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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Rooney feels for Roma

Wayne Rooney ruined Roma's hopes of revenge at Old Trafford with a match-winning second-half strike, but the United forward says the Italians perhaps deserved a point in the tie.

Rooney was the architect of the Reds' 70th-minute breakthrough. But United were holding after Cristiano Ronaldo went off with a cut to his head, leaving Sir Alex's side with ten men having used all three substitutes. Francesco Totti and Mauro Esposito both missed second-half chances to give the Giallorossi the goal that would have earned them a valuable point.

"Roma played really well," Wayne told Sky Italia. "We knew it'd be more difficult this time. The fair result was probably a draw as they had a lot of good chances.”

Rooney's finish was expertly executed, latching onto Nani's poked through-ball before angling his drive just inside the post for his first goal of the season. "I had to take it as early as I could," he said. "I saw the defender coming across and had to see it past him and the goalkeeper to the far post.

"I've played against Roma three times now and scored three goals, so I’m pleased with that. We played OK, but Roma did well and the fair result was a draw, fortunately we managed to hold on." Read more...

Sir Alex: We rode our luck

Sir Alex Ferguson says United were slightly fortunate to beat AS Roma 1-0 after the Italian side spurned a host of chances at Old Trafford.

The Reds took the lead after 70 minutes following a sublime strike from Wayne Rooney. But Roma had 16 chances throughout the match, most notably with Francesco Totti and substitute Mauro Esposito missing the target from close range.

Tomasz Kuszczak was called into action numerous occasions, and Sir Alex was pleased with the 25-year-old's display.

"He made a couple of good saves and made a good block in the second half," he said. "Roma had a few good chances and maybe we can count ourselves a little lucky."

United are yet to reach top form both domestically and in Europe this term. But the important thing is that the results keep on coming, and Sir Alex is confident the Reds will soon be back to the team's best.

"We've got the players," he told ITV Sport. "Sometimes you go through these spells [where you don't score many goals] but it won't last forever. Some day we're going to hit a few goals. Hopefully that will come soon. All the players are working hard and all showing a lot of experience.

"I'm pleased with the win because Roma are a good team, it was a good game and a good European night. It was a bit tactical at times but a good result for us."

Of Rooney's match-winning strike, the boss said: "It was marvellous, similar to the one he scored against AC Milan. Great passing and a great finish."


Manchester United Vs. Roma Report

There was no repeat of April's Roman demolition but United did enough to take all three points against an Italian side desperate to avenge last season's embarrassing defeat.

The Reds dominated for large spells but couldn't force the ball in during the first half. In the end, it was Wayne Rooney who broke the deadlock with a predatory strike in the 70th minute to hand Sir Alex yet another European scalp.

The United boss opted for pace down the flanks in his team selection, picking both Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani at the expense of the experienced Ryan Giggs.
Louis Saha was handed his first start since February, while John O'Shea slotted in at right back for the injured Wes Brown. There was no Owen Hargreaves in the squad, although Nemanja Vidic passed a late fitness test to take his spot in the centre of defence alongside Rio Ferdinand.

In goal, Tomasz Kuszczak made his European debut and he had to be alert as early as the 10th minute when Francesco Totti fired a long-range effort straight at the Pole. It did little to trouble Kuszczak but suggested last season's European Golden Boot winner had once again adopted the shoot-on-sight policy we saw here at Old Trafford in April.

Of course, on that occasion, United went 3-0 up before 20 minutes. Tonight, the pace was less frenetic in the opening exchanges, as the new-look Roma back four stood firm against United's two-pronged strikeforce of Rooney and Saha.

Nani unwittingly came close on 17 minutes when he stretched to keep a Rio Ferdinand pass in play and the ball cannoned off his shin and across the six-yard box.
Two minutes later, the Portuguese winger earned a free kick when Lancashire-born Simone Perrotta caught him 25 yards from goal. Ronaldo lined up the ball but blasted the set-piece into the Italian wall.

