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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stapleton: Nothing to choose

Ex-United and Arsenal striker Frank Stapleton admits there is little to choose between his two former sides ahead of their clash at the Emirates Stadium.

The Irishman is convinced that, unlike other high-profile matches, Saturday's huge encounter will be an unabashed feast of attacking football.

"With these so-called 'matches of the season' you get asked: 'Is it going to be cagey?' It isn't a case of even considering that on this occasion,"Stapleton told the Manchester Evening News.

"You just know there are going to be goals and it will be an open football match. It certainly won't be 0-0. It cannot really be anything else the way United and Arsenal are playing."

With no visible chinks in either side's armour, Stapleton concedes that neither team has a distinct advantage over the other.

"It really is hard to split them at this time," he admitted. "I look through every department of both teams and there is nothing in it.

"You think of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in United's defence and how well they are playing but then Arsenal have Kolo Toure and William Gallas not conceding many.

"In midfield, despite United's injury problems they still have Anderson coming to the fore and now Owen Hargreaves back plus wingers like Ronaldo, Giggs and Nani.

"Then you look at Arsenal's engine-room and you have Cesc Fabregas in sensational form scoring plenty of goals as well.

"Up front, Arsenal have Emmanuel Adebayor and others weighing in while United have Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney on fire. It is fascinating. It is maybe up front where United might have the edge."

Stapleton feels that, contrary to previous years, Arsenal have the wherewithal to enter into a physical battle with Sir Alex Ferguson's side, if required.

"United and Arsenal play wonderful football," he said. "That's how United won the title last season and it is how Arsenal have got to the top this campaign. I don't see either side ditching that to get involved in anything.

"But the one thing that I think hasn't been noticed too much about Arsenal this season because of the great football they are playing is that they don't lie down like last season. Last year they were bullied out of too many matches. They were too nice as players. But I think they have added steel to their game.

"United have always had steel about them. I think that aggression from United in the past has given them the edge in these games.

"But I don't think Saturday is going to be a day when that is going to be called upon too much. I think the entertainment value at the Emirates is going to be excellent." Read more...

Rio gets green light

Manchester United have confirmed Rio Ferdinand will be available for Saturday's crunch Premier League showdown with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Despite being named captain, Ferdinand was substituted during last weekend's 4-1 win over Middlesbrough, apparently uninjured. But, in a statement, the Red Devils claimed that the England defender will face the Gunners this weekend as they look to open up a three-point lead at the top of the table. It is good news for Sir Alex Ferguson, who yesterday saw midfielder Paul Scholes ruled out for three months after being forced to undergo knee surgery. However, with Owen Hargreaves returning to duty on Saturday and both Michael Carrick and Gary Neville set to make their comebacks after recent lay-offs, it does appear United's early season injury problems are easing.
Staff reporter, Daily Mail

Owen salutes fellow newcomers

Owen Hargreaves is full of praise for how his fellow new signings have overcome language barriers to adapt to life at United.

The England midfielder is the only English-speaking new arrival this summer, while Nani, Anderson and Carlos Tevez are still learning the club’s mother tongue.

Despite the potential for communication difficulties, the trio have all settled into life around Carrington, and the Reds’ season has burst spectacularly into life in recent weeks.

“Nani, Anderson and Carlos don’t speak a lot of English, but I think they fit in extremely well, get along with everyone very well and they’ve been fabulous,” he told MUTV.

“Carlos, this month, has been exceptional, his work rate is great and he and Wazza compliment each other very well. As long as we’re scoring goals and winning games, I think everyone’s happy.”

Hargreaves made his fourth appearance for the club against Middlesbrough last weekend, and he admits that it can be hard to maintain his discipline while surrounded by the perpetual motion of the Reds’ attacking talent.

“At times you want to get involved,” he conceded. “My job is to keep it simple and protect the back four, but you kind of get sucked in because everyone’s running around you!” Read more...

Boss ready for key clash

Sir Alex Ferguson admits Saturday's trip to the Emirates Stadium could be a key clash in this season's Barclays Premier League title race.

Table-topping Arsenal and second-placed United are separated by just goals scored going into the match, with both sides in top form.

Having seen the Reds score four times in four consecutive matches, however, Sir Alex is confident that his side are facing the leaders at the right time.

"Everything is coming together, as I thought it would, and in good time to take on Arsenal in what could be a key match in our title defence," he is quoted as telling the Daily Star.

"It's still an open race but Arsenal have had a great start and they're the ones we are chasing at the moment. The main thing is I know we will chase them with great fervour and determination."

Arsene Wenger's side have confounded their critics this season with some superb displays en route to leading the pack, and Sir Alex admits they are genuine contenders for United's crown.

"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, and that is a big help," he said.

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