centre-back Ivica Krizanac.

It was Zenit St Petersburg who found the back of the net first, just a minute before the interval. Igor Denisov muscled in front of Evra at the near post to flick on a corner from the left. The ball looped over van der Sar and may have been cleared at the back post by Paul Scholes had Pogrebnyak not darted in front of the Englishman to bundle the ball over the line.

The second half began at a frantic pace. Zenit substitute Andrei Arshavin, widely regarded as the Russians’ star player, wriggled through the Reds’ defence before Tevez almost teed up Darren Fletcher at the other end.

Van der Sar then beat away a long-range rocket from Zenit captain Anatoliy Tymoschuck, but was powerless to prevent the Russians’ second.

On 59 minutes, new signing Danny picked the ball up 35 yards from goal and ran straight at Rio Ferdinand. The Portuguese forward jinked inside, wrong-footing the England defender, before blasting his shot into the bottom corner. It was a brilliant piece of individual skill and went some way to justifying his (Russian) record £24million price tag.

The introduction of John O’Shea and Ji-sung Park almost reaped immediate dividends, goalkeeper Malafeev forced into a fine double-save to deny the substitutes. United began to assert themselves more on the match and pulled a goal back on 73 minutes.

It arrived via Nemanja Vidic after Carlos Tevez calmly pulled back Rooney’s deep cross. Vidic, still lingering in the box after a recent corner, fired low and hard with his left foot through a crowd of Zenit players on the line.

Park and Rooney almost combined to engineer an equaliser moment later, but the last meaningful contribution of the match (albeit a baffling one) came from Scholes, who saw red for his uncharacteristic indiscretion.


United: Van der Sar; Neville (Brown 76), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher (Park 60), Anderson (O’Shea 60), Scholes, Nani; Rooney, Tevez

Subs not used: Kuszczak, Gibson, Possebon, Campbell

Booked: Scholes, Anderson, Tevez

Sent off: Scholes

Zenit St Petersburg: Malafeev; Anyukov, Krizanac (Radimov 71), Puygrenier (Shirokov 62), Sirl; Zyranov, Tymoshcuk, Denisov; Dominguez (Arshavin 46), Danny, Pogrebnyak

Subs not used: Contofalsky, Jin, Tekke, Fayzulin

Reds to face Boro


United will host Middlesbrough at Old Trafford in the Third Round of the Carling Cup.

The tie will take place in the week commencing 22 September, 2008.

The clubs have met six times before in the League Cup, with United triumphing three times and two matches ending in draws. Boro's sole win arrived at Old Trafford in October 1973.

The last time the sides met in the competition was at the semi-final stage in 1992. The teams played out a 0-0 draw at Ayresome Park before United won the second leg 2-1 at Old Trafford.

Elsewhere, Portsmouth will host Chelsea, Crewe Alexandra face a trip to Liverpool and Swansea meet Cardiff in an all-Welsh tie.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sir Alex wary of Zenit threat


United may be going into Friday's Super Cup final as odds-on favourites, but Sir Alex Ferguson is aware his side face a tough task against Zenit St Petersburg.

The Russians shocked big-name sides throughout Europe en route to last season's UEFA Cup success, and their menace is no secret to the Reds' coaching staff.

"The press are saying we’re big favourites, but that doesn’t come into our preparation for the game," Sir Alex told his pre-match press conference. "Our preparations for the game go towards Zenit St Petersburg, their style of play and their tactics.

"Going on our analysis, even away from home, there are four players in the box on the end of every cross. They’re very good at getting players into the box.

"I’m sure that will be exactly the case tomorrow, the important thing is that we hold our concentration and make sure we deal with that, then express our own game and enjoy it."

Sir Alex will be locking horns with former Rangers manager Dick Advocaat in Monaco, and the United boss has great admiration for the Dutchman's sparkling career.

"The Dutch are traditionally good travellers in football," he said. "It’s a great asset to have, because football is the important thing and he has proved himself as a very competent and successful coach – no matter where he’s been."

Maintaining the winning habit


Darren Fletcher says the Reds are determined to keep up the winning habit with victory in Friday's UEFA Super Cup final.

Standing in the way of a second piece of silverware this season for United are UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg. And although Fletcher expects to be worked hard by the Russians, the chance for further European success is motivation aplenty.