It began a period of real dominance for the Reds, with Nani and Ronaldo again involved moments later. United had a half-hearted penalty appeal for handball turned down after a Nani pass struck a Roma defender on the arm. But there was more concern for the Italians in the next phase of play, as Nani whipped in a curling cross that Ronaldo narrowly directed over the bar from six yards.

The summer signing from Sporting Lisbon went close himself on 27 minutes when an in-swinging cross from the left-wing forced goalkeeper Curci to athletically tip the ball clear. Louis Saha then stung Curci's palms before a Totti free kick kept Kuszczak alert at the other end.

But it was all United and once again it was Nani who fashioned a chance for the Reds. This time he beat De Rossi on the left before curling a ball to the back post where Wayne Rooney volleyed over from close range.

Curci required treatment shortly afterwards when he collided with Saha at a United corner but the Italian stopper recovered sufficiently to continue and ensure Roma went to the break on level terms. He'd certainly been the busier goalkeeper, although Roma manager Luciano Spalletti would have been pleased to go into the dressing room at 0-0.

Sir Alex told ITV during the break he expected the Reds to take a few more risks in the second half and Ronaldo fired a low cross into the box early on. But it was Francesco Totti who perhaps should have put the visitors ahead in the 48th minute. Nemanja Vidic slipped in the penalty area, allowing Totti space. With Kuszczak bearing down on the striker, Totti was forced to take the chance early but could only clip the ball over both goalkeeper and crossbar.

It was a lively start to the second period and Nani almost illuminated the match further when his cross-come-shot brushed the top of the Roma crossbar after he'd carved open the Italian defence on the edge of the penalty area.

Wayne Rooney forced a smart save from Curci at his near post on 65 minutes before Cristiano Ronaldo found the net on 69 minutes with a cheeky backheel. To the Reds' dismay, the Portuguese winger was ruled offside and he was denied a second European goal in as many games.

There was no doubting the validity of Wayne Rooney's strike a minute later. The England international latched onto Nani's clever pass to fire a first-time drive across Curci and in off the far post to send United ahead. It was Rooney's first goal of the season and no more than he deserved after a night of tireless running and clever interchange play.

Carlos Tevez almost made it 2-0 when he flashed a shot inches wide from long range before Rio Ferdinand blocked a Ludovic Giuly shot that may well have been heading into the far corner.

But Roma's best chances were still to come, with Max Tonetto miscuing a volley at the back post in the 82nd minute before substitute Ahmed Esposito blasted wide with the goal at his mercy and just three minutes on the clock. That opportunity arrived with the Reds down to 10 men, after Ronaldo, bloodied and groggy from a Mirko Vucinic elbow, had disappeared down the tunnel a minute earlier to receive four stitches.

Even with a numerical disadvantage, Sir Alex's men hung on for a memorable win… even if it didn't arrive in quite the same fashion as April's epic 7-1.

Attendance: 73, 652

United: Kuszczak; O'Shea, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo, Nani (Giggs 80); Rooney (Anderson 85), Saha (Tevez 66)

Subs not used: Heaton, Pique, Simpson, Eagles

AS Roma: Curci; Cicinho, Juan, Mexes, Tonetto; De Rossi, Aquilani (Pizarro 61), Giuly (Esposito 80), Perrotta, Mancini (Vucinic 74); Totti

Subs not used: Sergio, Antunes, Barusso, Brighi

Hargreaves out for a month

Owen Hargreaves has been ruled out for up to a month, Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed.

The Reds midfielder is to have an injection in his knee to try and cure the tendonitis problems he has been suffering from.

"He will have an injection in his knee," confirmed the boss on MUTV. "It was an option that we had some weeks ago, but after training on Monday he was feeling it and we just have to go ahead and give him the injection.

"Hopefully that's the end of it and he comes back 100 per cent."

