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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Saha Interview

After two seasons largely disturbed by injury, Louis Saha is fit again and hungry for success. But it is not the competition in the forward line (Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo, Nani or Ryan Giggs) at Manchester United which scares him, as he knows that he will get his chance in the side.

Indeed, the French striker talked exclusively to about his return from injury and his hopes of forcing his way into contention for a starting role.

Q. You have been through two complicated years with lots of injuries to deal with. How do you feel physically and mentally?

A. Much better. My knee does not swell up any more after I play. I am fit. Earlier on, I came back too quickly I guess. After the surgery, it is necessary to return slowly. It is always a little bit disappointing because you are part of a squad but cannot play. This is the hardest issue a football player can face.

I have been in Manchester for four years and, since signing, I have been disturbed by many injuries. I can say I was anything but lucky, but I had to deal with it and have now become a Champion of England.

Q. Sir Alex Ferguson has always supported you and given you many compliments.

A. It is a pleasure to have the coach's trust! It is actually my dilemma because if I had been bad, he would have left me in peace to take my time to return step by step. But it is also a pleasant situation to see the coach trusting you although you are coming back from an injury. I work hard, three times more than usual in training. Even if the physical shape is not perfect, with a good mental strength you can realize extraordinary things. Gaby Heinze is an example for that.

Q. With Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo, Nani, Giggs and you, Manchester United has got many weapons in offence and so far it is working very well. The competition must be terrible, no?

A. It has always been intense. This year, it is even more difficult. But it is better to have Tevez with us, than to see him in Real Madrid. I also said the same thing for Van Nistelrooy when he left. I prefer to have the best players in my team. The season is long. There are fifty games, the pairing of Tevez-Rooney works superbly well at the moment, but I know that I will have my chance. I want to improve and I think that we have an exceptional group, capable of winning the Champion's League.

Q. Are Manchester United even stronger this season?

A. I think, yes. Players such as Rooney and Ronaldo, who are young but who have been playing for four or five years at the highest level, arrived at maturity. They bring a huge benefit to the team. For the past few weeks, our playing quality has been the same, we get ourselves twenty scoring opportunities each game, seven or eight of which are shots on target and we have three or four goals at the end. The ratio is great and we control our play better now. We were able to see it in the Emirates Stadium where Arsenal had to save the draw.

Q. In which sense has the team improved?

A. With players like Nani or Tevez, who completely correspond to the play of Manchester United, we have more efficiency in the last 30 metres. Before, maybe we based too much of our play on individual talents. Today, we are stronger collectively. There is more precision in movement and passing. I am very satisfied to be a part of this team, where the philosophy is offensive.

For a striker, it is like heaven - even in training. There is no better team in the world than Manchester United. Later, you can always ask to go to Real Madrid or Barcelona. But I am a fan of the Premier League. Every year, it is more and more difficult. Blackburn and Everton are getting closer for example. Tottenham and Manchester City now have money, so, right now, it is not the moment to leave England.

Q. What can Manchester win this season ?

A. Everything! We can win the FA Cup and the Premier League title. This squad is capable of winning the Champions League too. If there had not been so many injuries and suspensions last year, I am sure we would have gone to the final (United were eliminated in semi-final by AC Milan).

It was on the first leg (3-2) that we lost that battle, I am convinced of that. We had the strength to go to the final and it still hasn't been digested yet. The loss still sticks in our throats. It has been quite a long time since we picked up the trophy, so everyone is hoping now that it is our year.

Source: Bruno Salla (ESPN)

United chase £20m Veloso

Manchester United assistant boss Carlos Queiroz has admitted that bringing Sporting Lisbon wonder-kid Miguel Veloso to Old Trafford has become a "priority". Veloso, 21, is on United's wanted list - but Real Madrid, Arsenal and Inter Milan are all monitoring him closely. Queiroz says Veloso is among the top young players in the world, and United are considering making a move even though Sporting have stuck a £20million price tag on his head. "It is impossible to ignore good players and we are following the evolution of some top players," said Queiroz. "One is Veloso. He would be hard to ignore."
Staff writer, Daily Mirror

Rooney ready for Fulham

Wayne Rooney is back in full training and on course to be return against Fulham at Old Trafford on Monday.