"It's another trophy and we want to win it," he told ManUtd.com. "We've got a lot of young players in the squad who haven't won many trophies and this club is all about winning - that's a good mentality to have.

"It applies to every game and it keeps the appetite in the squad. We're all looking forward to Friday's game and we're desperate to win it.

"There's a little bit of a fun, celebratory element involved because it's not the be all and end all. But it's a match between the European and UEFA Cup champions, so it's certainly a big game."

Fletcher was inadvertently on an early scouting mission when Zenit clinched their European crown by beating Rangers 2-0 at the City of Manchester Stadium back in May.

"Zenit are a top team," he said. "I watched them in the UEFA Cup a lot last season and actually went to the final. I've played against a couple of their players before in international games so I know what they're about.

"They really are a good team with an experienced manager and I think it'll be a really tough test. They'll be looking to make a mark by beating Manchester United and showing how much of a good team they are. But it's a game we want to win and we'll be doing everything we can to do that."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ronny named Europe's best


Cristiano Ronaldo has added yet more personal accolades to his already bulging collection after being named the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year at an awards ceremony in Monaco.

The winger was also named Forward of the Year and received his prize from Portuguese legend Eusebio.

Ronaldo netted an incredible 42 goals last season, including the opener in the Champions League final in Moscow which ensured he finished as the tournament's top scorer.

The 23-year-old is the second United player to win the award after David Beckham in 1999 and he was understandably delighted with his latest personal triumphs.

"I feel very proud to have won these awards," he said. "Manchester (United) had a great season and I scored many goals.

"As a winger, to be named the best forward is fantastic. It is very good for me and gives me more ambition to become better. Thanks to my team-mates and those who voted for me."

The other categories were surprisingly dominated by Chelsea.

Petr Cech beat Edwin van der Sar, Manuel Almunia, Manuel Neuer and Pepe Reina to the goalkeeper prize, while skipper John Terry saw off competition from Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Carles Puyol and Jamie Carragher to win the best defender award.

Frank Lampard picked up the midfielder accolade ahead of Paul Scholes, Michael Essien, Cesc Fabregas and Steven Gerrard.

Euro draw excites Fletch


Darren Fletcher says the players will be watching with great interest when the draw for the Champions League group stages is made on Thursday tea-time.

The current holders will discover their upcoming opponents around 18:00 BST at the draw in Monaco, also the setting for the Reds' UEFA Super Cup final clash with Zenit St. Petersburg on Friday evening.

Given United's status as defending champions, Fletcher insists there is an even bigger sense of excitement around the camp ahead of this season's draw.

"It's always very exciting and you really look forward to finding out who you'll be pitting your wits against," the midfielder told ManUtd.com.

"There a lot of factors involved in the draw - not only do you look at who you're up against which could be a team you've played many times before or it might be a new challenge, you look at how far you'll be travelling.

"The excitement levels are the same each year, but I think they'll be even more so this time because we're defending champions."

English teams have been a dominant force in Europe's biggest club competition in recent years. There has been at least one Premier League side in the last four finals, with United and Liverpool running out winners in 2008 and 2005 respectively.

Fletcher fully expects one or more of the English clubs to be involved in the latter stages of the competition, and is confident last season's triumph will stand United in good stead.

"We want to be the first team to defend the trophy since it was reformatted," he insisted. "English clubs have done very well in the last couple of seasons and they are major players in Europe now.

"But each year you set out, you can name at least eight clubs that have a good chance of winning it or at least doing well. That's why it's easier said than done to defend the title.

"Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and the top Spanish and Italian teams are all expected to be there or thereabouts. But if we can show the form from last season and learn from the experience of winning it, then we can take it on again this season."

Skipper to start


Sir Alex will hand Gary Neville his second competitive start of the season when United play Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Super Cup on Friday night.

The boss told media in Monaco that the club captain will be involved from kick-off, while Owen Hargreaves is expected to play at least 45 minutes.

Ji-sung Park, returning from a knee injury, can also look forward to 25 minutes or so, and Nani will also appear after missing the Reds' first two league fixtures due to suspension.

Reds confirm Dong exit


Chinese striker Dong Fangzhuo's United contract has been cancelled by mutual consent.

The 23-year-old became the first ever Chinese player at Old Trafford when he joined from hometown club Dalian Shide in January 2004, but has since found his first-team opportunities limited.