The 26-year-old had been tipped to play against Roma on Tuesday at Old Trafford, but his name was again absent from the team-sheet. The former Bayern Munich midfielder's start to his United career has been blighted by injuries and he hasn't played since the win over Sunderland on 1 September.

Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo, who was forced off against Roma in the final five minutes of the match, has had four stitches to the head wound he suffered against the Italians.


Rooney: We blew Champions League last season

Wayne Rooney is 'desperate' to win the Champions League this season and believes Manchester United blew their chance last term.

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United looked good bets to conquer Europe after their 7-1 drubbing of Roma in the quarter-finals, only to be comprehensively outplayed by eventual winners AC Milan in the second leg of the semi-final. Roma are United's opponents again tonight in the group stage of the competition but Rooney already has his eyes on the main prize. He said: 'I'm desperate to win the Champions League having got so close last year. 'We didn't play the way we can in the semi-final and that cost us away against Milan. 'Hopefully we can go on and get to final this year. 'We have got that little bit more experience and the players that have been brought in can add freshness towards the end of the season.' Five of United's last seven games have ended in 1-0 wins but Sir Alex Ferguson insists there is no problem with his strikers, despite a scarcity of goals. Ferguson said: 'All the front players have been slow to get on to their game - that's understandable with Wayne with his injury and (Carlos) Tevez missing pre-season. 'They are getting better and will continue to do that. I think the partnership is good, using Wayne as a more advanced player and Carlos dropping in. 'They have that understanding, there are moments when Wayne drops in or drifts to the side but that's not a problem for us, it keeps our flow going. 'We know that Wayne can penetrate, that Cristiano Ronaldo can penetrate, and Carlos can in a different way, so I'm happy with that and I don't think there's a problem at all. 'Good players with the ability they have got will soon gel.' Defenders Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic are doubts after the pair picked up knocks at Birmingham - John O'Shea and Gerard Pique will step in if they fail fitness tests - but Owen Hargreaves trained this morning and is in line to make his European debut for United. Ferguson admitted he might be tempted to bring the former Bayern Munich midfielder straight back into the fray despite his lack of match practice. He said: 'Hargreaves is a possibility but to be honest I would have liked for him to have had some more football for such an important game. 'European football is a different level for speed and tactics.' Read more...

Manchester United Vs. Roma Match Preview

Sir Alex Ferguson insists there is no problem with Manchester United's attack despite a scarcity of goals ahead of their Champions League Group F clash with Roma at Old Trafford. Five out of United's last seven games have ended in 1-0 wins but Ferguson believes his new Wayne Rooney-Carlos Tevez strike partnership is starting to click.

When United met Roma at Old Trafford last season Ferguson's team scored as many goals - they won 7-1 - as they have in eight Premier League matches so far this campaign. But Ferguson said: ``All the front players have been slow to get on to their game - that's understandable with Wayne with his injury and Tevez missing pre-season.

``They are getting better and will continue to do that. I think the partnership is good, using Wayne as a more advanced player and Carlos dropping in. Meanwhile, Ferguson does not envisage anything like the same scenes as Roma's last visit in April when they were torn apart by a rampaging United side who went through to the semi-finals.

The United manager said: ``I think there's a big motivation on Roma's part - I have seen some of the Italian papers and they are all about revenge. ``I can see it's a big occasion for them after the defeat they suffered last year. They will want to turn that scoreline around. ``But it was a one-off - it won't happen again. European football is just not that way nowadays, and it will be a very difficult game for us, Roma are playing very well at the moment.''

Defenders Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic are doubts after the pair picked up knocks at Birmingham - John O'Shea and Gerard Pique will step in if they fail fitness tests - but Owen Hargreaves trained on Monday morning and is in line to make his European debut for United. Roma can call upon midfielder Simone Perrotta after the World Cup winner declared himself fit to take his place in the squad.

