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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Victory costly for Sir Alex

Sir Alex Ferguson had mixed feelings at full-time in Denmark after seeing his team win but lose three players to injury.

Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney and young right-back Rafael were all substituted for medical rather than tactical reasons during the 3-0 victory over Aalborg BK. The first change was forced on the United boss after just 15 minutes when Scholes was stretchered off.

"There were a lot of plus points but we lost Paul Scholes who could be out for a few weeks," said Sir Alex. It was later confirmed that the midfielder suffered knee ligament damage and could miss up to two months of action.
"We had one or two other injuries," the boss added. "Young Rafael got injured and Rooney has an ankle problem. He felt a weakness in it when he went to receive a ball and we took him off straightaway.

"So there was maybe a cost to pay for the victory. Nonetheless we have four points now and it's where we want to be."

The three points in Aalborg were made safe by Dimitar Berbatov's first and second goals in a United shirt. Sir Alex was delighted to see the Bulgarian open his account so emphatically in only his fifth appearance.

"He scored two fantastic goals and that will help his confidence," said the manager.

"When you're transferred for that amount of money, you want your first goal quickly and he's got it. The second goal (volley from Ronaldo's cross) was a lovely goal."

Berbatov's second-half brace may have spared the blushes of his team-mates - Sir Alex's other complaint, aside from the injuries, was that "we missed a lot of chances."

Berbatov plays it cool

We're quickly learning that Dimitar Berbatov is a laid-back character, but the relaxed celebration that followed his first United goal against Aalborg and his description of his acrobatic second as “a tap-in” takes cool to a new level.

“I knew that my first goal would come sooner or later,” he said, ultra-relaxed after United’s 3-0 win in Denmark on Tuesday.

The Bulgarian spurned a chance to score his first Reds goal after just six minutes in the Group E clash, volleying wide from eight yards. But he remained unfazed and grew in stature as the game progressed.

Berbatov eventually found the net when he pounced on a defensive error to rifle home United’s second goal on 55 minutes. “I’m pleased to help my team win, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “But I’m happy [to score my first United goal].”

His second goal showed the elegance that led to United parting with £30million to sign him this summer. From Cristiano Ronaldo’s he hit the ball on the bounce with an exquisite scissor kick. “It’s a goal like any other,” he shrugged. “It was a tap-in and that was it, 3-0.”

Rio Ferdinand was pleased to see his new team-mate open his Reds account. "It was a good result," he told ITV Sport. "We knew it would be tough and that we'd have to pass the ball well and take our chances. It was good to see Berba get two goals to get him off the mark. Hopefully now we can go full steam ahead."

Aalborg BK Vs. Manchester United Match Report

United eased to three points, and top spot in Group E, with a 3-0 win over Aalborg in Denmark, thanks to a first-half strike from Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov’s second-half double.

Sir Alex Ferguson will have been delighted to see £30million man Berbatov finally get off the mark for the Reds with two well-struck volleys. The United boss will, however, hope that victory has not come at a cost. Injuries forced the withdrawal of Rooney and Paul Scholes, the latter suffering suspected knee ligament damage.

United’s performance showed signs of the team and some key players coming into form – Rooney, Berbatov and Ronaldo in particular – but, most importantly, provided a first win in Group E.

The Reds travelled without skipper Gary Neville, who picked up a knock against Bolton, and Owen Hargreaves due to a recurrence of the tendinitis problem in his knee. Regardless, the Reds boss promised to put out his strongest available side. He did so, with the only surprise being a Champions League debut for 18-year-old Brazilian right-back Rafael.

United put Aalborg under pressure right from the off and could have been 2-0 up inside the first eight minutes. Berbatov had a glorious chance to put the Reds in front on six minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo’s tackle on Aalborg goalkeeper Zaza sent the ball spinning up in the air. Berbatov met it on the volley but fired wide from eight yards. Two minutes later Rio Ferdinand saw his volley at the far post stopped by Zaza.

The match began at an intense tempo, with the Reds clearly seeking to break spirit of a determined Aalborg side, whose players and fans were fired up for this game as if it were their cup final.

Scholes’ injury on 15 minutes disrupted the flow. He didn’t appear to be in too much discomfort, but Sir Alex’s prognosis post-match didn’t sound positive. Scholes was replaced by Ryan Giggs, who joined John O’Shea in the centre of United’s midfield.

The Welshman made an almost immediate impact. On 22 minutes his simple pass led to United’s opener. Cutting through Aalborg’s defence, Giggs’ through-ball enabled Rooney to make his first-time shot look equally effortless, finding the net with aplomb.

Aalborg weren’t afraid to get forward and forced a few scares for the Reds, but when Rooney, who covered every blade of grass in his hour on the field, and Ronaldo had the ball the home side looked scared stiff. United’s attacking play, with Rooney at the reins, looked slick and fluid, but Sir Alex would have certainly liked to have seen a more commanding lead at the break.

In the second half the Reds manager was out on the touchline looking slightly concerned that United’s dominance in possession was not being converted into goals. But he didn’t have to wait long for the goal everyone at the club has been waiting for. The second goal came courtesy of a gift from the Aalborg defence. Berbatov pounced on a dreadful mistake from Augustinussen and punished the Danes ruthlessly by lashing the ball past Zaza in Aalborg’s goal. The Bulgarian’s muted celebration suggested it perhaps wasn’t the style in which this elegant front man imagined he would open his Reds account, but most importantly he is off the mark.

The goal knocked the life and fight out of Aalborg, whose energy and enthusiasm had been the sole components of any previous forays into United’s half.

Carlos Tevez’s introduction on the hour mark, replacing Rooney after the Englishman took a knock to his ankle, was exactly what Bruce Rioch’s men didn’t want. The Argentinian wasn’t settling for a 2-0 scoreline. He did have the ball in the net, but was penalised for unintentionally using his arm. Tevez perhaps should have been more selfish on 72 minutes when a neat move saw him break into the Aalborg penalty area. Instead of shooting, however, he squared the ball to Ronaldo, whose shot was blocked. Then five minutes later he sent a 25-yard shot whizzing just past the bar.

A third goal eventually arrived on 79 minutes. Ronaldo skipped past his marker to make it to the byline on the right of the Aalborg and his cross was met with an acrobatic volley from Berbatov to make it 3-0.

Team Line-ups

Aalborg BK: Zaza; Pedersen, Beauchamp (Caca 38), Olfers, Bogelund; Risgard, Johansson, Augustinussen, Enevoldsen; Curth, Saganowski.
Subs not used: Stenild, Due, Braemer, Sorensen, Kristensen, Schwartz.
Booked: Johansson, Zaza

Manchester United: Van der Sar; Rafael (Brown 66), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Scholes (Giggs 16), O'Shea, Nani; Rooney (Tevez 59), Berbatov.
Subs not used: Amos, Anderson, Park, Evans.