He initially spent two years on loan at Royal Antwerp until he was eligible to play in England, and scored 35 goals in 61 games during his time in Belgium.

He pulled on the red shirt for the first time in a friendly against Hong Kong XI in July 2005 and scored in the 2-0 win. The following summer he got the winning goal in a 1-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs during the pre-season tour of South Africa.

He finally made his competitive debut for the senior side against Chelsea in May 2007, but has since struggled to break into Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad.

Last season he enjoyed some success in the Reserves, scoring four goals in a three-game purple patch in November.

He also played twice for the senior side in 2007/08, in September's Carling Cup defeat to Coventry and as a substitute in the 1-1 Champions League draw in Rome, before a knee injury ended his season early.

In this summer’s Olympics in his homeland he scored a late equaliser for China against New Zealand, but could not prevent his country exiting the tournament at the first stage.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Giggs happy to juggle fixtures


Ryan Giggs feels United's fixture congestion may be a blessing in disguise.

The Reds' involvement in Friday's UEFA Super Cup means that Fulham's visit to Old Trafford - originally pencilled in for this Saturday - needs to be rescheduled.

At a point when the Carrington treatment room is still crowded, however, Giggs feels the trip to Monaco may have come at the right time.

"Hopefully we’ve got all the injuries at the start of the season and we can get everyone back fit, more or less, after the international break," he said.

"In a way it’s fallen nicely for us, having only two league games in the first four or five weeks of the season when we’ve got a few injuries. When we do have to play these games again, maybe we’ll have everyone back fit."

Last season's Champions League success means United will also have to juggle a Premier League fixture against Wigan during December's involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Although the Reds are paying the price of success with this term's extra fixtures, Giggs admits such hurdles are there to be overcome.

"It will be a difficult season because of the game cancelled on Friday, we’re going to Tokyo for a week so we’ll have a game cancelled there, and we do have to cope with that," he said.

"But I always say the best team is always at the top of the table at the end of the season and they deserve it. You make your own luck."

Although he is creeping towards the end of his illustrious career, Giggs admits he is savouring his football more than ever.

"I think I maybe enjoy it more because this season I could be going into games thinking it might be the last time I play in that tournament," he revealed.

"You try and enjoy it. When you’re younger you’ve got another 10-12 years to go and maybe you don’t take it in as much. For example, in Moscow I took in the night a lot more than I did in 1999. It comes with age, so I am enjoying it more than ever – as long as we’re winning!"

Owen aims to move on


Having had his first year as a United player disrupted by injury, Owen Hargreaves is hopeful that his return - perhaps in Friday's UEFA Super Cup final - will be his last injury comeback of the season.

Tendinitis affected the midfielder throughout his debut season at OT but, after some impressive training displays, Hargreaves almost featured in Monday's win at Portsmouth. Now a return in Monaco against Zenit St Petersburg could be on the cards.

"I’ve got a big season ahead - with United and England - and I want to be fit," he said. "Hopefully I’ll be back soon and fit for the remainder of the season. Monaco is a possibility, we’ll just see how training goes. I’m improving every day, so hopefully I’ll be back soon."

Hargreaves admits his knee problems have dogged him since before his arrival in Manchester, but some sterling work from the club's medical staff could end the problem.

"I’ve felt it on and off for 16 months," he revealed. "Sometimes more, sometimes less – it’s something I’ve had to cope with. The staff and I have worked very hard so that I’m fit and when I play I don’t miss out. They’ve done a really good job. I think we’ve got it under control."

Vidic denies critical comments


Nemanja Vidic would like to clarify comments attributed to him in several UK newspapers, which have either been taken out of context or misquoted.

Vidic conducted an interview with Russian football magazine Football Weekly, in which he was quoted criticising Manchester's weather and the English lifestyle.

In the interview the defender did discuss how difficult he found it adapting to life in England - including the rain Manchester occasionally experiences - when he first joined from Spartak Moscow in January 2006. He freely admits that, in his first six months in England, he struggled with a new language and culture which contrasted with that of Russia or his native Serbia.

But he feels compelled to clear up other comments attributed to him in the UK press, in which he supposedly said: "In Manchester the main attraction is a timetable at the railway station where trains leave for less rainy cities!