Ashton-Under-Lyne-born Perrotta sustained a thigh injury in Saturday's 4-1 defeat against Serie A champions Internazionale, but is eager to start. Saturday's emphatic defeat, their first slip-up of the campaign, relegated Roma to fourth in the Italian standings - three points behind leaders Inter. But Roma coach Luciano Spalletti does not want his players to dwell on the defeat as they seek their second ever triumph in English soil after eight failed attempts.

``We must forget our defeat to Inter and bounce back straight away,'' he said. ``We are jumping into a completely different reality on Tuesday and we must be strong mentally.'' With the top spot in Group F up for grabs, Roma will be looking to pick up where they left off in their 2-0 triumph over Dynamo Kiev in their opening Champions League game.

Cicinho, a summer signing from Real Madrid, is expected to return to the starting line-up with Christian Panucci ruled out through injury. The Romans will also be without injured Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Taddei. Read more...

Ronaldo: I 'tortured' Roma

Cristiano Ronaldo aims to sink Roma again tonight after revealing how their players begged him to stop tormenting them during their emphatic 7-1 defeat to Manchester United. Roma return to Old Trafford tonight for the first time since last season's humiliating loss and Ronaldo, who terrorised the Italians with two goals and a hand in two others in April, revealed how one of Roma's beleaguered men pleaded with him to stop his tricks. Ronaldo said: "When we were already winning 6-0 one of their players said 'don't do any more dribbles, you're already winning by six', almost begging. Obviously I won't reveal his name, as these are comments brought about by occurrences in the game. But these comments are worthless, for I keep playing exactly the same way." Ronaldo, who made the Roma revelations in his new book, Moments, will be singled out for special attention by Roma tonight, given the demolition job he performed last time.
David McDonnell, Daily Mirror

Carlos craves early opener

Assistant manager Carlos Queiroz hopes United can draw first blood against Roma on Tuesday evening, in order to make the game a more entertaining spectacle.

With goals at a premium in United's games so far this season, the Portuguese wants a quick strike to help both sides step out of what could otherwise be a cagey affair.

"If we go in front that will change the overall picture of the game and you'll see the opposition take more risks," Queiroz told United Radio. "They'll need to involve more players in their attacks and that stretches the game.

"If we score early, Roma don't have anything to lose and they'll open up the game to try and score. That will be a better spectacle if the two teams play an open game and we know that when the game turns open it's always easier for us to get a good result."

Just as Sir Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney and countless other squad members have stated in the run-up to Tuesday's game, Queiroz is aware that there will be no repeat of last April's 7-1 mauling of the Italians.

"Roma are a better team this time around," he said. "There has been a lot of progress – they're more consistent and I think the players know each other much better.

"Both sides have a few injuries. It's always difficult to predict football and we don't know what will happen. They have added a few new elements and those players also have great motivation and desire to prove themselves, so it won't be easy."


Sir Alex trusts Tomasz

Sir Alex Ferguson insists he has no qualms about handing Tomasz Kuszczak his Champions League debut against Roma on Tuesday evening, after Edwin van der Sar was ruled out through injury.

The 25-year-old stopper made his first league appearance of the season as a half-time substitute at Birmingham on Saturday after van der Sar had injured a toe.

The Polish goalkeeper looked confident between the posts and made a superb reflex save from Gary McSheffrey's deflected shot soon after Cristiano Ronaldo had given the Reds the lead.

He now faces his biggest test of his Reds' career so far as he prepares to make his European bow. But Sir Alex is confident he'll rise to the challenge.

"I'm very confident that Tomasz can step up [to the Champions League]," said Sir Alex at his pre-match press conference. "The boy just needed the opportunity.

"Especially with the ability and experience of Edwin van der Sar, it is difficult for any young goalkeeper to get games.

"But he showed on Saturday against Birmingham, as he has done in the past, that he can do very well. I was very pleased with his performance against Birmingham." Read more...