Attendance: 10,346

Aalborg BK Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Aalborg BK [0 - 3] Manchester United
22' [0 - 1] W. Rooney
55' [0 - 2] D. Berbatov
79' [0 - 3] D. Berbatov


Rene calls for fast start

Rene Meulensteen believes the gameplan for United's Champions League game against Aalborg should be to score early and "kill their belief".

The Reds' first-team coach faced Aalborg twice during his time as coach of Brondby and revealed they are a hard-working, disciplined side who will gain more confidence the longer they keep United's attack at bay.

"Aalborg typify Danish football as a whole – well organised," Meulensteen told "They will work their socks off against us because if they don’t, we will have too much quality for them.

"So we need to make sure we have enough tools available to break them down. We need to win the game in the first half by starting bright and sharp, and if we score an early goal we’ll kill some of their belief. If they have something to hold onto like they did at Celtic, they'll get extra energy from nowhere."

Brondby failed to beat Aalborg in either of their two league meetings under Meulensteen's reign two years ago, so the Dutchman knows United must not take their opponents lightly.

"Erik Hamrén was Aalborg's coach for several years and did a good job. They were a decent side when we faced them Рwe drew 1-1 at their place but lost 2-1 at home," Meulensteen added.

"Bruce Rioch is now in charge and he's an experienced coach who knows Danish football, having worked with Odense. He has several good players here, although one of the best, Michael Jakobsen, isn’t playing tonight because he is suspended.

"They also have an attacking midfielder, Siyabonga Nomvethe, who has been injured recently but was quite skilful and tricky when he played against us at Brondby.

"Goalkeeper Karim Zaza is a bit of an erratic player who can make fantastic saves – one from a Nakamura free-kick two weeks ago – but he’s not the biggest of players and isn’t always 100% certain on crosses.

"If I look at the way we’ve trained and played over the last couple of weeks, I can sense that there are goals around the corner. But we can’t take anything for granted – we need to earn the right by playing good, attacking football, and when the chances come, hopefully the goals will too."

O'Shea eyes 'special' feat

John O'Shea is excited by the possibility of United becoming the first team to retain the Champions League trophy and insists the Reds are ready for the tests ahead.

United face Aalborg in Denmark tonight looking for a first win of this season's European campaign following the goalless draw at home to Villarreal two weeks ago.

When asked at Monday's pre-match press conference what it would mean to the club to repeat the success of Moscow, O'Shea said: "It’d be very special. It’s a major challenge but facing up to that and responding is what this club is all about.

"As the manager always says, if we’re still in the competition after the group stages, that’s when it really kicks in and when we feel we’re in with a great chance. If you’re playing well and get luck at the right time, it’s yours for the taking and we have to be confident with the squad we have."

While some have tagged Aalborg as minnows and expect United to win comfortably, O'Shea is wary of complacency, especially after the Danes' opening-game draw at Celtic.

"The result they got against Celtic was a real eye-opener for us," the Irishman added. "We saw how competitive and compact they were so we’re going to have to use our experience in keeping the ball away from home, show some composure and try to quieten down the crowd, because it’ll be a great atmosphere."

Berba backed to shine

Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed criticism of Dimitar Berbatov and is confident United fans will soon see the best of their new striker.

The Bulgarian has yet to score for the Reds since his deadline-day move from Tottenham but has been increasingly influential, most recently on his home debut against Bolton on Saturday.

Ferguson said: "Dimitar only played one pre-season game for Tottenham, followed by two tremendously difficult away games for us, and in those sorts of matches you are asking a lot for someone who’s just arrived at the club to perform.

"When we understand how good he is in terms of his movement and ability to lead the line, then we’ll get the best use out of him.

"You saw that in the second half against Bolton, when we used him more and some of his passes, control and balance were absolutely fantastic."

Berbatov is set to take his place in the starting line-up for tonight's Champions League game in Aalborg, although which forward line Ferguson will select is anyone's guess.

The Reds boss insists his side are under no pressure to play with style because United are the reigning European champions.

"We’ll play how we normally play, which is hopefully in an entertaining and exciting way," he said. "We can’t play like that every game but we try to, and that’s the most important thing.

"We expect a hard game against Aalborg because, irrespective of their league form, playing United is a great motivation for them. But I hope we don’t have any hiccups."

Blame Berba

I don’t blame Juande Ramos for Tottenham’s dismal start to the season – and you might be surprised to learn I don’t blame Daniel Levy, either. If you want to know why the club is suffering so badly then look no further than the sales of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov. Bulgarian strike ace Berbatov kept telling us he had a ‘dream’. Well, good for you Dimi, you had a dream with a few extra noughts added to your bank balance. But don’t you think Spurs had a dream too? Don’t you think that when they bought you and helped you blossom into one of the best strikers in the world, you had a duty to reward them by helping them fulfil their dream? You got your way but your poisonous presence at the start of this season – the pouting, the brooding and the reluctance to play – has cost the club that believed in you.
Terry Venables, The Sun

Monday, September 29, 2008

Praise from Patrice

He’s back.

Short and sweet, perhaps, but Patrice Evra’s summation of Cristiano Ronaldo will be enough to make opposition defenders quake in their boots.

Against Bolton on Saturday Ronaldo scored one and set up the other as United cruised to a 2-0 victory in his first league start of the season.

“Ronny scored against Middlesbrough [in the Carling Cup] and he’s now scored against Bolton,” Evra told MUTV.

“He’s getting better and we’d like him to be fit for every game. He had a big injury over the summer but now he’s looking more like the player we saw last season. Ronny’s back.”

The Reds’ no.7 wasn’t the only player to come in for praise from United’s left-back. Evra also singled out Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and new team-mate Dimitar Berbatov after Saturday’s win.

“Rooney and Scholes had a big impact [when they came off the bench],” Evra said. “Scholesy played a few long passes and opened up the game, while Wayne scored and did his job very well.

"Berba is great to play with. As a defender you can pass the ball to his feet early and you know he has a good touch.

“He needs to play a lot of games as it’s a new team for him. But he’s a good player and everybody will help him so he can give his best for Manchester United.”

