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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

AS Roma Vs. Manchester United Result Report

This was never likely to be a game to excite the senses or engross the neutrals, but Sir Alex Ferguson can take positives from some bright performances as his young side earned a 1-1 draw in the Stadio Olimpico.

Gerard Pique’s thumping header gave United a half-time lead, but the Italians, who were largely off-colour in the first half, couldn’t afford to disappoint the home crowd and pushed men forward after the break. It worked, with Mancini striking a fine equaliser with 20 minutes remaining.

As expected, with both sides already through to the last 16 there was little resting on this tie, and the match lacked the customary cut and thrust of Champions League encounters. But, although Sir Alex took a very young squad to the Italian capital, his starting line-up certainly wasn’t bereft of first-team regulars. Captain for the night Wayne Rooney, who completed 70 minutes and looks sharp in readiness for Sunday’s trip to Anfield, partnered Louis Saha in attack. Michael Carrick, John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher and Nani were also given valuable playing time.

However, the United boss did go with a very inexperienced back four and goalkeeper. Gerard Pique and Jonny Evans, who started the ill-fated Carling Cup defeat to Coventry City in September, were again paired in central defence. Full-back Danny Simpson supported Chris Eagles on the right side for the Reds, while Tomasz Kuszczak replaced Edwin van der Sar in goal. Those five players can claim just 12 Champions League appearances between them.

Led by Rooney, the Reds made a positive start. Dropping deep off Saha – a role he performs much less frequently alongside Carlos Tevez – Rooney had two long-range efforts inside the first 20 minutes, but both were high over the bar.

Roma Giallorossi talisman Francesco Totti did have the ball in the net after 10 minutes, but it was ruled out for offside. Then, midway through the first half with Roma enjoying a five-minute spell of pressure, Kuszczak had to make two smart saves to keep the scores level. From an Antunes cross the Polish stopper desperately palmed the ball over the crossbar, before saving low from David Pizarro’s 20-yard strike.

The Italians sensed an opening and continued to press United’s young defence. Mauro Esposito could have scored had he directed his header from eight yards, but he failed to trouble Kuszczak and the Reds stood firm. Moreover, it was a Reds defender that gave United the lead. On 34 minutes, Nani swung in a corner and Pique powered home his header, his second goal in three Champions League appearances this season.

The home side could have equalised before the break when Mancini hit the bar from close range and Esposito again misdirected his header. Kuszczak, too, was proving obstructive to the home side’s advances, pulling off a fine save from Mancini’s shot.

United were deserved leaders at the break, and with Roma unable to alter the scoreline 20 minutes into the second half, Giallorossi boss Luciano Spalletti made two attacking changes to his team, bringing on Ludovic Giuly and Mirko Vucinic. However, the Reds continued to pepper Roma’s goal. Carrick and Eagles both watched long-range shots drift wide, before an exquisite one-two between Rooney and Saha put the Frenchman through on goal but his shot was well saved by Doni.

Rooney left the field with 20 minutes remaining, being replaced by Dong Fangzhuo. But his departure came second after Roma’s equaliser. Mancini, who has received much criticism from the home supporters for his inconsistent displays, dealt ruthlessly with the time and space he was given inside the area. Cutting inside away from substitute Wes Brown, he arced his shot past Kuszczak. Seconds later Vucinic struck the post as the home side stepped up the tempo.

Both sides had chances to win it at right at the death. First Nani raced through on goal but could only direct his shot straight at Doni. Then, after United failed to clear the ball, Vucinic blazed his shot over the bar from two yards. It was hardly a surprise that, with nothing resting on this dead-rubber of a tie, the scores ended even. The intensity of this game may be poles apart from what is expected in Liverpool on Sunday, but this young United team can be pleased with their performance.