"In England people don't have time to feel the joy of life. Throughout the week they work so hard. They only talk to people at lunch. Then in the evening they watch TV so they can get up early for work the next day."

Nemanja told ManUtd.com: "I'd like to clarify that I did not make these particular remarks. I spoke about the difficulty I had settling in to life in Manchester, but that does not reflect how I feel now.

"I enjoy my life very much as a footballer at Manchester United and I'm very happy to be a part of this great club. I think I show that in the way I play every week. I also have far too much respect for the people of Manchester, and England, to criticise them in this way."

New kit inspired by greatness


United's new third kit has been inspired by the success of 1968, when the Reds wore blue while becoming the first English team to lift the European Cup.

To celebrate the 40-year anniversary of the momentous night, Nike has created a kit worthy of that great team and their famous 4-1 win over Benfica at Wembley. United will therefore wear blue as their third kit for the 2008/09 campaign and as the preferred kit for this season's Champions League away matches.

The new blue shirt includes a number of details that celebrate the anniversary including the embroidery of the words 'May 29th 1968' and '40th Year Anniversary' around the crest.

The kit uses Nike Fit fabric technology, first used by Nike in national team kits worn by Nike-sponsored teams in the 2006 World Cup. This technology is designed to enhance player performance by wicking sweat through the material and away from the skin. A full mesh back on the player's jerseys also aids ventilation.

United defender Rio Ferdinand said: "When you look at the final image you will associate it with the great team of 1968 with the likes of George Best and Bobby Charlton.

"Obviously they won the European Cup in blue so we hope we can walk in their shoes again with this kit. It's such a big part of the history of the club."

Papers: Berba set to move

Berbatov set to move
Dimitar Berbatov's switch to Manchester United looked to be moving a step closer last night after Roman Pavlyuchenko claimed he had finally agreed a deal to join Tottenham. Spartak Moscow had earlier said the Russia striker, 26, had opted against a move because of family reasons, but last night he confirmed he had not travelled with the Spartak squad for the second leg of their Champions League qualifier with Dynamo Kiev as he was finalising the details of his move to Spurs.
Staff writer, Daily Mail

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Papers: Dim'll fix it


£30m or Dimi rots in reserves
Juande Ramos is prepared to let Dimitar Berbatov rot in Tottenham’s reserves rather than sell him for less than £30million. Ramos has lost both his opening league games but is determined to do it his way — without Berbatov up front. With the transfer deadline looming, Manchester United want to cut a deal at around £24m. Yet Spurs remain insistent they want another £6m on top before they will let their Bulgarian striker leave. The trump card for Tottenham is that TWO Spanish clubs are staying in close contact to see how the situation develops. They will offer cut-price deals of their own to land Berbatov, unless United see off the competition by agreeing to stump up at least that £30m.
Pat Sheehan, The Sun

Monday, August 25, 2008

Report: Pompey 0 United 1


United defied the so-called Fratton Park hoodoo to claim a first league win of the season, thanks to the same scorer from the opening game - Darren Fletcher.

Whether Fletcher keeps the credit may yet be decided by the Dubious Goals Panel but there was nothing dubious about the outcome - the Reds were again superior to Portsmouth, especially in the final third. Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who scored twice - including United’s goal of the season - on the Reds’ last win on this ground in 2005/06.

The champions were forced into several changes following the injuries sustained by key midfielders the opening match. Patrice Evra pushed up to deputise for Ryan Giggs on the left flank while Anderson made an instant return in Michael Carrick's central role, barely 24 hours after flying into England from the Beijing Olympics. Also back in the UK and back in the side was Carlos Tevez, who missed the Newcastle match after a family bereavement.

Portsmouth took just 13 seconds to fire the first shot - Papa Bouba Diop bouncing one just wide of Edwin van der Sar’s right-hand post - but it took them an awful lot longer to seriously look like scoring.

United, on the other hand, were always dangerous with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez linking up in attack again and Paul Scholes spraying passes left, right and centre. One exquisite ball wide to Wes Brown on the right flank led to Rooney's first shot on goal, into David James' midriff early on.

Scholes’ other trademark came to the fore in the 19th minute when he unleashed a missile after being teed up by Rooney at a direct free-kick. James dived to his left and dealt admirably with the slight swerve to parry the ball away.