English Premier League September 28, 2008 Standing

2008/2009 English Premiership
Overall Home Away
1 Chelsea 6 4 2 0 12 3 1 2 0 6 2 3 0 0 6 1 9 14
2 Liverpool 6 4 2 0 7 2 2 1 0 4 2 2 1 0 3 0 5 14
3 Aston Villa 6 4 1 1 12 8 2 1 0 6 3 2 0 1 6 5 4 13
4 Arsenal 6 4 0 2 12 4 2 0 1 5 2 2 0 1 7 2 8 12
5 West Ham 6 4 0 2 13 10 3 0 0 9 3 1 0 2 4 7 3 12
6 Hull 6 3 2 1 9 11 1 1 1 4 8 2 1 0 5 3 -2 11
7 Blackburn 6 3 1 2 8 12 1 1 1 2 5 2 0 1 6 7 -4 10
8 Man City 6 3 0 3 16 9 2 0 1 10 3 1 0 2 6 6 7 9
9 Portsmouth 6 3 0 3 7 12 2 0 1 4 2 1 0 2 3 10 -5 9
10 Wigan 6 2 2 2 9 5 1 1 1 3 3 1 1 1 6 2 4 8
11 Man Utd 5 2 2 1 6 4 1 1 0 3 1 1 1 1 3 3 2 8
12 West Brom 6 2 1 3 6 7 1 0 2 5 6 1 1 1 1 1 -1 7
13 Sunderland 6 2 1 3 6 8 1 0 2 2 4 1 1 1 4 4 -2 7
14 Everton 6 2 1 3 9 13 0 0 3 2 8 2 1 0 7 5 -4 7
15 Fulham 5 2 0 3 5 6 2 0 1 4 3 0 0 2 1 3 -1 6
16 Middlesbrough 6 2 0 4 6 9 2 0 1 4 3 0 0 3 2 6 -3 6
17 Bolton 6 1 1 4 5 9 1 1 1 4 4 0 0 3 1 5 -4 4
18 Stoke 6 1 1 4 7 12 1 0 2 5 7 0 1 2 2 5 -5 4
19 Newcastle 6 1 1 4 5 11 1 0 2 3 4 0 1 2 2 7 -6 4
20 Tottenham 6 0 2 4 4 9 0 1 2 2 4 0 1 2 2 5 -5 2

Aalborg adopt 'underdogs' tag

Aalborg defender Michael Beauchamp admits his side are massive underdogs going into tomorrow night's Champions League clash with United.

The reigning champions of Europe visit the Danish champions on Tuesday evening aiming to get a first Group E win on the board, and Beauchamp is realistic about his side's chances of springing an upset.

"This is huge, awaiting a clash with Manchester United," said the Australian defender. "They are big favourites and strictly speaking our chances of winning are minimal. Instead we're viewing this match primarily as a great experience."

Beauchamp is fortunate to be able to face United, having been sent off in his side's opening match at Celtic for an offence committed by team-mate Michael Jakobsen.

UEFA subsequently overturned the decision and applied the ban to Jakobsen, allowing Beauchamp to line up for what he terms his 'dream match'.

"Luckily everything has been put to rights," he said. "Apart from the referee, everyone could see it wasn't me but Michael Jakobsen who made the challenge.

"Thankfully AaB appealed and now I'm available for a dream match which my parents are flying over from Australia for."

Reds set off for Denmark

Gary Neville and Owen Hargreaves did not travel with the rest of the Reds squad, who set off for Denmark on Monday morning.

The Reds face Aalborg in the Champions League on Tuesday night and Sir Alex has taken an otherwise strong 20-man squad with him.

Sir Alex said on Saturday that Owen Hargreaves felt a recurrence of the knee injury that has hampered his United career.

Reds skipper Neville came through the weekend's 2-0 win over Bolton seemingly unscathed, but his absence from the squad will see Wes Brown return to right-back.

Aalborg are the unknown quantity in Group E. However, the Danish champions, managed by Bruce Rioch, earned an impressive point in Glasgow on Matchday 1 with a goalless draw at Celtic.

Rioch can boast two 1-0 home wins against United during spells in charge at Middlesbrough and Arsenal, but he also lost by the same scoreline in both return fixtures at OT.

The Reds have never played Aalborg before, but Sir Alex's men have met other Danish sides in recent years, including Brondby in 1998/99 and FC Copenhagen in 2006/07, where United were defeated 1-0 on the last visit to the country in November 2006.


Fletch wary of Aalborg threat

Aalborg do not boast a squad of household names, but Darren Fletcher says United won't underestimate their Danish opponents ahead of Tuesday's Champions League Group E clash.

The Reds flew out to Denmark on Monday morning intent on securing a first European victory of the campaign. Group E remains all square following two goalless draws between United and Villarreal, and Celtic and Aalborg.

Fletcher feels the Danes will be buoyed by their point at Parkhead and warns that the Reds must tread carefully.

"Aalborg may not to be a familiar name, but there are no mugs in the Champions League. They'll still be a top side," he told "A lot of people have already discounted them, but the fact that the pressure is off might help them. It's a game that we'll have to be on top form for if we're to get the three points."

Following a somewhat slow start, the Reds have begun to find their form of late with a draw at Chelsea, a Carling Cup victory over Middlesbrough and a second league win of the season against Bolton.

Fletcher hopes a win on Tuesday will kick-start the Reds' Champions League campaign. "The longer you go without a win the more worrying it becomes," he admits. "It was a good performance against Villarreal, we just didn't get the result to match it.

"The 0-0 draw between Aalborg and Celtic was good for us, especially considering Celtic's excellent home record. Aalborg will take great confidence from that, but it's important we win in Denmark and get things going."

I'm so sorry

Bolton are set to receive an apology from referee Rob Styles for the astonishing penalty mistake he made at Old Trafford. The official has asked his superiors at his governing body, the PGMOL, to pass on his regret at awarding Manchester United a spot-kick when Cristiano Ronaldo was clearly tackled fairly by Jlloyd Samuel on Saturday. It is the second time in just over a year that Styles has had to apologise for a penalty error after pointing to the spot at Anfield in August last season when Liverpool full back Steve Finnan collided with Chelsea's Florent Malouda. That decision proved crucial as it allowed Chelsea to draw the match 1-1 and the referee was dropped as a result. He was temporarily demoted again after awarding Birmingham a soft penalty against Manchester City in March. Styles' latest significant mistake may also have changed the game, as Bolton were holding on with the match goalless when the kick was awarded and converted on the hour. United went on to win 2-0.
Leo Spall, Daily Mail

Sunday, September 28, 2008

English Premier League September 28, 2008 Standing

2008/2009 English Premiership
Overall Home Away
1 Chelsea 6 4 2 0 12 3 1 2 0 6 2 3 0 0 6 1 9 14
2 Liverpool 6 4 2 0 7 2 2 1 0 4 2 2 1 0 3 0 5 14
3 Aston Villa 6 4 1 1 12 8 2 1 0 6 3 2 0 1 6 5 4 13
4 Arsenal 6 4 0 2 12 4 2 0 1 5 2 2 0 1 7 2 8 12
5 West Ham 6 4 0 2 13 10 3 0 0 9 3 1 0 2 4 7 3 12
6 Hull 6 3 2 1 9 11 1 1 1 4 8 2 1 0 5 3 -2 11
7 Blackburn 6 3 1 2 8 12 1 1 1 2 5 2 0 1 6 7 -4 10
8 Man City 6 3 0 3 16 9 2 0 1 10 3 1 0 2 6 6 7 9
9 Portsmouth 6 3 0 3 7 12 2 0 1 4 2 1 0 2 3 10 -5 9
10 Wigan 6 2 2 2 9 5 1 1 1 3 3 1 1 1 6 2 4 8
11 Man Utd 5 2 2 1 6 4 1 1 0 3 1 1 1 1 3 3 2 8
12 West Brom 6 2 1 3 6 7 1 0 2 5 6 1 1 1 1 1 -1 7
13 Sunderland 6 2 1 3 6 8 1 0 2 2 4 1 1 1 4 4 -2 7
14 Everton 6 2 1 3 9 13 0 0 3 2 8 2 1 0 7 5 -4 7
15 Fulham 5 2 0 3 5 6 2 0 1 4 3 0 0 2 1 3 -1 6
16 Middlesbrough 6 2 0 4 6 9 2 0 1 4 3 0 0 3 2 6 -3 6
17 Bolton 6 1 1 4 5 9 1 1 1 4 4 0 0 3 1 5 -4 4
18 Stoke 6 1 1 4 7 12 1 0 2 5 7 0 1 2 2 5 -5 4
19 Newcastle 6 1 1 4 5 11 1 0 2 3 4 0 1 2 2 7 -6 4
20 Tottenham 6 0 2 4 4 9 0 1 2 2 4 0 1 2 2 5 -5 2