The 22-year-old striker will make a welcome return after injuring his ankle in training before the 2-0 defeat of Blackburn earier this month.

United missed Rooney's potency in front of goal during the 1-0 defeat against Bolton at the weekend, but as the Reds look to get back to winning ways he is set to make a rapid comeback.

"Wayne's making good progress," Sir Alex said after United's 2-1 win over Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday.

"He did some running last week and he has resumed training this week.

"We are looking at him making his comeback against Fulham." Read more...

Tomasz holds his hands up

Tomasz Kuszczak has admitted culpability for Sporting Lisbon's goal in Tuesday's Champions League clash at Old Trafford.

Sporting defender Abel put the visitors ahead with a speculative shot from long range which flew inside Kuszczak's near post, and the Pole admits he thanked Cristiano Ronaldo for sparing his blushes with United's late winner.

"I'm happy we won the game, that was the most important thing and it helps me feel better after my mistake," Tomasz told MUTV. "I ran to Ronaldo after the game. I was happy for him and especially for me because we won.

"It was my first mistake at Manchester United and I hope it's the last one. Sometimes things happen which you don't expect but that's football."

Despite being Sir Alex Ferguson's second-choice goalkeeper, Kuszczak has appeared in four of the Reds' first five Champions League games this season, and he is relishing the experience.

"We have won all five games and I have played in about three and a half," he said. "It's a great experience for me.

"It was an interesting game tonight because after losing the first half, we had to push ourselves to win the game." Read more...

Schmeichel: Reds can be great

Reds legend Peter Schmeichel believes United's current players have the potential for greatness providing they can cope with the pressure of past glories.

Sir Alex Ferguson believes the current squad is the strongest he's had during his 21-year reign, but says they will have to back it up with trophies.

Schmeichel, who was part of both '94 and '96 Double-winning sides and the Treble-winning '99 team, has been hugely impressed by United's new generation. But he says the club's rich history can sometimes weigh heavily on a player's shoulders at Old Trafford.

"The history of the club is something that is constantly breathing down your neck when you’re a United player," Schmeichel told at a coaching session in Manchester, organised by Ford. "That history and the expectation level makes you go that one step further than any other player at any other club in the world.

"When I first joined, the history we had to deal with was the Busby Babes, 1968 and the fact that we hadn’t won the title for over 20 years. The desperation to win it was incredible and we all felt that.

"The current squad did brilliantly to win it last season and they have a great chance to go on to big things, but they have history on their shoulders as well because they have ’99 to contend with which is a hell of a year to compete with.

"So, of course, the manager has got to go out there and say they’re the best squad he’s had. He has to make the players believe that and that’s a good way of doing it.

"He's said it in the past when I was there and after I left. What he’s basically saying is I’m extremely happy with what I’ve got and I love to work with these players. That’s exactly what they need to hear and what the fans need to hear. If Sir Alex is happy United will win matches which is the most important thing."

Like many Reds, Schmeichel still finds it hard to believe that Sir Alex only has one European Cup to his name. The former goalkeeper skippered United to their solitary triumph under the Scot on that unforgettable night in Barcelona in '99, bringing to a close an eight-year career at Old Trafford.

Schmeichel insists luck plays a crucial part during the latter stages of the competition and he says United have just not had the rub of the green at vital moments over the last few years.

"The fact that Sir Alex has only won one European Cup is definitely something that niggles him," says the Great Dane. "There's no reason why he couldn’t have won a second one, but once you get down to the last four like United did last season it becomes a lottery. And things just haven’t gone their way at the important times in the important games.

"They have a great chance to win the Champions League every season and I'd love to see them do it this round." Read more...