A physical first half was not without its casualties - Tevez was on the receiving end of Diop’s bookable challenge shortly before Brown left the field for treatment to his right eye after being caught in a battle between John O’Shea and Peter Crouch.

Crouch was close to pulling the trigger in the 25th minute when Evra slid in with a brave last-ditch challenge to thwart the England striker. The resulting corner, the first for either side, presented Younes Kaboul with a free header but mercifully the Pompey defender nodded comfortably wide.

Evra was twice in action at the other end around the half-hour mark; first to lose control with a heavy touch when the linesman’s flag was raised; secondly to deliver a killer ball into the six-yard box for United’s breakthrough.

Fletcher attacked it at the near post and will claim his second goal of the season. However, TV replays suggested Portsmouth centre-back Sol Campbell may have diverted it past James and over the line, even before Sylvain Distin hooked the ball into the roof of the net.

The same technology backed Campbell moments later when he blocked a close-range flick with Rooney, but not with a hand as the United fans behind the goal had hoped.

Rooney threatened again at the end of a great build-up when, after turning onto Anderson’s arrowed pass across the edge of the area, he steered a low shot only inches wide of the post with James looking well beaten.

Brown was booked for a wild hack at Armand Traore just before half-time but escaped further punishment when Rooney headed the resulting free-kick away to safety.

United were the first team on the pitch for the second period and the first to create a decent opening. Tevez slipped a pass to Rooney on the left hand side of the area and when the England striker crossed the ball low to the far post, Anderson was only just beaten to it by Distin’s timely toes.

Van der Sar saw his first real action of the match on the hour mark when Portsmouth substitute Jerome Thomas tried his luck from distance – the Dutchman, alert as ever, beat away the effort with his fists.

Rooney had a strong shout for a penalty turned down when Campbell’s clumsy tackle stopped him from connecting with another Evra raid into the area.

Evra, then Fletcher on the follow-up, both had shots blocked by former Chelsea right-back Glen Johnson in the 70th minute, before Vidic’s header dipped just over the bar from an excellent Anderson corner on the left.

Jermain Defoe was booked for dissent just before Tevez curled a free-kick into James’ grasp. As if to sum up the difference in execution between the two clubs, a similar setpiece for Portsmouth saw Diarra’s kick strike United’s wall before it could even reach van der Sar.

Pompey continued to huff and puff but they were never going to blow United's defences down, not with Crouch somehow becoming a needle in a haystack while Vidic, Ferdinand and the marshall in front of them, John O'Shea, repelled one hoisted ball after another. The Reds played by far the more cultured football - substitute Rodrigo Possebon slipped gracefully into the groove when he came on - but combative qualities were just as crucial as the clock ticked down to confirm United's triumph.


Team Line-ups

Portsmouth: James, Kaboul, Campbell, Distin, Johnson, Diop, Davis (Utaka, 66), Diarra, Armand Traore (Thomas, 55), Crouch, Defoe.
Subs not used: Ashdown, Lauren, Hreidarsson, Mvuemba, Sahar.


Booked: Diop, Defoe.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, O'Shea, Fletcher, Anderson (Possebon, 76), Scholes, Evra, Rooney, Tevez.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Neville, Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva, Gibson, Campbell.

Booked: Brown, Fletcher.

Papers: Berba on his way?

Reds close in on Berba


Juande Ramos has told the Tottenham board it is time to give up the fight to keep Dimitar Berbatov from Manchester United's clutches. Spurs have been angered by United's public courting of their Bulgaria striker but the Spaniard wants an end to the feud so that he can bring in a replacement before the end of the transfer window on Monday. Berbatov was left out of Saturday's defeat against Sunderland and fined a week's wages for not being ready for the White Hart Lane game. United are ready to offer £25m for the 27-year-old and Ramos is already lining up Ajax star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as a replacement. A perturbed Ramos said: "We need to get this matter resolved before the transfer deadline. If Berbatov goes, we will need time to sign a replacement. We want to have the best centre forward we can possibly get. This is the first time I have faced this problem as a coach and the truth is I have found it a conflicting situation to be in."
Staff reporter, Daily Mail

The Times claim United made a second formal bid for Berbatov on Saturday in the region of £25 million and expect him to sign in the next few days.

