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Friday, October 19, 2007

Keeper Van der Sar eyes Man Utd return

Edwin van der Sar is fit and ready to return for Manchester United at Aston Villa on Saturday.

The veteran Dutch keeper has missed United's last two games with a toe injury picked up during the Premier League win at Birmingham last month.

Although the 36-year-old was named in the Holland squad by Marco van Basten for the Euro 2008 double-header with Romania and Slovakia, he was forced to withdraw, sparking fears he might be missing for longer than most people at Old Trafford had anticipated.

However, Van der Sar has confirmed he is now 100% again and should replace Tomasz Kuszczak at Villa Park as United look to extend a six-match winning sequence in the Premier League which has been achieved without conceding a goal.

'I feel good,' he said.

'I went away with the national team last week because I felt I could have played on the Saturday.

'Unfortunately, the progress was not quick enough. There was no point in taking a risk and aggravating it, so I decided not to play and focus on tomorrow's game instead.'

Although Van der Sar has been fortunate to avoid serious injuries during his illustrious career, he has been struck down by a couple of minor problems since joining United, including a calf injury and a broken nose sustained in a collision with Robbie Keane at Tottenham.

However, the former Ajax star has no lingering fears and confirms he wants to stay fit in order to avoid extra work during recovery.

'I am not worried about my foot because overall, I have not had many injuries,' he said.

'It is strange to go a couple of weeks without playing, so I am looking forward to being involved again.

'When you are injured you have to work harder than when you are fit. That is why everyone wants to get back as quickly as possible and feel part of the team.' Read more...

Ferguson expects his England stars to shine

Sir Alex Ferguson is backing his fallen stars to recover from their international disappointments by firing Manchester United to victory at Aston Villa on Saturday.

John O'Shea and Darren Fletcher were both left frustrated by poor results for the Republic of Ireland and Scotland respectively but it is England duo Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand who suffered the most.

Both are facing the dismal prospect of an unexpected summer off as England struggle to reach Euro 2008, a scenario that would almost certainly see the dismissal of Ferguson's former assistant Steve McClaren after just 18 games in charge.

But the United boss has felt no need to throw a protective arm around his charges.

After seeing so many players experience the same emotions during his two decades at Old Trafford, Ferguson is happy to let the nature of the game take care of the problem.

'They are grown men and they are big men, they have to be able to deal with it,' said the Scot.

'There have been a few disappointments, with Scotland, Ireland and England. But the situation is nothing unusual and I have not spoken to them about it.

'The beauty of football is that you always have the next game in which to rectify what happened in the last one. Sometimes it is seven days, sometimes it is four. But it means you can always get over these things quickly.'

Ferguson sees no reason why this weekend should not provide instant relief.

While United's next opponents have continued to improve under Martin O'Neill, Villa Park is one of the Red Devils happier hunting grounds.

It is 12 seasons since Ferguson last tasted a league defeat in August 1995 to the Midlands outfit, Villa's success drawing the famous `You'll never win anything with kids' response from Alan Hansen.

Ryan Giggs was not in the United line-up that day however, he was one of the youngsters Hansen was talking about, even though he had already won two league titles and an FA Cup by that stage.

Ferguson has certainly never had any cause to regret trusting that `Class of 92' and particularly Giggs, who this week signed a contract which will keep him at Old Trafford until 2009 and hopefully much longer, way beyond the end of his playing days, possibly in the type of ambassadorial role Sir Bobby Charlton has at present.

'Without doubt, Ryan is still a big influence in the dressing room,' said Ferguson.

'He sets a tremendous example and I hope he stays here a lot longer.

'He has never shown any inclination to go into coaching but he certainly has a role to play once he has finished because we need to recognise the deeds of our great players.'

Giggs' presence will be required on the field tomorrow as United look to maintain a six-match winning streak during which time they have not conceded a goal.

The run has allowed Ferguson's team to keep pace with early table-toppers Arsenal, who they meet at the Emirates Stadium on November 3.

