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Monday, November 26, 2007

Owen: We had no rhythm

Owen Hargreaves was less damning than Sir Alex of referee Mark Clattenburg's performance on Saturday, but the Reds' midfielder admitted the official made life difficult for United at the Reebok Stadium.

Reds boss Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to watch the second half from the stands after confronting Clattenburg at the interval about Bolton's physical approach.

Hargreaves told MUTV he relishes a physical challenge, although described some of Bolton's tackles as "borderline".

"I don't mind physical but some of the challenges were definitely borderline and that's why there's a referee out there. It's his job to keep things under control but I thought he gave away a lot of free kicks for very basic challenges. It played into their hands and didn't allow us to play with any tempo in the first half.

"The pace of the game was slow and with the referee stopping the game almost every minute it was very difficult to create any rhythm."

Hargreaves was also quick to recognise United's own shortcomings.

"We seemed second to every ball in the first half and that made it very difficult for us. I think Bolton played well in the first half and deserved what they got. I thought we were second best, really.

"In the second half we quickened the temp and played much better. In the end, we couldn't get the breakthrough we needed. Champions only lose a few games – if that – a season. We're disappointed with the result but we're going to have to improve and we'll try and do that next time." Read more...

Danny's living the dream

Danny Simpson thought his United team-mates were pulling his leg when they told him he'd be handed a first Champions League start against Dynamo Kyiv at Old Trafford.

Simpson, who hopes to be involved again in Tuesday's clash with Sporting Lisbon, told Manchester United Radio of the moments leading up to his impressive showing on Matchday 4.

"At the pre-match meal some of the lads were telling me I was playing, but I just thought they were winding me up," he said.

"Then, 45 minutes before the match, the gaffer [Sir Alex] gave his team talk and I was in it. After that, he and Carlos [Queiroz] came up to me and told me to do my normal job and go out and enjoy myself."

That instruction was perhaps the easiest for Simpson to follow. Now 20, the Salford-born defender came into the United set-up when he was just 10 and has been eyeing a place in the first team ever since.

"I loved every minute of that match," he said, recalling the Reds' emphatic 4-0 win. "I was nervous for the first 10 minutes but then I settled down and I could relax and enjoy it. It was a good game to be involved in. Dynamo Kyiv aren't the best team in the group but we still needed the three points.

"I used to go to the stadium as a boy but to be there on the pitch and have everyone watching me is a great feeling. I've been here a long time and I'm finally on the fringes. I don't want this to go away. I'm loving it at the moment and I want to stick around for a long time."

With the Reds already through to the knockout stage and Sir Alex pledging to make changes, Simpson may be afforded another chance to impress on Tuesday night.

"The gaffer will want the team to bounce back from the Bolton loss with a good performance and whoever goes out there will want to win," Simpson said. "Hopefully I'll play some part in that. He gave a few of the young lads a chance to go out and prove ourselves last time and luckily things went very well." Read more...

Defor for United?

All the papers reflect on United's second league defeat of the season at Bolton. In other news, Sir Alex Ferguson has been linked with a January move for £10million Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe. The Daily Mail says the United manager wants the England international to strengthen a strikeforce which has been depleted by injuries to Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha this season. Read more...

Evra unhappy with Davies

Patrice Evra has launched a savage attack on Bolton’s Kevin Davies after leaving the Reebok battered and bruised. The French full-back accused Davies of targeting him for rough treatment as Manchester United stumbled to defeat. Sir Alex Ferguson was furious ref Mark Clattenburg did not give his players more protection. The Old Trafford chief spent the second half in the stands after telling the official what he thought of him and now faces a touchline ban. And Evra revealed his anger with Davies. He said: “It was the same last year when he kicked me as well. I said to him then, ‘Why do you do a tackle like that?’ And he said, ‘Because I don’t like you’. I didn’t understand it. And he did it again. It’s bizarre. His first tackle deserved a red card. I received more tackles in that one game than I’ve had in my entire life.”
Neil Custis, The Sun

Evra: I love the club

Patrice Evra is the next United player in line to sign a new extended contract, and the Reds full-back says he couldn’t be happier at Old Trafford.

The 26-year-old has been one of the Reds’ outstanding performers this season.

His current deal expires in around 18 months, but Evra is keen to extend his stay in Manchester.

"I love the club and I am really enjoying my football," he told MUTV.

"I've got one season left on my contract after this one, but Manchester United know my situation. I'm just concentrating on playing, I'll leave the rest to my agent and the club."

Evra modestly, almost reluctantly, accepts praise for his performances this term.

"I work hard every day," he said. "Football for me is like a pyramid and you have to always try and stay at the top. I need to continue my work. Everyone at the club has really helped and I have no excuse not to do well."

Not only is Patrice proving popular on the pitch, his personality makes him a well-liked figure off it among team-mates and with the manager - except when international matters are at stake.

"I remember when France lost to Scotland, when I got back to Manchester the boss and Fletch absolutely killed me! Now it's my turn," Patrice joked.

Evra helped France secure qualification to Euro 2008 alongside Italy, at the expense of Scotland.

However, he says he would have gladly seen Scotland go through, so long as it wasn’t at the expense of les bleus.

"I would have been happy if France and Scotland had qualified,” he added.

"They did very well in the qualifying games. Conceding the goal after just two minutes against Italy made it difficult, but the atmosphere was absolutely amazing at Hampden Park.

"I was certain that Scotland would beat Italy, but football can be like that." Read more...

Double boost for United

Cristiano Ronaldo and Nemanja Vidic are both fit to face Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday night in United's penultimate Champions League Group F match.

The United pair, who were key absentees in the 1-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers at the weekend, both trained with the rest of the squad at Carrington on Monday and Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed they are both in contention for a starting berth against the Portuguese side.

"Vidic and Ronaldo are both fit," revealed the United boss at his pre-match press conference. "They'll be in the squad for Tuesday night."

Sir Alex also hinted that Darren Fletcher, John O'Shea and Tomasz Kuszczak may start, but insisted he won't be making too many changes.

United have won all four matches in Group F so far and are assured of a place in the last 16. But Sir Alex will be keen to secure top spot and a potentially easier first knockout round draw.

The Reds boss is expected to go for a mixed selection against Sporting, who must better AS Roma's result in Kyiv to keep alive there hopes of progressing as a group runners-up. Read more...

Tevez to go permanent?

Sir Alex Ferguson wants to extend Carlos Tevez's stay at Old Trafford.

The energetic forward has become a popular figure at United since joining in the summer.

The 23-year-old's existing loan contract will expire at the end of next season. But Sir Alex is hopeful of making the deal permanent, and he believes the fee is a bargain.

"There is no question about his long-term future here. David Gill has spoken to his agent and told him we are very happy with him," Sir Alex told Setanta.

"The fee is in place. I won't tell you what it is but it is still cheap. I want to make his happen. He has impressed everyone with his appetite for the game.

"He'll get me 15 goals this season and what's more they will be important goals." Read more...