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Friday, October 12, 2007

Edwin out of action

Edwin van der Sar is the latest confirmed casualty ahead of the next round of Euro 2008 qualifiers, with the Reds' goalkeeper pulling out of Holland's squad on Thursday.

Despite injuring his toe in United's 1-0 win at Birmingham City and missing the Reds' recent clashes with AS Roma and Wigan, van der Sar linked up with the Dutch national team earlier this week in the hope of being fit for Saturday's Group G meeting with Romania.

But the 36-year-old couldn't shake off the injury and will now focus his energies on making his United comeback at Villa Park on Saturday 20 October.

"This is a pity," Holland manager Marco van Basten told the Dutch press. "He is an important player, our captain." Read more...

Ferguson can't wait for qualifiers to end

Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced the Barclays Premier League title race will really start to take shape once the battle to reach Euro 2008 is over.

The Manchester United boss has seen his team record six successive wins after an initially slow start to the season - a run which has sent them flying into second spot in the table, just behind early pace-setters Arsenal.

Ferguson is hoping the current two-week break does not halt United's momentum before their trip to Aston Villa on October 20.

But the Red Devils chief is also aware it will not be long before he is losing his players again for a November double-header, during which qualification places for next summer's European Championships in Austria and Switzerland will be confirmed.

Only after that does Ferguson really feel the championship battle will begin to take shape.

'Most clubs, not just United, are finding it difficult to keep the continuity going when you lose your players for two weeks at a time,' he said.

'It is important for the national teams, so you have to support it. But the advantage is that there is a clear run after November.'

England do have a confirmed friendly against France in March and are also expected to announce a February meeting with Switzerland in February, so the international diversions are not over for Ferguson just yet.

But non-competitive midweek internationals in the spring do not bring the same problems as the mass call-ups at present, which leave Ferguson with hardly any players to work with.

'There is a stupid friendly week in March, but I assume it will be limited teams because you are talking about a really important time of the season for league clubs,' added the United boss.

'Once this next international break is out of the road in November, there is a run to the end of the season. It will help with the consistency.' Read more...

Reds' fixture changes

The Premier League have announced changes to two of United's December fixtures, including the Reds' highly anticipated clash with Northwest rivals Liverpool.

United were due to welcome Fulham to Old Trafford on Saturday 1 December but will now face Lawrie Sanchez's men on Monday 3 December (20:00 GMT kick-off, live on Setanta Sports).

Meanwhile, United's visit to Anfield – originally scheduled for Saturday 15 December – has also been rearranged, and will now take place a day later, on Sunday 16 December (13:30 GMT kick-off, live on Sky Sports). Read more...

Simmo staying focused

Danny Simpson is refusing to get carried away, despite an impressive league debut against Wigan during which he set up United's fourth goal.

The 20-year-old entered the fray just before the half-hour after injuries to Nemanja Vidic and John O'Shea forced a reshuffle in the United defence.

Simpson looked completely at home in the right-back slot and capped his display with a fine centre for Wayne Rooney to head home eight minutes from time. It was a hugely proud day for Simpson, but he insists the real hard work is still to come.

"Just because there might be a bit of hype about you after a couple of games for the first team it doesn’t mean you’ve made it," he told

"You’ve almost got to work even harder when that happens to prove that you can stay in there.

"I was really pleased that I was able to set up Wayne for the fourth goal. All the lads came running over to me and it was just a really mad feeling, especially as all my family were at Old Trafford that day.

"To be playing with the likes of Ronaldo, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs – players you’ve grown up watching – was just amazing.

"And having Rio [Ferdinand] next to me in the defence was brilliant. He never stopped talking to me and helped me so much with my positioning and marking."

Simpson knows he faces a tough task in trying to gain a regular run in the side, but believes this season's influx of new players has really benefited the team.

"The addition of the new players in the summer has meant there is a good group of young lads at the club now and it makes training really good fun and exciting," he said.

"There’s good competition for places because everyone is working hard to get their chance. That can only help the team." Read more...

No quick fix for Neville

Gary Neville has suffered yet another setback in his long battle against injury.
The Manchester United skipper's painstaking recovery has been knocked back three weeks after he was forced to pull out of last night's reserve clash with Liverpool at Northwich.
Neville, 32, will delay his comeback until the reserves' next fixture, on November 1. The defender has not appeared for United since March due to a combination of ankle, knee and calf problems.
David Anderson, The Mirror