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Subs thrill Sir Alex

United's second-half performance against Bolton epitomised the squad game for Sir Alex Ferguson.

Three attacking substitutes helped the Reds to claim the two-goal cushion that a lion's share of the possession merited - the first two, Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes, earning particular praise from their boss.

"If we're getting responses like Wayne's, in the squad we have, then it's terrific for the club," said Sir Alex, after rating Rooney's goal as "fantastic."

As for Scholes, the manager added: "On these hot days we feel it's better to bring on Paul as a sub when the game's cooled down a bit in the second half. I think it was his 400th league game today and he showed why he's played 400 league games at our club. Marvellous stuff at times."

Nani later became United's third sub and came close to scoring the third goal with a few decent attempts. It meant the Reds ended the second half in a more menacing manner than they had the first. Indeed, for all the champions' first-period dominance, it was Bolton who almost took a half-time lead through Fabrice Muamba.

"We were careless with our possession at time in the first half and we got caught on the counter attack," conceded Sir Alex.

"I felt we played too tightly. There were too many six-yard passes, instead of spreading the game quicker. In the second half we had far more width in our game and I'm very satisfied with how the game turned out.

"I think it was a well deserved victory. We played some fantastic football at times - we have the individuals to do that when you consider the skills of Scholes, Anderson, Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez and Berbatov.

"There is an array of talent here. We just have to garner it together and get compact teamwork out of it."

Sir Alex could shuffle his side again in midweek, for a somewhat different test in the shape of Aalborg BK away in the Champions League.

"I opted to leave Wes Brown out but he'll be involved on Tuesday," said Sir Alex. However there was some bad news for another absentee from the 18 selected against Bolton.

"Hargreaves is feeling his knee again," revealed the manager.

Berba: I'd rather win than score

Dimitar Berbatov doesn’t care if he fails to find the net… as long as United keep winning.

The former Tottenham Hotspur striker has yet to open his account for the Reds but shone in his home debut against Bolton. The 27-year-old was disappointed not to get on the scoresheet but insisted there are more important issues.

“I really wanted to score a goal,” he told MUTV. “But the three points are the most important thing and we were the better team today. We scored two goals but missed four or five chances.”

Incredibly, some critics had blasted Berbatov after just two appearances for the Reds. But the Bulgarian let his football do the talking on Saturday, with an inspired performance alongside Carlos Tevez and, later, Wayne Rooney.

“I’m happy with how I’m playing, particularly after today,” he said. “The game was good for me. I didn’t take my chances so hopefully in the future I will score.

“I think today was a big improvement from myself and from the team. I’m working really hard to help the team and so I can develop a better understanding with everyone. I’m sure that will happen.”

He certainly impressed his manager. Sir Alex was effusive in his praise for the recent arrival and heralded his ability to control the ball under pressure.

"We learned today how good Berbatov is," Sir Alex said. "You don't need to pass to him in space all the time. You can pass to him when he's marked – he's brilliant at that and he produced some great moments, as did a lot of the players. His touch was fantastic at times."

Berbatov's best moments arguably came after the introduction of Wayne Rooney on 71 minutes, a fact not lost on the Bulgarian.

“What can I say about this guy?" Berbatov said. "Wayne came on and scored a wonderful goal. In fact, when [he and Paul Scholes] came on our football improved a lot.”

Bosses bemused by penalty award

One talking point dominated the banter after United's win over Bolton - referee Rob Styles' decision to award a penalty to the Reds in the second half.

"Rob Styles has dropped a massive clanger. It was one of the worst refereeing decisions ever," said Reds legend Lou Macari, speaking on MUTV.

Bolton boss Gary Megson complained in his press conference, "It was a nonsense decision. After all the talk about technology being used to help referees, what did we come up with this summer? A campaign to show more respect to referees. How ironic."

Sir Alex Ferguson empathised with his opposite number but was naturally delighted to take the "lucky break" when Cristiano Ronaldo picked himself up after being tackled by Jloyd Samuel and scored from the spot.

"I was surprised," said Sir Alex.

"I haven't seen it again (on TV yet) but it looked to me as if the Bolton player (Samuel) got a foot on the ball.

"But Rob Styles turned down four or five for us last season, so maybe we're getting payback now. But he still owes us four!

"It was a little break for us. I still think we would have won the game okay but when the opposition are sitting in front of the penalty box and defending with the determination that Bolton showed, it's difficult to break them down. You need little breaks like that."

Manchester United Vs. Bolton Match Report

It was those familiar names – Ronaldo and Rooney – on the scoresheet once again at Old Trafford as United beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0.

And although referee Rob Styles gifted the Reds a penalty to open the scoring after an hour, Sir Alex’s men proved their superiority time and time again over the 90 minutes. As has been the case over the years, only the brilliance of Jussi Jaaskelainen in the Bolton goal kept the score respectable.

The manager made four changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Chelsea last weekend. Despite five goals in his last five starts against Bolton, Wayne Rooney had to be content with a place on the bench. He was joined there by fellow Stamford Bridge starters Paul Scholes and Jonny Evans.

Nemanja Vidic reclaimed his spot in the heart of the Reds’ defence, while Cristiano Ronaldo earned his first league start of the season. Anderson replaced Owen Hargreaves in midfield, with Sir Alex opting for Carlos Tevez up front alongside Dimitar Berbatov.

But it was Bolton who engineered the first shot on goal, Kevin Nolan firing a crisp half-volley into van der Sar’s midriff after just two minutes. The Trotters enjoyed the lion’s share of possession early on and the visiting fans were in fine voice.

Then the Reds stepped up a gear. Anderson, Berbatov and Ronaldo combined well before the Bulgarian had half a chance to head United into the lead on 12 minutes. Fletcher’s pinpoint cross found the former Spurs forward eight yards from goal but his header lacked the necessary power to beat Jaaskelainen.