Team Line-ups

AS Roma: Doni; Cicinho, Ferrari, Mexes, Barusso (Giuly 62); Esposito (Vucinic 62), Antunes, Taddei, Pizarro, Mancini; Totti.
Subs not used: Julio Sergio, Panucci, Juan, De Rossi, Pit.
Booked: Barusso (49)

Manchester United: Kuszczak; Simpson, Pique, Evans, O'Shea (Brown 54); Eagles, Fletcher, Carrick, Nani; Rooney (Dong 72), Saha.
Subs not used: Heaton, Lee, Hewson, Brandy, Eckersley

Boss proud of young Reds

Sir Alex Ferguson admits his young side will take huge positives from their thoroughly deserved draw against a strong Roma side in the Stadio Olimpico.

Although the Italians posed questions of their visitors after the break and snatched a point through Mancini’s 70th-minute equaliser, United could easily have registered a sixth win in Group F.

Only profligate finishing and good goalkeeping prevented the Reds from building on Gerard Pique’s first-half opener, but Sir Alex was nevertheless satisfied by what he saw.

“I was pleased with a lot of it,” he told Sky Sports. “I think in the second half we gave the ball away too much, which is perhaps understandable with our inexperience at times. But we put up a good performance and I think we can be pleased with that.

“We lacked a bit of experience at times, but it was compensated for by their ability on the ball, we played some good football against the strongest Roma side. We’re really pleased with that.”

United’s youngsters suffered a humiliating defeat to Coventry City in the Carling Cup back in September but, with seven of those who started against the Sky Blues lining up in Rome, a huge degree of pride was restored by Wednesday’s result.

“In the context of today there wasn’t a great deal in the game for either side, but I think both sides played with quite a deal of freedom in their game,” said Sir Alex. “It was end to end and I think in the end it was a very good European game.

“I think we were unlucky in the second half, we had a good bit of football between Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha, and unluckily we weren’t able to put it in, but it was good football.

“It [the experience] helps them. The sudden bursts of play from Roma can catch you off guard at times. The explosion of noise from their fans is exactly the same thing, and that’s the European game for you. It will do them the world of good.” Read more...

Rooney loves captains role

Wayne Rooney relished captaining United in the 1-1 draw with AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, and now the Reds striker is desperate for the Reds to reach the Champions League final.

A young United side led by Rooney protected the Reds unbeaten record in Group F, which prompted the stand-in skipper to suggest a place in the final in Moscow in May is achievable.

“It was fantastic to captain the team, and I think it was a good result and a good performance,” said the 22-year-old, who completed 70 minutes and looks sharp in time for the visit to Anfield this weekend.

United’s Champions League ambitions are now on hold until late February when the knockout matches kick in, but Rooney is unambiguous in his aims. “We’d love to win the Champions League this season and hopefully we can go at least one step further than last year and reach the final.”

The United front man was impressed with the performance in Rome, particular from United’s youngsters. “It’s a great experience for the young lads to get a game in the Champions League under their belts,” he said. “I am sure it will have helped them a lot. Pique, Evans and Simmo did really well. They have great ability and bright futures ahead of them.

“I thought we did very well and got off to a great start, putting them under a lot of pressure. Pique scored a great goal and we had a couple of chances in the second half, which if we had taken we could have maybe won the game. We kept going after they scored and in the end a draw was a fair result.” Read more...

AS Roma Vs. Manchester United Highlight


Boss says starlets will shine

Sir Alex Ferguson is confident his United starlets will not be fazed by the task ahead of them on Wednesday night at the Stadio Olimpico.

The Reds' boss has brought a decidedly youthful squad to Rome in a bid to provide the club's next generation with some vital Champions League experience after United assured themselves of top spot in Group F with victory over Sporting Lisbon two weeks ago.

The likes of Gerard Pique, Danny Simpson and Jonny Evans are all set to be handed a starting berth against Roma on Wednesday night. And despite suffering an embarrassing Carling Cup defeat against Coventry City in September, Sir Alex is confident they won't let him down this time round.

"We don't want to send teams out here to get humiliated or embarrassed, that's for sure," he insisted at his pre-match briefing in the Italian capital.

"We expect any Manchester United team we field to be 100 per cent committed and I'm sure you'll see that on Wednesday night."

