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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Vida delight at killer blow

Nemanja Vidic was delighted that his first United goal of the season came at such a crucial moment as the Reds snatched a late victory on Saturday.

Sir Alex Ferguson says the Serbian has “a bit of the Brucies about him”, and that was certainly evident at Goodison. Much like former Reds centre-back Steve Bruce, Vidic possesses determination and bravery in abundance, prominent attributes that make him one of the Premier League’s finest defenders, but they are also major assets to attacking situations.

“I have had a couple of chances this season and haven’t managed to score,” Vidic told MUTV. “This was probably the best moment to get my first goal of the season with less than ten minutes to go. We’ve won, so I’m happy.”

It capped a wonderful defensive display from the solid Serb, who, alongside Rio Ferdinand, kept Everton striker’s Yakubu and Andy Johnson at bay. But Vidic modestly claims United’s solidarity was a team effort.

“We played like a team,” he said. “It’s not just two players, everyone played well in defence and that helped us get the result. Yakubu is strong and Johnson is quick and likes the ball in the channels. But we knew about them and stopped them from getting chances.

“With our ability going forward we knew that we’d be able to score, and we did. We came for the win and got it. Sometimes you have to make sure you don’t lose a goal.

“It’s always difficult after the international break,” he added. “We knew that it would be hard against Everton and that we’d need to play a compact game. We had to do that today.”

Thanks to Vidic’s intervention, United now have three consecutive 1-0 victories and following a shaky start to the Reds’ title defence Vidic is looking forward with plenty of optimism.

“We started badly this season,” he admits. “But now we have three wins in a row and I think we’re improving every time. I hope that in our next game we improve again. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.” Read more...

Boss salutes Reds' resolve

Sir Alex Ferguson saluted his side's resolve as Nemanja Vidic's late header gave United a battling victory over Everton at Goodison Park.

The Reds, who were far from fluent, showed great character to keep the hosts largely at arm's length throughout the match, and defended resolutely - with Vidic particularly outstanding.

"It was a great result," Sir Alex told MUTV. "A lot of teams will drop points here. It was a real battle. It looked to me like it was going to be a draw, but then we got a lifeline with Nemanja's goal.

"It wasn't a great performance, but it was a good, decent performance. The whole team worked very hard, and it's maybe difficult sometimes coming back off the international break.

"We all know that we've not got our strongest side out, but in that situation you all get together. It was a good strong team effort today, and we defended right.

"They had a chance at 1-0 when Edwin's made a terrific save, and Rio Ferdinand's made a fantastic block from the follow-up (from Victor Anichebe). That's determined defending, and that's the kind of defending you need to win the title.

"If we can do that, and once we've got all our top players back and got the consistency of our performance, we'll be alright."

Sir Alex was left exasperated at times by the performance of referee Alan Wiley, who irked the United Manager by dishing out questionable bookings to Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Scholes - who subsequently avoided a second booking for a foul on Mikel Arteta - was booked for punching the ball away after Wylie had harshly penalised him for handball, while Ronaldo was punished for a perceived dive on the edge of the Everton area.

"When Scholesy got his booking, he didn't handle the ball. The referee's view is blocked, he's heard the crowd and given a yellow card, which is ridiculous," said Sir Alex.

"Carlos has seen the video and said Ronaldo was definitely tripped, but it was outside the box. To get a yellow card if you've been fouled is ridiculous. And of course you can't rescind a yellow card, only a red card, that's the unfortunate thing.

"The referee's really just satisfied the crowd. He thought it was going to be a penalty kick, and that's why he's booked him. It gets him out of jail, and it was a terrible decision."


Silvestre sent for scan

Sir Alex Ferguson says that Mikael Silvestre will be sent for a scan on the knee injury the Frenchman picked up against Everton on Saturday.

The Reds left-back, who was playing his first match since the opening day of the season against Reading, got his studs caught in the Goodison Park turf and fell awkwardly, twisting his knee. Silvestre appeared to be in quite considerable pain and had to be stretchered from the field.

"It's a knee injury," confirmed the boss after the match. "We'll send him for a scan and wait to see what comes of it."

Silvestre joins Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea on the sidelines, all of whom are expected to be out for a number of weeks at least. Read more...

Giggs: Play me anywhere

Ryan Giggs says he will play anywhere Sir Alex Ferguson decides to use him.

The Welshman's experience of over 700 matches for the Reds makes him a vital cog in Sir Alex's team, particularly with the recent influx of young players at the club.

A sprightly winger in his youth, Giggs has added versatility to his game in his later years, and whether it's in the centre of the park, out wide or up front, the 33-year-old feels completely at ease with the task.

"Over the last couple of year I've played on the left, I've played in midfield and just off the striker," Giggs told Inside United magazine. "I've got the experience to play all the positions so it doesn't really bother me where I play."

Giggs recently retired from international football and, having had a two-week rest while most of his club-mates were off on Euro 2008 qualification duty, he'll be raring to go as the Reds resume Premier League duties against Everton this weekend.

But it may not just be during international fixtures that he gets a break, with the quality and depth of United's squad offering the likes of Giggs and Paul Scholes further opportunities to stay fresh. "We've got that strength in depth now and plenty of options up front, so I'm sure the manager will be freshening things up," Giggs added.