United went close again after a quarter of an hour when the ‘keeper spilled Tevez’s shot into the path of Ji-sung Park. Unlike last weekend at Stamford Bridge, however, Park couldn’t direct the follow-up into the net.

Bolton’s custodian was called into action once again in order to beat out Ronaldo’s free-kick after Gavin McCann had unceremoniously upended the no.7 25 yards from goal.

Anderson was next to stretch the Finn, with a curling shot from wide of the penalty area on 34 minutes. He tipped that effort over the bar and then flung himself to his left two minutes later to keep out Rio Ferdinand’s half-volley.

Despite United’s dominance the Reds almost went into the break a goal down. Only Fabrice Muamba will know how he missed the best chance of the match, blazing wide from eight yards when he had both space and time to pick his spot.

Normal service resumed after the break, with Ronaldo’s scuffed shot hitting the post on 49 minutes. Then it was a last-ditch block that denied the Portuguese international the opener after an exquisite ball from Berbatov found Ji-sung Park in space.

Ronny did find the net on the hour, although referee Rob Styles’ decision to award United a penalty for an alleged trip on the no.7 was rather bizarre.
With Ronaldo cutting across the penalty area from the right wing, Jlloyd Samuel got nothing but ball in his attempt to stop the winger’s run. Styles, however, deemed the tackle illegal and had no hesitation pointing to the penalty spot.

When Bolton’s protests died down, Ronny calmly strode forward, stuttered in his run-up and sent Jaaskelainen the wrong way to put the Reds in front.

The goal prompted changes from Sir Alex shortly afterwards, with Tevez and Anderson making way for Rooney and Scholes.
Rooney looked particularly sharp and sparked almost from the moment he set foot on the pitch. It was hardly surprising, then, that the no.10 added a second just seven minutes after his introduction.

Ronaldo darted into the Bolton area and, with Rooney following his lead, backheeled the ball into the England striker’s path. Rooney shaped to shoot first time but sold a dummy to his marker. That made him enough time to look up, pick his spot and curl the ball neatly into the far corner.

Scholes and Berbatov both could have (and should have) added a third before the end, but it mattered little as United picked up a deserved three points. It wasn’t quite top gear but there was enough promise to suggest that’s just around the corner.

United: Van der Sar; Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo (Nani 80), Fletcher, Anderson (Scholes 71), Park; Tevez (Rooney 71), Berbatov

Subs not used: Amos, Evans, O’Shea, Giggs

Bolton: Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O’Brien, Samuel; Davies, Muamba, McCann, Nolan, Gardner (Smolarek 73); Elmander (Vaz Te 67)

Subs not used: Al Habsi, J O’Brien, Shittu, Taylor, Riga
Booked: Elmander, McCann, Davies

Attendance: 75,484

Manchester United Vs. Bolton Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United [2 - 0] Bolton (Premiere League)
60' [1 - 0] C. Ronaldo (pen.)
77' [2 - 0] W. Rooney


Friday, September 26, 2008

Fletch eyes winning run

Darren Fletcher says the Reds are fully focused on getting back to winning ways in the league, starting against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

An encouraging draw at Stamford Bridge last weekend was followed by an impressive display against Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup in midweek culminating in a fully deserved 3-1 victory.

The Scottish midfielder is hoping the Reds can carry their improved form into Saturday's clash with the Trotters which will be United's first league game on home turf for nearly six weeks.

"It seems weird to be playing a game at home and at 3 o'clock!" he joked. "We've had a really difficult start to the season in terms of some tough away games, so it'll be good to get back to playing at home.

"We need to get back to winning ways and get some points on the board. Hopefully it's just a case of things falling into the place as they did at the start of last season.

"Even though we haven't been able to take all our chances, the important thing is we've been creating them. We'd be more worried if we weren't getting in the positions and creating opportunities. I'm sure the goals will eventually come because we've got top quality players."

A solitary victory over Portsmouth from their opening four league matches has left the Reds hovering around mid-table, seven points adrift of leaders Arsenal. Sir Alex's men do, however, have a game in hand against Fulham.

"The fact that we're one game behind means the points gap appears to be bigger than it could turn out to be," reasoned Fletcher.

"We're a few points behind at the moment, so it's important that we go on a winning run of five, six, seven games and maybe even more - the team is certainly capable of that.

"It's something we know we have to do and hopefully a win against Bolton will kick-start the run."

Ferguson finds new role for Giggs

Ryan Giggs will be used as a deep-lying striker or a central midfielder this season as Sir Alex Ferguson tries to best utilise the Welshman’s energies.

The sight of United’s no.11 tearing up and down the flanks at Old Trafford will, but for very few occasions, now be confined to memory.

The 34-year-old played in a more central role in the Reds' 3-1 win over Middlesbrough on Tuesday, and fans can get used to seeing Giggs perform there much more frequently this term.

“He’s been fantastic this season, absolutely brilliant,” beams Sir Alex. “But what we have to do is manage him. He is looking absolutely brilliant now, but we also want to have him nice and fresh at the end of the season. He can decide games for you, that’s the great quality he has.

“I see his role as a central player, where we played him the other night,” the boss adds. “The days of trampling up and down that touchline for Ryan, at 34 years of age, are gone. He can maybe do it occasionally, but I think that is beyond him now.”

Managing the players within his ample squad is arguably the toughest task facing Sir Alex this season. The sheer volume of talent at his fingertips makes the selection process potentially more testing than it has ever been before. But Sir Alex insists he is content to disappoint players every now and again for the sake of the team, and also the players themselves.

“When you have got a squad of players and everyone is fit, you have a problem,” he said. “You have a problem picking the substitutions, never mind the first eleven. It’s always the case that if you want to win something – and we always want to win something – you need to have a strong squad. That has paid dividends for this club. Other clubs have the same mentality now.”

The changing face of the modern game doesn’t soften the blow on a Saturday when Sir Alex informs a clutch of internationals that they have not made his 18-man matchday squad.

“The players understand it, but that doesn’t mean to say they accept it,” he says. “Some players realise the mechanics of the situation. But when it’s your turn to sit out, you don’t like it.

“That’s OK with me, I don’t mind that. It tells me that they all want to play. I’d rather that than some player saying, ‘It’s a tough game, I don’t fancy it today’. We don’t have players like that, and you never want players that are quite happy sitting on the bench.”

Fergie planning for the future with Evans

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has assured Jonny Evans he has a big future as a Manchester United centre-half.

The Northern Ireland international excelled against Villarreal and Chelsea last week but is likely to find himself out of the side as United look to record their first home win of the campaign against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

With Nemanja Vidic back from suspension, Ferguson is expected to restore the Serbian's partnership with Rio Ferdinand, leaving Evans out in the cold once more.

But the Red Devils chief has assured Evans he has no need to worry.

After turning down a sizeable summer bid from Sunderland, Ferguson has no intention of losing the 20-year-old.