Some pundits have suggested Arsenal are too raw and inexperienced to last the pace this season, feeling United, Liverpool and Chelsea will eventually emerge as the major championship contenders.

Ferguson disputes that theory. He only has to look back 12 months to find similar opinions being expressed about his own side, who went on to win the title in such glorious fashion.

'It is still an open race but Arsenal have had a great start and they are the ones we are chasing at the moment,' said Ferguson.

'I know challenging for a title is a new experience for a lot of their players but some of them have been there before and the manager has, which is a help.

'People said the same thing about us last year but we led the league for three-quarters of the season, so I don't think it is a handicap.

'The main thing is I know we will chase them with great fervour and determination.

'Our team is coming together now. We are getting on with the business of winning games and hopefully we can continue to do that now.' Read more...

Boss hopes for birthday boy Vida

Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping to make Nemanja Vidic's birthday weekend by declaring him fit to face Aston Villa, while Edwin van der Sar has confirmed he could play.

Vidic, 26 on Sunday, was withdrawn from the Wigan game a fortnight ago after just 21 minutes, and he has since missed Serbia's Euro 2008 qualifiers against Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, the big defender could now return to action in United's trip to the Midlands.

“We don’t have many changes from Wigan. I’m hoping that Vida will be ready,” said the boss at his pre-match press conference.

Van der Sar limped off with a toe injury against Birmingham City, but he is also expected to return at Villa Park. However, the Reds are still without Owen Hargreaves, Gary Neville and Louis Saha. The Frenchman is still troubled by a knee injury, although he could make Tuesday's Champions League match with Dynamo Kyiv.

"Owen isn't ready," said the boss. "We've had to follow the procedures laid out by the doctor that gave him the injection, and part of that means he won't play against Aston Villa. I think after next Saturday (Middlesbrough) we'll be talking about him getting close then.

"Gary is doing very well," he added. "We've already had a few practice matches for him and we're trying to organise another for Wednesday to bring him on a bit. He's very close now. There was no set-back [when he missed the Liverpool Reserve game], it was too early."

Sir Alex happily had no new injuries to report as Rooney, Ferdinand, Ronaldo, Nani, Fletcher and O'Shea all returned fit after playing for their countries in midweek. Read more...

Giggs benefits from break

While the majority of his team-mates have been on international duty since United's win over Wigan, Ryan Giggs goes into this weekend's trip to Aston Villa with some valuable rest under his belt.

The 33-year-old former Welsh skipper, who retired from international football earlier this year, has been training at Carrington for the last fortnight.

Giggs claims that he is already begin to reap dividends from his decision to call time on his international career.

“It was a big decision," Giggs told MUTV.

"I said at the time I hoped it would prolong my United career and even though I’ve only missed a couple of internationals, I feel I’ve benefited already.

"I’ve done really good training this week and during the last international break as well so hopefully it will prolong my career. I’m feeling the benefits, definitely." Read more...

Eagles Eager for More

Chris Eagles hopes to have made a strong enough early-season impression to remain a part of Sir Alex Ferguson's plans for the rest of the campaign.

Eagles played himself into Sir Alex's senior scene after greatly improving his game in the last 18 months, following loans with Watford and NEC Nijmegen.

The young winger has made five senior appearances so far this term but, with United's injury worries gradually clearing up, he is realistic about his chances of getting such regular look-ins in the coming months.

"The gaffer has his starting eleven and the subs will no doubt be other first team players because they’ve got the experience," Eagles told

"But the more we’re involved the more it will change round and the players that aren’t performing will drop down. That’s the way it’s always been at this club.

"The longer we’re here and involved hopefully we’ll be nearer the top of that pecking order."


Tevez's double

Carlos Tevez's younger brother Miguel has joined Manchester United on a 2½-year deal. Miguel Tevez impressed on his two-week trial at Old Trafford during the international break. Miguel, 17, was brought to boss Alex Ferguson’s attention by his assistant Carlos Queiroz. The midfielder began his career with Argentine side Boca Juniors - his brother’s first club.
Neil Custis, The Sun