"He'll probably try to keep the back four and midfield as solid as possible, not changing too much. But he's got the luxury now of being able to change the front players around, which is obviously important because they need to stay sharp." Read more...

Everton Vs. Manchester United (Report)

Hard-fought, patient and determined; everything United needed to be at Goodison Park on Saturday, and all qualities encapsulated in the performance of Reds match-winner Nemanja Vidic.

The colossal Serbian defender, outstanding in coping with the threat of Yakubu and Andy Johnson all afternoon, proved his threat in attack with a thumping header from Nani’s corner to seal victory seven minutes from time in a match that so often looked destined for a draw.

United controlled large periods of possession, and attacked with purpose, but rarely threatened Stefan Wessel - in for injured former Reds goalkeeper Tim Howard. However, the Reds never stopped seeking a breakthrough, even when Everton had arguably decided to settle for a point.

Wayne Rooney, who hasn’t played since the opening day stalemate with Reading at Old Trafford, had been tipped to make his comeback from a fractured metatarsal against his former club. But Sir Alex Ferguson instead opted to leave the 21-year-old out of his squad. And with Cristiano Ronaldo back from a three-match suspension, Carlos Tevez with games under his belt and Louis Saha on the bench, there was no need to take any risks with Rooney.

The Reds, and Tevez in particular, started brightly with the Argentina forward, Ronaldo, and Ryan Giggs all rotating to find space in the final third. Tevez carved out the first chance with a glorious through-ball, arced perfectly round Everton full-back Tony Hibbert to find the advancing Patrice Evra. The Frenchman, playing on the left wing in front of Mikael Silvestre, hit the side-netting with his shot, but it represented a positive opening from Sir Alex’s team.

Ronaldo was next to go close after quarter of an hour with a shot that flew past the post. And it may have troubled Everton keeper Wessels had Joleon Lescott not got a crucial touch on the ball.

Despite United’s bright beginning, however, the half ended frustratingly for the Reds, with Everton defending resolutely and clear-cut chances few and far between. Sir Alex was forced into a change just before the break when Mikael Silvestre appeared to slip, twisting his knee. Nani replaced the Frenchman and took up duties on the left flank, with Evra dropping back into defence to replace his fellow countryman.

As the half wore on, Everton began to come into the game and after the restart Yakubu was proving a handful for United’s defenders. Two minutes into the second half, the Nigerian laid on the ball for Phil Jagielka to strike just wide. Then he helped earn David Moyes’ men a corner kick, from which Paul Scholes had to clear off the line from Andy Johnson’s header.

Giggs and Tevez continued to probe Everton’s defence, but United were finding it difficult to get in behind the back four. And when the Reds did manage to find space in the area just after the hour, the chance went begging. Ronaldo and Tevez combined on the edge of the box, culminating in Tevez lifting the ball over Joseph Yobo to find Scholes’ run, but the ball wouldn’t drop quickly enough and, under pressure from Lescott, the Reds midfielder volleyed over.

With that in mind Sir Alex brought on Saha in place of Giggs to add dynamism to United's attack. As against Sunderland, Saha brought with him hope of a late winner. Two minutes previously, Tevez had gone close with a 20-yard effort and Saha's arrival seemed to lift the Reds momentarily. But still there was no way through Everton's stubborn resistence.

Ronaldo went down in the area on 70 minutes and for a second it seemed as if referee Alan Wylie had pointed to the spot. He had actually given Everton a free-kick and booked Ronaldo for diving, even though television replays showed that Jagielka had clipped the Portuguese winger’s heels.

With the game entering the final ten minutes, the match appeared headed for a draw. And on account of Everton’s undoubted improvement this season, a draw at Goodison Park is by no means anything to be ashamed of. But in light of United dropping points against Reading, Portsmouth and Manchester City already this season, these were three points the Reds certainly needed.

The cavalry finally arrived in the 83rd minute. Patrice Evra won a corner on the left and Nemanja Vidic, so dangerous from set-pieces, found space at the front post to power home from Nani’s centre. It merely enhances the Serb's cult status among United's supporters, and the relief at seeing the ball hit the back of the net was almost immeasurable. Remarkably, it was United's first attempt on target.

But the drama wasn’t over there. James McFadden, Scotland’s hero against France in midweek, came on for Phil Neville and immediately tested Edwin van der Sar with a 20-yard effort. The Dutchman palmed away the shot, but it fell to substitute Victor Anichebe inside the six-yard area. United’s fans, hearts in mouths, must have winced, but Rio Ferdinand came to the rescue to block the Nigerian’s shot, before Yobo fired wide.

This isn’t the slick United we saw at this stage of last season, but with several key players returning to action from injury or suspension, it is another victory at least – the third 1-0 win in a row – and results under recent circumstances are all that matter.

Team Line-ups

Everton: Wessels; Hibbert, Yobo, Lescott, Baines; Osman (Pienaar, 72) P.Neville (McFadden, 84), Jagielka, Arteta; Johnson, Yakubu (Anichebe, 72).
Subs not used: Turner, Carsley.

Manchester United: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Silvestre (Nani, 40, Pique, 84); Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Evra; Giggs (Saha, 62), Tevez.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Gibson.