"Jonny will be a future centre-half for Manchester United, there is no doubt about that," Ferguson told Inside United.

"That is a vindication of our belief in the boy. It should also prove he can believe what we're saying to him.

"We had a lot of offers from clubs who wanted to buy him in the summer - three or four clubs were interested - but we stuck to our guns because we believe in him. He will play a lot of football at this club."

Evans had expected to be involved in the Carling Cup encounter with Middlesbrough on Tuesday, although at least United's victory ensures the Belfast-born youngster will have another match to play as United look to progress into the quarter-finals and beyond.

With so many important matches to play, Ferguson has little room to make changes for the sake of it, even though Evans, by subduing Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge, proved he could take care of Kevin Davies if required on Saturday as well.

Realistically Evans knows he will be on the bench at best as the Old Trafford club start the long climb back to the Premier League summit.

But, having shown his ability at the top level in two loan spells at Sunderland, Evans is aware patience will prove to be a virtue at United.

"I do not know how much I am going to play," he said. "I might have to wait on injuries or play in cup games.

"With Gerard Pique moving on you think there is an opening but then Gary Neville is coming back from injury.

"We just have so many good players who can fit into different positions.

"But even if I am not playing, I will be looking to improve and gain experience. I have felt a bigger part of things this year.

"The manager has told me to be patient and I will get a chance."

Sir Alex: Step it up

Sir Alex Ferguson expects United’s form to really pick up – starting with the target of three points against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

United’s performances have steadily improved since the start of the season – or more crucially since the desperately disappointing 2-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.

However, promising draws against Villarreal and Chelsea were followed up by a 3-1 victory over Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup. The recent performances have certainly buoyed the Reds boss.

“The form of the team has started to come good,” he said on Friday. “We expected that. I said last week that, by October, I think we will be back to normal.

"There have been a lot of encouraging signs in the last two games. Some of the football on Tuesday was excellent, as was the performance in the first half against Chelsea.

“In the second half the players who needed a game showed that. Gary Neville, Owen Hargreaves, Ji-sung Park and Dimitar Berbatov showed that they really only had one game behind them going into such an important match. But it was a satisfactory performance at Stamford Bridge.”

Fitness – or, more importantly, match-fitness – is he key to even the slightest changes in United’s form. “The form comes naturally as you gain sharpness and fitness,” added Sir Alex. “Match fitness is really important. You can train as much as you like, but playing in matches gives you edge, timing and better breathing.”

In midweek there were goals, too. Sir Alex will be keen for that to translate to the league, where the Reds have found the net just three times in four games – although that figure is certainly skewed by the fact that two of those matches involved away ties against top teams.

“The win on Tuesday sends us on our way in that respect,” the United boss opined. “It’s been a tough start. We had three away games in a row in the league. Comparing it to last season, we actually have more points after four games (five, compared to four last season).

"We drew with Portsmouth last season but won this time. We won at Liverpool last year, but lost this time, and we got beat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but got a draw this time. It’s balanced itself out.

“Our start has not been emphatic, but it’s not decisive. I think we can expect better now, and I would hope for three points against Bolton.”

Edwin fit to face Bolton

Veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar will be available to face Bolton Wanderers this weekend, according to Sir Alex Ferguson, who will use young shot-stopper Ben Amos as cover.

The Dutchman injured his knee against Chelsea last weekend, and deputies Ben Foster and Tomasz Kuszczak are both currently injured, prompting suggestions that Reserves goalkeeper Ben Amos would make his Premier League debut on Saturday.

However, Sir Alex confirmed Edwin's recovery at his pre-match press conference. “Everyone is OK from last Sunday’s games against Chelsea and Tuesday’s match against Middlesbrough,” the Reds boss said at his pre-match press conference. “Apart from Rodrigo Possebon, of course."

It is astonishing that the 19-year-old Brazilian midfielder escaped Emanuel Pogatetz's tackle without a broken leg or even ligament damage to his knee.

“We’re delighted that Rodrigo’s injury is not more serious," added the boss. "There wasn’t even ligament damage. It’s amazing, really. At the time I feared the worst. You saw the reaction from Nani when it happened, he turned away in horror. It was the same reaction when Eduardo got injured, or even David Busst for Coventry.

“We had to keep Rodrigo in hospital overnight because of the risk of infection in the wound. It cut him to the bone. He’ll have to go back in to get it closed up. But we’re quite happy with it.”

The manager will use Amos on the bench as cover for van der Sar on Saturday as a groin injury has sidelined Tomasz Kuszczak until next weekend’s trip to Blackburn, while Michael Carrick will return to training after October's international break.

“I won’t risk Tomasz before the Blackburn game. But young Ben Amos came in and did well [against Middlesbrough], he looked comfortable and had the right temperament. So we’re OK in that position. Michael [Carrick] is nowhere near football training yet. I think by the end of the international break he should be back training with us."

Giggs could quit to become a manager

Ryan Giggs claims he may retire at the end of this season and become Sir Alex Ferguson's next managerial protege. The Welshman is in the final year of his deal at Manchester United and does not want to stay if he will only be a bit-part player. Giggs is not prepared to move to another club to prolong his playing career and has decided to quit when he loses his first-team place. "I'm relaxed about my future," said the 34-year-old. "I've this year left on my contract. I'm feeling good at the moment and as long as I feel healthy, I'm getting picked and I still enjoy it, then I'll carry on. If any of those things change, I'll have to consider when I retire and it will be sooner rather than later. Coaching would then be an option and it is a natural progression for a lot of footballers."
David Anderson, Daily Mirror

Thursday, September 25, 2008

We're off and running

With tricky trips to Portsmouth, Liverpool and Chelsea out of the road for another season, Ryan Giggs believes United's campaign can be kick-started by this week's Carling Cup victory over Middlesbrough.

The Reds overcame Gareth Southgate's side with a swaggering attacking display, continuing an upward trend in performances started by draws against Villarreal and Chelsea. With Bolton next up this weekend, Giggs is confident that Tuesday's triumph can be the start of a long winning run.

"It was a tough start, there’s no doubting that," he told MUTV. "We didn’t play well at the beginning of the season, but over the last week or so – against Villarreal, and at Chelsea in the first half especially, then tonight – we’ve showed some really good stuff.

"We’ve got a really strong squad. A lot of the players perhaps haven’t played games in the last few weeks, but they got that game time tonight. This team’s capable of going on a winning run of 10 games. Hopefully that’s started and we can carry it on against Bolton."

Ole happy with youth system

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was beaming with pride during United's Carling Cup win over Middlesbrough on Tuesday.

Four regulars from the Norwegian's Reserves squad started and played prominent roles in the Reds' 3-1 victory over the Teessiders, and he was delighted to see them comport themselves so well against a strong Boro side.

"On Tuesday I was very proud of Danny Welbeck, Ben Amos, Rafael Da Silva and Rodrigo Possebon," Ole told the Manchester Evening News. "They showed the character and temperament to handle playing in front of a 50,000-plus crowd at Old Trafford.

