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Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Future Manchester United


Sir Alex: I saw it coming

Sir Alex Ferguson says Jose Mourinho's departure is not such a shock.

Football fans woke on Thursday to news that the Chelsea boss had left Stamford Bridge, despite leading the club to five trophies (including two league titles) during his three-year stint and never losing at home. But while most have expressed amazement at the 44-year-old's exit, United manager Ferguson insists it's long been on the cards.

"I don't think it was as big a shock as some people, particularly Chelsea fans, are making it out to be," Sir Alex told Manchester United Radio. "There were definitely signs that things weren't right there. I've obviously spoken to Jose a few times over the years and I'm not surprised by what's happened. I've sent him a message and told him I'll miss my glass of wine with him on Sunday.

"It's a loss to the English game because he's such an amazing and controversial character. I think the game really needed that at the time he arrived in England."

Sir Alex is determined not to let events at Stamford Bridge hinder United's preparations going into Sunday's crucial Barclays Premier League match, although he admits the Reds' Carrington training centre was unusually lively on Thursday.

"There was a lot of discussion on the training ground and in the dressing room about what's going on at Chelsea. Some of the lads know the Chelsea players and they've been getting little bits of information here and there. There was definitely a buzz about the place."

Chelsea will now travel to Old Trafford with former Director of Football Avram Grant in the hot seat. Grant won't have had much time to inject his own ideas into the mix and Sir Alex believes the Blues will still resemble a typical Mourinho outfit.

"They're chained to 4-4-2 and I think that's how they'll play on Sunday," the Reds' boss said. "They still have the same players and we still have to just concentrate on performing well and getting the result we're after." Read more...

Manchester United Vs. Chelsea (Preview)

Wes Brown is determined to see out the rest of his career with Manchester United. Now happily over the nightmare run of injuries which plagued his early days at Old Trafford, Brown is approaching a decade of service at United. With his contract due to expire next summer, the 27-year-old has picked the perfect time to hit top form.

Currently deputising for skipper Gary Neville at right-back, Brown provided the cross for Cristiano Ronaldo's match-winner against Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday, capping a performance which Sir Alex Ferguson described as his best of the season so far.

Although Brown knows he will probably lose his place to Neville once his England team-mate fully recovers from the thigh and calf problems which have hampered his comeback from ankle surgery, he remains committed to the Red Devils cause, even though he would be an attractive proposition for most of United's top-flight rivals should he ever decide to move.

``I have always tried my best for the team,'' said Brown. ``I have been here nine years now and I would do anything for the club. ``It is good to know how highly I am valued by the manager. It is certainly hard to imagine ever playing for anyone else. ``Hopefully that won't happen.

I am happy here and hopefully I can stay here.'' With Neville definitely out of tomorrow's showdown with Chelsea, Brown will keep his place at right-back. Like all his team-mates, he was staggered to learn of Jose Mourinho's departure when news filtered through on the flight home from Portugal.

And the Longsight-born defender shares the almost unanimous opinion that Mourinho will be a big loss, not just to Chelsea but the English game as a whole. ``It was a shock,'' said Brown. ``English football is going to miss him because he was a different character who brought a lot to the game here.

``You have to respect what he has achieved and no matter what he moves onto, I am sure he will do well. ``It is certainly a sad day for Chelsea because he will be a big loss to them. ``They really have to get their heads down and get over it but he has won so many trophies for them, I don't believe it will blow over as quickly as that.''

Brown's versatility has been rewarded not only with ever-present status at United this term but also a regular place in Steve McClaren's England squad He won his 13th cap in the friendly defeat to Germany last month and while he did not add to that number in the recent wins over Israel and Russia.

He was among the substitutes on both occasions as England stormed to successive three-goal victories. Brown is the first to admit he still has plenty to learn, especially in relation to his full-back duties. But already he is showing a previously unseen expansive side to his game if not quite in the Cristiano Ronaldo category, then quite eye-catching nonetheless.

``I do have licence to do a few more things but I have not brought anything out for the last seven years, so I have forgotten some of the tricks,'' he smiled. ``Bombing down the touchline is definitely different. ``I am the first to say I can improve in a lot of areas but my crossing is coming on, which is important because it can be a good source of goals.

``But I do like playing at right-back, even if sometimes I still just have defending on my mind, which can be a bit of a problem.'' After four successive single-goal victories, United are in danger of pinching Chelsea's tag as the 1-0 kings. Narrow triumphs are not something Old Trafford has become used to down the years.

And the sequence should not continue for long given the United squad contains such attacking talents as Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha. But Brown, along with all his team-mates, would be just delighted if four such wins became five tomorrow. ``We would definitely settle for 1-0,'' he said.

``As a player, there is nothing better than knowing you have come through a really tough, hard game. ``Despite what has happened this week, I still expect Chelsea to be our biggest rivals for the title. ``They have been there for the last three or four years, so while Jose will be a big loss.

Their players know what they have to do and what they are capable of doing. ``So, whether it comes in the sixth minute or the 88th, I would take 1-0 right now.'' Read more...

Giggs eyes winning streak

The Reds have beaten Chelsea just once in the last five Old Trafford meetings, but stand-in skipper Ryan Giggs believes United are good enough to take all three points from Sunday's Barclays Premier League fixture.

After a shaky start to the season that saw the Reds head into last month's home game against Tottenham second from bottom, United have dug in and ground out results. The football hasn't always been breathtaking (and the goals have hardly been flying in) but four 1-0 wins on the bounce have steadied the ship and eased fans' fears.

"We're quite capable of going on a good run," Giggs said. "Hopefully we can keep winning and extend that to 10 or 11 games. Each win and each performance breeds confidence throughout the team."

It's a confidence that begins with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and the back four, particularly the central pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

"We're looking very good at the back," Giggs confirmed. "We're not letting in many goals and that's what we were all about last season. Defensively, if we keep it tight we know we'll get chances at the other end.

"Right now we're keeping clean sheets and still nicking the wins, but I think the goals will come soon."

Chelsea go into Sunday's encounter still reeling from Jose Mourinho's shock departure and with injury clouds looming over Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Claudio Pizzaro and Ricardo Carvalho. They've also failed to win in their last three outings.

Even so, Giggs says the Blues can still pose problems.

"I don't think Chelsea's injuries come into consideration. Whenever the big teams play each other form goes out the window because they have special players who can make things happen. It's always going to be close and the last few years have shown that. Read more...