In other news, Sir Alex has revealed that Rio Ferdinand will be his future captain at Old Trafford. Sir Alex made Ferdinand his skipper last season in the absence of Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. And with that duo coming to the end of their careers, Sir Alex said: “In the long term, Rio will be our captain. There is no question about that."

Following the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, it emerged that Lord Coe made a concrete proposal for Sir Alex to become the Great Britain manager/coach at the 2012 Games in London.


Report: United 1 Newcastle 1

The champions were left frustrated at Old Trafford as Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle held the Reds to a 1-1 draw on the opening weekend of the season.

Having gone 0-1 down to Obafemi Martins’ 22nd-minute opener, the Reds responded instantly through Darren Fletcher. However, United were unable to make the most of large periods of dominance over the 90 minutes.

This is a fixture that has traditionally produced a glut of goals - 11 in two games for the Reds last season - but it wasn't to be the case on Sunday.

Several key players were missing so this is far from a disastrous start to the Reds’ title defence. And, but for some loose marking for Martins’ goal, United could easily have walked away with all three points. On the positive side, there was a highly promising first start for Fraizer Campbell up front alongside Wayne Rooney.

Sir Alex approached the game with his attacking options significantly curtailed. Cristiano Ronaldo and Louis Saha are both out injured, while Nani is suspended for the first two games of the campaign. Rooney’s return from a virus eased the problem, but there was a further blow before kick-off when it was confirmed Carlos Tevez would miss the match after returning to Argentina following a family bereavement.

It presented 20-year-old Huddersfield-born striker Campbell with his first competitive start for the Reds.

Despite the enforced changes, it didn’t alter United's attacking approach. Campbell, for one, was intent on grasping his opportunity with both hands. He almost grabbed a seventh minute opener after a brilliant Rooney cross. The young striker’s powerful header was stopped, somewhat unsuspectingly, by goalkeeper Shay Given’s head.

The champions kept on knocking, but Given was repellent to everything thrown at him. In one attacking move, following nice work from Campbell and Darren Fletcher - playing wide right – Given denied Rooney and Paul Scholes (twice) with close-range saves.

United looked slick going forward and typically sturdy at the back. But on 22 minutes, after successive Newcastle corners, Kevin Keegan’s men took their surprise lead. Martins was unchallenged as he rose highest to head the ball past Edwin van der Sar from six yards.

Sir Alex will have been disappointed with the marking, but delighted with United's instant retaliation. The Reds immediately went hunting for the goal the team’s earlier play had deserved. Giggs sent in an inviting low cross from the left side of the box and it got the glancing touch it needed from Fletcher to take the ball past Given.

Carrick was forced off with an ankle injury shortly afterwards, and where in the first half United had put Newcastle under consistent pressure, the second half lacked any real rhythm. Campbell remained lively and forced a good save from Given on 56 minutes with a low, left-footed drive.

The pressing for a second goal with Scholes and Rooney both having long-range efforts, while a Vidic header rebounded off the bar. But the breakthrough didn't arrive and the longer the match went on, the more the Reds seemed to miss the pace and penetration from wide areas that Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani provide.

That point was exacerbated when Giggs went off injured and Sir Alex was forced to reshuffle his pack again. The fact that three players made league debuts or first starts is indication enough that the team is not yet at full strength.

Deep into injury time United were given one last shot at claiming all three points. Substitute Rafael, another league debutant, drew a foul from Butt on the edge of the area. Rooney curled his free-kick round the Newcastle wall, but it went the wrong side of the post. A 1-1 draw isn’t the ideal starting point for the champions' title defence, but United didn’t get off to a flier last season and it didn’t prove prohibitive come the end of the season. This time it's different, though. Next up in the league are away matches against Portsmouth, Liverpool and Chelsea; it won't get any easier.


Team Line-ups

Manchester United: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher, Carrick (O’Shea 25), Scholes, Giggs (c) (Possebon, 63); Rooney, Campbell (Rafael, 80).
Subs not used: Kusczak, Neville, J.Evans, Gibson.
Booked: Campbell, Brown, Rooney

Newcastle United: Given; Beye, Coloccini, Taylor, N’Zogbia; Milner, Guthrie, Butt (c), Gutierrez, Duff; Martin.
Subs not used: Harper, Enrique, Geremi, Smith, Edgar, Bassong, Donaldson.

Attendance: 75,512