"We teach them good habits and I have been delighted that when some of them have gone off to train with the first team, I have been getting good reports back from the manager, Mick Phelan and Rene Meulensteen about them."

As well as the four fledgling starters, United's bench was packed with young talent on Tuesday - with the likes of Darron Gibson, Tom Cleverley, Richard Eckersley, David Gray and Ron-Robert Zieler all involved.

Solskjaer is certain that the club's famously fruitful conveyer belt of youngsters is in good working order, and will supply more potential first-teamers in the coming years.

"There are huge demands on players at United, but I think there are loads in the Under-16s and Under-18s and the Reserve team who we will see play in the first team," he said.

"It is not like they won't get a chance here. It is the tradition and we have some great players coming through who will keep that tradition going.

"We have a good set of players who we hope and think have a chance of making it. They have sessions with the first team and they come back from them with a renewed energy.

"They want to be training and playing with the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. That's what they dream about.

"They know from the manager's track record that if they do well they will stay in his thoughts and plans. It is important young players do get a chance and they will here."

Pogatetz sorry over tackle

Emanuel Pogatetz will apologise to Rodrigo Possebon for his horror challenge on the teenager. Possebon, 19, was chasing a ball in Manchester United’s Carling Cup clash with Middlesbrough on Tuesday. But Pog went through him with both feet, sending the Brazilian flying. Possebon had blood running from his leg and had to be given oxygen on the pitch. Boro defender Pogatetz insisted: “I have to say that I went for the tackle because I thought I could win the ball - I now accept, however, that I misjudged the challenge. Immediately after the incident I did not think it was a red-card offence because I did win the ball. But now that I have had the chance to see the tackle on TV, I know the ref was right to send me off. I am going to speak to Rodrigo by telephone and I will apologise for hurting him. I hope he will make a quick recovery.”
Neil Custis, The Sun

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sir Alex hails young charges

Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted with the way his young players applied themselves in the Carling Cup third round victory over Middlesbrough.

The Reds' boss handed debuts to goalkeeper Ben Amos and striker Danny Welbeck with Angolan striker Manucho also entering the fray for the first time as a late sub, while Brazilians Rafael da Silva and Rodrigo Possebon made their first competitive starts in a red shirt.

In the end it was the more experienced players of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Nani who sealed the 3-1 win with a trio of well-taken goals, but Sir Alex was clearly buoyed by what he saw from some of his budding stars.

"They did very well, particularly in the first half. Some of the football was terrific and I enjoyed seeing that," declared the United manager in an interview with MUTV.

"They played with great expression and created some good chances which was nice to see. It was a good performance and I'm very pleased."

As well as blooding some of his young charges, the tie provided Sir Alex with the opportunity to field a number of first team squad members in need of games.

"Anderson, for example, has been feeling the effects of being in China [at the Olympic Games]," revealed the boss.

"Adrenalin got him through his first match at Portsmouth, but since then he's been a bit low. But tonight he was back to himself which was great to see.

"John O'Shea was another who needed some minutes on the clock so it's been a good night for us in that sense."

Good news for Possebon

United's medical staff have confirmed that Rodrigo Possebon has not suffered a break after being stretchered off against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night.

The 19-year-old Brazilian midfielder was in agony following a challenge from Middlesbrough captain Emanuel Pogatetz after an hour of the Reds' 3-1 Carling Cup third round win.

A club spokesperson told on Wednesday morning: "We can confirm that Rodrigo did not suffer a break to his right leg. He was kept in hospital overnight for observation and to assess whether there was any ligament damage to his knee."

At the moment, however, everyone at the club is just pleased to hear that Possebon's injury does not involve a serious break as was first feared.

Sir Alex said after the match: "For the kid to make his first start and get an injury like that is pretty horrendous. I think everyone was numb for about ten minutes afterwards and it killed our momentum a little bit. I saw a few replays of it, but I don't want to see it again. It was just terrible."

Despite being initially disappointed by Pogatetz's reaction to his subsequent red card, but he praised Boro boss Gareth Southgate for his attitude after the game.

"I couldn't understand it [his reaction], he should have walked straight off," said the manager. "One of the guys on their bench was screaming that it was never a sending off and there was nothing wrong with Rodrigo. Middlesbrough have apologised though. Gareth Southgate was very good. He understood the gravity of it and was very apologetic."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Welbeck hungry for more

Having enjoyed his first taste of senior football in the Reds’ Carling Cup win over Middlesbrough, 17-year-old Danny Welbeck has his heart-set on gaining more first-team involvement this season.

The tricky striker is highly thought-of inside Old Trafford, and he justified Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith with a sparkling 90-minute display in Tuesday’s win. Although he couldn’t cap his debut with a goal, Danny's display more than justified the beaming grin long he sported long after after the final whistle.

"It’s a great night, and a great experience to play at Old Trafford in front of thousands of people,” he told MUTV after the game. “I’m looking to take it all on board and just use it in the future for whenever I’m called upon.

“I’ve got to keep focused. I’m training hard every day and I can’t wait to be playing as much as possible. I’m just looking to train with the first team every day, as I’ve been doing, and try to push for the team every single week – that’s my goal.”

Welbeck was a constant menace to the Boro defence with his unpredictable forward play, and only two fine saves from Brad Jones denied him a goal to cement a dream debut.

Although frustrated to have missed out on a place on the scoresheet, Welbeck is almost certain to get another shot when United take part in the next round of the Carling Cup in early October.

“I thought I did well, particularly in the first half,” he said “In the second half I had a chance right at the start – I’ve watched it again and it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was at the time. But I’m proud and happy.

“It’s great to be playing with other great young players, and to learn off the older ones. It’s the best place to be and I’m loving it. The youngsters get a go, and in the next round I think we’ll see how it comes, see who we get and we’re definitely looking forward to it."

Boss in shock at horror tackle

Sir Alex Ferguson was horrified by the challenge from Emanuel Pogatetz which resulted in Rodrigo Possebon being stretchered off the pitch and needing oxygen.

The Brazilian midfielder has since been taken to hospital following a shocking lunge from the Middlesbrough captain midway through the second half.

"It looked a really bad one," Sir Alex told MUTV. "For the kid to make his first start and get an injury like that is pretty horrendous.

"I think everyone was numb for about ten minutes afterwards and it killed our momentum a little bit.

"I've seen a few replays of it and I don't want to see it again. It was just terrible."

The United boss was particularly disappointed by Pogatetz's reaction to the challenge with the Boro defender seemingly protesting his innocence.

"I couldn't understand it [his reaction], he should have walked straight off," declared the manager. "One of the guys on their bench was screaming that it was never a sending off and that there was nothing wrong with Rodrigo.

"But at least Middlesbrough have apologised. Gareth Southgate was very good. He understood the gravity of it and was very apologetic." will bring you the latest update on Possebon's injury when we have one.

