Manchester United News TV Online

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 "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

"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 "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