The Reds will be up against a Roma side Sir Alex believes is much stronger than last season. The United boss was also full of praise for the way the club have stood by manager Luciano Spalletti following the humiliating 7-1 defeat at Old Trafford in April.

"When a coach in Italy loses a game 7-1, normally the guns come out and you are dead before morning," declared the Reds' boss.

"But they trusted Luciano and stood by him. He has repaid that trust because he is an excellent coach and I am very pleased his team is doing well now."

The Reds lost out 2-1 to the Italians in the first leg of last season's quarter-final, an occasion which was marred by clashes between supporters and local police. Sir Alex remains hopeful there will be no similar instances on Wednesday night.

"Everyone who loves the game does not want to see the incidents we saw last year," he said. "Roma don't want it and Manchester United do not want it. The reputations of both clubs are very important.

"We dearly hope there are no problems and some lessons will have been learned from last season." Read more...

Ex-England boss hails Ryan

Former England manager Graham Taylor says there's no question Ryan Giggs deserves his OBE honour.

Writing in The Telegraph, Taylor said the Welshman is one of just a handful of modern-day footballers who "tick every box, on and off the pitch".

"Talent on its own only takes you so far, perhaps not even to first base," said Taylor.

"Applied talent, which requires a deep desire to succeed and a commitment to dedicate yourself to your profession, is the hallmark of a true professional."

Taylor first saw Giggs in action back in 1991 and immediately recognised a number of winning traits.

"His pace when in possession of the ball, coupled with his willingness to take on defenders, did for all football supporters what his colleague, Cristiano Ronaldo, does now – lifts you off your seat with an air of excitement and expectancy."

But it's not just Giggs' skill on the field that Taylor finds so appealing.

"In this age of 24-hours-a-day football news, when have we read anything about Giggs that would question his professional approach to his career? To achieve what Giggs has achieved over so many seasons requires a mental rod of steel, and along with his applied talent he deserves every recognition that comes his way."

Giggs received an OBE for services to football on Tuesday 11 December. Read more...

Carrick: Let's keep it going

Michael Carrick is urging his United team-mates to maintain their Champions League winning streak and finish their group campaign with a 100 per cent record in Rome on Wednesday night.

The Reds have won all five of their Group F fixtures ensuring they go through to the knock-out stages as group winners. Roma have also qualified rendering the final match between the pair a dead rubber.

Nevertheless, Carrick is hoping the Reds, minus the majority of their first team regulars, will leave Italy with maximum points.

"It would be some achievement if we could finish with a 100 per cent record," he told reporters at the pre-match press conference.

"It will give us all more confidence and self-belief as it will be some achievement. The fact that only three teams [AC Milan, Spartak Moscow and Barcelona] have ever won all their group games before is a statement that, if we do it, we are a very good team.

"Wednesday's game is still a huge match irrespective of the situation in the group and we want to keep the momentum going and finish with six wins.

"It was a great experience to be involved in the games last season and it'll be a fantastic experience for the young lads on the trip. We're all looking forward to it."

While Carrick is hopeful of victory, he concedes that it's during the latter stages of the competition when the Reds really need to hit top gear.

"We want to win in Rome, but it's important that we produce on the big stage when it really counts," he insisted. "The squad is looking very strong at the moment and you've seen that whoever steps in to play is more than capable of doing a job.

"It'll be during the latter stages of the season when you need as many of your big players as fit as possible. That's probably the time when the squad will really come into its own and hopefully we can do well." Read more...

We'll Reign with Rooney

Alex Ferguson reckons Wayne Rooney can be Manchester United’s new Captain Fantastic.
The striker is skipper in Rome tonight and Fergie believes his reign can become permanent in the very near future.
And the Reds boss thinks Rooney can even be a leader of the stature of Roy Keane and Bryan Robson.
Ferguson said: “Wayne has been pestering me for ages to be captain.
“He has a lot of the ingredients needed to be a captain of this club in the future.
“For me he is like a Robson or Keane in his determination, will to win, and the fact that he will never give up."
Neil Custis, The Sun