Manchester United Vs. Middlesbrough Match Report

Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Nani ensured United’s safe progression to the Carling Cup fourth round, but the 3-1 victory over Middlesbrough was marred by what looked to be a serious injury to Rodrigo Possebon.

The Brazilian was carried off following a horror tackle from Emanuel Pogatetez who was rightfully dismissed for the second half offence.

Earlier, Ronaldo’s 25th minute header was cancelled out by substitute Adam Johnson’s volley. Giggs calmly put United ahead ten minutes from time, before Nani slotted home a third in the fourth of nine minutes of injury time.

United fans have become accustomed to seeing many of the Reds’ budding young stars on show when the Carling Cup comes round, but with a number of first team squad members needing to sharpen up their match fitness, Sir Alex opted for a mix of youth and experience in his starting line-up. There were debuts for goalkeeper Ben Amos and striker Danny Welbeck, as well as first competitive starts for full-back Rafael da Silva and midfielder Rodrigo Possebon. United’s eldest statesman Ryan Giggs skippered the side, which also featured a host of first team regulars including Cristiano Ronaldo – starting his first game of the campaign, Nemanja Vidic and Anderson.

United started the brighter with Giggs and Ronaldo looking particularly menacing, the former almost fashioning a 3rd minute opening for the onrushing Welbeck with a right wing centre. But Brad Jones was alert to the danger and came out to punch clear.

It took the visitors 10 minutes to muster any kind of attack as Afonso Alves – a scorer of two debut goals against the Reds back in April – bore down on goal. Wes Brown ensured he would go no further, but Alves’ effort from the resulting free-kick was blocked by the wall.

A minute or so later, Nani stung the palms of Brad Jones with a fizzing effort. The Portuguese winger then clipped a near-post effort wide after some excellent interchanging between United’s attackers.

More neat interplay involving Welbeck, Ronaldo and Giggs let to a corner and a subsequent opening goal for the Reds on 25 minutes. And it was a familiar name on the scoresheet as Ronaldo held off the attentions of Didier Digard to power home Giggs’ inswinger.

The Reds almost doubled their lead three minutes later after a marauding run from Anderson down the left. Ronaldo was unable to reach his low centre, but the lively Welbeck was waiting at the back post. Jones did well to save with his feet and only some desperate Boro defending averted the danger after Anderson had been given a second chance to cross.

The game had developed into a lively encounter with the Reds dominating proceedings. But with Stewart Downing in their side, Boro still posed a threat from set-pieces and it was the England winger’s left wing centre which saw Reds’ stopper Ben Amos called into action for the first team as he dived to his left to claim David Wheater’s goalbound header.

A brilliant backheel from Rafael into the path of Welbeck, who slipped the ball to Ronaldo almost led to a second United goal just before the break, but Jones parried the winger’s fiercely struck low effort.

Jones was called upon immediately after the restart, saving well from Welbeck after the striker got on the end of John O’Shea ball over the top.

The Boro stopper stooped low to his right to grasp Nani’s 53rd minute shot after coming inside from the left wing. The Portuguese international should have done better soon after when he had the chance to put either Welbeck or Ronaldo through on goal, but overhit his pass.

It was all United, but out of the blue Boro drew level through substitute Adam Johnson on 56 minutes. Gary O’Neill’s high ball into the area was headed clear by Vidic, but only to the feet of Johnson whose first time volley bounced and bobbled past Wes Brown and crept inside Amos’ right-hand post.

It was a blow for United, but worse was to follow for the Reds when they lost Rodrigo Possebon after a shocking lunge from Boro skipper Emanuel Pogatetz which earned him a red card. A gaping wound displayed the external damage to Possebon’s right leg, but there was clearly more to it than that as the clearly distressed Brazilian lay in tears and had to be given oxygen before he was stretchered off.

A stunned and concerned Old Trafford erupted ten minutes from time when Ryan Giggs took full advantage of substitute Chris Riggott’s slip and nonchalantly clipped the ball over Jones.

The skipper went close to adding what would have been a brilliant third three minutes later, but Wheater was on hand to head his flicked shot off the line.

Tevez, Gibson and late sub Manucho – making his United debut – saw efforts go begging in the closing stages, before Nani took advantage of another defensive howler from the visitors and slotted home the Reds’ third in the prolonged period of injury time.

Team line-ups

UNITED: Amos; Rafael, Brown, Vidic, O’Shea; Nani, Anderson, Possebon (Gibson 69), Giggs © (Manucho 84); Ronaldo (Tevez 61), Welbeck.

Subs not used: Zieler, Cleverley, Gray, Eckersley.

BORO: Jones; Hoyte, Wheater, Pogatetz ©, Taylor; O’Neil, Digard (Riggott 69), Shawky (Johnson 46), Downing; Alves (Emnes 84), Aliadiere.

Subs not used: Turnbull, Arca, Walker, Craddock

Booked: Johnson. Sent off: Pogatetz

Attendance: 53,729

Manchester United Vs. Middlesbrough Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United [3 - 1] Middlesbrough (Carling Cup)
25' [1 - 0] C. Ronaldo
56' [1 - 1] A. Johnson
79' [2 - 1] R. Giggs
90' [3 - 1] Nani


Ronaldo set to start

Sir Alex Ferguson will chuck Cristiano Ronaldo in with the Carling Cup kids tonight for his first start of the season. Ronaldo made his long a waited comeback from the bench in Manchester United's last two games - against Villarreal and Chelsea - after undergoing the summer ankle surgery which forced him to miss the start of the new campaign. United's star performer would not normally feature in the Carling Cup. The competition is last on Fergie's list of priorities, the one he uses to give fringe players and emerging youngsters a rare taste of first-team action. But Fergie, mindful that Ronaldo needs valuable time in competitive games to get back to full fitness, is ready to start with him in tonight's third-round tie against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford.
David McDonnell, Daily Mirror

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sir Alex: Now watch us go

The Reds may have started the season slowly but United manager Sir Alex Ferguson insists top form is just around the corner.

United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday leaves the Reds with just five points after four games. But there’s no need to panic, according to the manager.

“We’ve had a tough start,” Sir Alex told Sky Sports. “We’ve had to go away to Anfield – and we threw that game away in terms of the goals we conceded – and now we’ve had to come to Stamford Bridge.

“We’ve also been away to Portsmouth, which is a fixture a lot of teams will find difficult, just as we have down the years. So it’s been tough.

“It’s difficult to say where this 1-1 result places us but what I do know is that come October we’ll be fine.

“The players will have plenty of minutes on the clock, the level of our game will go up, Ronaldo and Berbatov will have games behind them... you’ll see us at our best then.”

The manager was also quick to point out that although United linger in the bottom half of the Barclays Premier League, the Reds have played one less game than most of their opponents.

“The press worked themselves into a fever over the weekend about the possibility of Chelsea going nine points clear. Of course, you have to remember we have a game in hand, which is important.”